February 17, 2009
Senate Indian Affairs Committee
838 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington , D.C. 20510
Re: Request for Committee and field hearings on civil rights violations in Indian Country
Dear Chairman Dorgan and Honorable Committee Members:
I respectfully submit this letter as a request to your Committee to hold hearings on the growing number of civil rights abuses occurring in Indian Country.
The number of civil rights violations in Indian Country has reached epidemic proportions. Thousands upon thousands have been stripped or denied the basic due process and equal protection rights provided for in the United States Constitution, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (“ICRA”), and tribal laws.
Most recently, a report by the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) referenced the fact that internal tribal disputes “seem to be occurring more and more frequently”. In response to the growing number of these types of disputes, the GAO felt it was necessary and appropriate that nominees to the Secretary of Interior be asked how they would address such issues.
The responsibility to address this issue does not lie with the Secretary alone. The number of civil rights violations in Indian Country will continue to grow unless Congress once again takes action, just as it did in enacting the ICRA, to further protect individuals from the “arbitrary and capricious” actions of tribal governments. Considering the current situation and an environment which rewards the villain and punishes the victim, I ask you, “How do you plan to address this problem?”
I believe that hearings on the current civil rights situation in Indian Country are not only warranted, they are long over due. Therefore, I respectfully request that your Committee hold hearings as an initial step to further action that will uphold and enforce the rights of those who, to date, have been stripped of or denied the basic rights guaranteed by law.
I trust you will thoughtfully consider my request, and I will eagerly await your response.