Consider sending a letter like this one to YOUR Senator
Esteemed Senators of the United States,
I urge you to pay attention to the dire situation faced by ten thousand individual Indians who have been stripped of their citizenship rights and privileges as Tribal members, often without due process. These actions have resulted in the denial of access to federal benefits and programs related to essential areas such as housing, education, health, voting, and public works assistance. These individuals have been rendered voiceless in their own communities, unable to exercise their fundamental right to vote in tribal elections or have a say in matters that affect them.
- In former President Obama’s State of the Union address, he spoke of the sacred nature of the right to vote and how it was being denied to many. This reality holds true in Indian Country, where many have been disenfranchised due to unjust actions by tribal officials. The United States bears a trust responsibility to protect the basic rights of every individual Indian whose rights have been infringed upon. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has failed to live up to this responsibility, limiting their trust responsibility to Tribal governments and officials rather than individual Indian victims.
We have reached out to both houses of Congress and Committee Chairmen on numerous occasions to bring attention to this issue.
The Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs should act as a facilitator to resolve internal Tribal disputes that harm Native Americans and protect and preserve the basic rights of individual Indians in such disputes. However, previous Chairmen have failed to take any action, with thousands of letters being ignored. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has relinquished responsibility and left it to the Interior Board of Indian Affairs (IBIA) to overturn their decisions. In some cases, the BIA may even be complicit in the injustices, such as the San Pasqual descendant’s issue where non-Natives were allowed to control tribal interests.
Most tribes lack tribal courts, and the officials responsible for violating the law are often the same people who pass judgment on whether laws have been violated. This situation has led to Tribal government officials being judge, jury, and alleged criminal all in one. Tribal sovereignty was granted to protect Native rights, not to have Tribes violate their own rights.
Although some of these illegal actions occurred decades ago, the situation has worsened with the evolution of Indian Gaming into a multi-billion dollar industry. Tribal leaders use the guise of Tribal sovereignty to justify systematically stripping basic rights and privileges from their citizens. It is worth noting that the Republic of South Africa was a sovereign nation, and the United States stood up to that oppression, thanks to the Congressional Black Caucus. The Honorable Diane Watson spoke out against Tribal Disenrollment decades ago.
Presently, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior are in violation of the Trust Responsibility, The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, U.S. Constitution Rights, The American Indian Religious Freedom Act, The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG), as well as the ratified 18 treaties that protect California Indian rights. Tribal disenrollment is growing rapidly all over the country in violation of many tribal constitutions, which are being ignored by tribal chairman and councils.
The Bureau continues to ignore Indian rights and claim to have no jurisdiction. However, Congress holds plenary power over Indian Affairs, with the authority to waive Tribal Sovereign immunity and open investigations with all tribes who have practiced Tribal Disenrollment and violated civil rights for decades.
I implore you to stand with us against the corruption that has spread throughout Indian Country, which has resulted in civil rights violations. The protection of individual rights and Tribal sovereignty should not be mutually exclusive. Sovereignty should not be wielded like a club to beat the weak and defenseless.
In closing, I urge you to take action against the injustices that have been inflicted upon the thousands of individual Indians who have been denied their citizenship rights and privileges by their own Tribal governments. It is time for the United States to fulfill its trust responsibility and protect the basic rights of every American Indian. Together, we can work towards preserving our culture and promoting justice and equality for all.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.