The Uninvited: The White House Tribal Nations Conference
By Brenda Norrell
Photo White House: Tribal leaders at meeting prior to Tribal Nations Conference 2011
Update Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012
Aljazeera followed up on this article with an invitation from Inside Story today.
Native Americans say President Obama’s meeting with Native Nations should be more than a superficial meeting for self-serving elected leaders engaged in paternalism.
Native Americans say the most critical issues are not just being ignored, but are systematic genocide.
In South Dakota, Lakota children are being seized by South Dakota Social Services in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act. In North Dakota, the land, water and air is being poisoned and Native people killed by semi trucks, as tribal leaders agree to blood money for oil and gas drilling that has turned Native lands into disaster zones. In the Arctic, the fight to protect the caribou birthing grounds and Arctic Ocean continues, while Obama and the US Congress push for more oil drilling in the pristine Arctic.
Grassroots Navajo and Hopi are fighting the secret water schemes underway by the US Interior and corrupt tribal leaders for the Lame Duck Congress, which was exposed in leaked e-mails. On western Navajoland, Navajos are fighting resort development and uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, which threatens sacred land and drinking water. Navajos on Black Mesa continue their decades old fight against Peabody Coal, which orchestrated the so-called Navajo-Hopi land dispute to clear Navajos from the land for coal mining. Navajos are also fighting the theft of Little Colorado River rights for the dirty coal fired power plant, the Navajo Generating Station.
On the US/Mexico border, O’odham battle every day the abuse, harassment and spying by US Border Patrol agents on O’odham land. O’odham say their own tribal government has been co-opted and is powerless to protect them. Homeland Security is now seizing land for new spy towers, and an encampment of Border Patrol agents and helicopters on O’odham land at Pisinemo.
Across Indian country, Native Americans are spending the little money they have to fight the threat of the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, to protect their land and water from the dirty crude oil and the threat of the seizure of their lands, as is now happening in east Texas for the southern route of the pipeline that Obama promoted.
The Superficial Tribal Nations Conference
Although Obama originally announced the White House Tribal Nations Conference would be held at the White House, the location was quickly changed. It is actually held in the Interior building. While Obama initially engaged in a question and answer period with Native leaders at the first summit, last year he simply made brief remarks and left.
Although Obama initially claimed it would be a day at the White House for tribal leaders, he has decreased his time and involvement each year. This year, Obama is not slated to make remarks until prior to the conclusion of the conference, which is held at the Interior building.
Although the relationship between Native American Nations and the US is supposed to be a government-to-government relationship, the daylong summit has been held with US officials seated all in a row in front, staring down at Native leaders.
Native Americans are not happy with many of their own leaders either, pointing out that they spend their time “begging for money for jails,” trying to get Obama’s autograph, or using the day for photo ops.
Most criticisms from Native Americans center on the secret meetings Obama has with select Native American leaders before the official day begins. Native Americans have not been told how, or why, those Native leaders are selected for the secret session.
The cost of the travel, hotels, meals and rental cars paid by the 566 Native Nations is estimated to be $1 million to $2 million. Native Americans say this would be better spent for food, clothing and housing for desperate Indian people in the US, including the homeless, abused and ignored elderly, and women and children suffering from domestic violence.
Instead of pandering at the lush Sheraton in Washington on Tuesday, Native Americans said their leaders should have been focused on those homeless, hungry and cold back home.
While some Indian Nations with casinos have benefited financially, others have not. Although the Tohono O’odham Nation has had a lucrative casino for a decade, the majority of O’odham live in desperate conditions, while millions of dollars flow in and out of the Desert Diamond Casino.
Instead of pandering and posturing, Native Americans expect their elected leaders to arise to protect the best interests of the people, and the land, air and water.
Although Bolivia President Evo Morales is leading a global movement for the protection of Mother Earth, and the defense of the Rights of Nature, most Native American leaders in the US have shunned involvement, and instead are promoting oil and gas drilling, coal mining, dirty coal fired power plants, carbon market scams, and destructive development.
The media, too, is to blame, for censoring vital information, the promotion of bogus US wars and drones for targeted assassinations, and the parrot-like mimicking of distracting political rhetoric.
The People Respond
Angela Davis, Navajo, is among the Navajos is among the Native Americans whose voice will not be heard today.
"I would ask him to veto the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) include Indian women in the Violence Against Women Act, honor the Navajo/Hopi treaties that guarantee priority water rights, grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, and close Guantanamo Bay. I'd also like for him to lift the ban on Ethnic Studies and books in the Tuscon, Arizona, school district," Davis said.
Kristy Price said, "Instill accountablity to your government for all things. Listen to the people who know the land, for too long people of the world who are connected with the earth have been ignored and rejected with a result of chaos and damage to our natural and only home."
Native Americans are not the only ones questioning the genocide and the US lust for Native lands for mining.
Tamara' Rousseau said, “I would like to know how can the United States of America have the second poorest reservation nation in the western hemisphere after Haiti? How is that, and what is being done to improve living conditions for these people, or have they been forgotten? Except for taking the lands away after hundreds of years to mine what do "You" see happening to these American Nations ?”
Alis says Obama should be urged to grant clemency for Leonard Peltier, create debt forgiveness, and halt the pipelines. Along with courage, Alis says Obama should be given a back bone.
“Forgive all debt of the People, such as student loans, home loans, medical bills, all of it, let the People start fresh, and since he gave $16 trillion to the banksters, tell him to get it back. Stop all wars. Stop XL pipeline and Enbridge. Stop drones. Stop nuclear bomb building, stop uranium mining. Tell him to shred his executive order of March 16, 2012, tell him to make corporations clean up all corporate pollution, hell, stop REDD and stop our border killings.
“Tell him to get politicians out of thinking they can dictate what my children learn, we can make our own curriculum. Tell him to stop all slow genocidal policies and laws. Tell him that Canada, the Crown and US government are on their last legs of corporate deals, move outta our way cuz this is La Gente's home. Tell him we won't give up our Water, Earth, Air, and Fire. Tell him, the Nations are United from north to south, east to west, and around the Sacred Hoop of Life. Tell him the time of warring and pillaging is over, Peace has no borders. And give him courage, a back bone, peace, love and good health to do what is right for the People.”
Still another reader, fighting against the secret deals targeting Navajo water rights, points out that Navajos don’t know what the Navajo president will say in Washington.
“We wanna know what T-rex is gonna say on behalf of Navajo.”
Copyright Brenda Norrell, for permission to repost firstname.lastname@example.org