People-sparse Bush budget -- and Native treaty rights and more

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at
Tue Feb 12 09:11:07 MST 2002

Comment by Hunterbear -- followed by a newspaper article:

Native American socio-economic and related needs in the United States are
great [as they are in the entire Hemisphere ] -- and things are certainly
not getting any better.  I'm dealing here with one sector on a great big

There are almost 600 Federally-recognized Native nations in the United
States, some others that are state-recognized, and still others that,
although tribal nations in every
basic sense, are not formally recognized -- at least as yet, by either the
United States or a component state.  The United States 2000 census
indicates that there are almost 2 1/2 million people who have Native
American as their racial identity -- a  relatively fast growing population.

The Bush Budget FY 2003 -- minimal as pure hell on  bona fide people
programs of any kind -- certainly comes as no surprise at all to Native
Americans.  Or to a great many other folks.

For Native tribes and people, government appropriations and funding have
always been 'way short of any reasonable reality -- and the last several
decades of national administrations, Republican or Democratic, have
certainly been a trek on the edges of Death Valley at best and sometimes
right through its middle where the only shade comes from the Funeral

So the current Bush budgetary proposals go hard on most people in the United
States -- Native and otherwise.  But in matters of this kind, the Native
situation contains a special dimension. A very special one. Treaty rights
are involved. Not just morally involved -- but very much legally.

And the Bush talk about "privatization" efforts in the realm of Indian
Education is just plain dangerous. Real Dangerous.

I [and a great many other Indian people all through the Ages] have said this
before and, because it can't be said enough, I'll say it again:

The primary and enduringly strong Native American commitment is complex and
tight: it is to family and clan and to tribal nation and tribal culture --
and to the primary "serving the community" ethos.  We're vigorously
committed to our communally-owned earth and to the careful and respectful
usage of all its resources.  We're very protective of our sacred places.

And we fight always for bona fide self-determination and for full

And we fight for all of these critically important dimensions within the
framework of the maintenance of full treaty rights -- and vice-versa.  It's
all completely inter-related.

It's super critical to Native Americans that treaty rights be kept
absolutely sacrosanct.  We want full self-determination and a return to
genuine sovereignty -- but all of this has to go hand-in-hand with the full
preservation of treaty and related rights.  Anything short of that is very,
very dangerous indeed to Native survival. Life-threatening.

One would hope and expect that all thoughtful, reasonably sensitive folks --
"Black or White, Chinese or Choctaw" -- support a full measure of liberty
and a full measure of bread-and-butter for all of Humanity.  Native
Americans certainly do.

But in addition to all of the other sins-of-commission and certainly
sins-of-omission in the danger-fraught Bush Budget, we also have -- as we so
very often do -- this old and enduring matter of Native American treaty

Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution  -- the "Commerce Clause" --
gives the Federal government, from the perspective of the United States,
jurisdiction over Indian affairs.

And treaties between the United States government are as morally and legally
valid as any other treaties ever signed by the United States with any
nation.  They all fall into the context of Article 6, Section 2 of the
Constitution and thus are part of "the Supreme Law of the Land."

Even though treaty making between the United States and the Native nations
ended in 1871, the hundreds of treaties with the tribes then in existence
continue with full force -- again, legally and morally, right to this
moment.  "As long as the grass shall grow."

And other Federal Native-oriented dimensions -- i.e., executive orders,
legislation etc. -- are related to all of this in various ways and fall into
that basic context.  A major example would be the coming-late United States
Alaskan situation which is formally covered by the
Alaskan Native Claims  Settlement  Act of 1971.

These treaties and related dimensions are frequently under attack  and we're
constantly defending them via every ethical resource at our command.  The
treaties are fully valid and generally, sooner or later, all of the
components of an "Indian treaty" are upheld on that basis in the context of
the United States Federal court system.  It can be a very prolonged fight in
the Euro-American courts -- but, relatively speaking at least, Native
perseverance  pretty much wins out in the long distance run.

When the United States and its predecessors seized Native land -- often in a
blood-drenched context -- they did wind up making certain specific
commitments to the tribal nations and their people. The U.S. promised Native
Americans land and water and economic well-being, health and education and
housing and social services, and much more.  And they pledged this, the
United States did, via formal treaties and collateral agreements.

But, of course and once again, it's always been a fight to make the United
States deliver on its promises.

What Bush is doing in his minimal Indian funding proposals is moving to
violate not just social justice morality generally -- but legal United
States governmental treaty and related obligations to the Native nations.

And when the Bush proposals regarding Indian education talk about
"privatization" -- well, it's time to get out the War Canoes and saddle up
Ole Paint and Sharpen the Flint and Put The Feathers On.

In 1975, one of the relatively few meaningful Native Congressional victories
of recent times was won:  the Indian Self-Determination and Education
Assistance Act.  This enables tribes to contract with the United States
Bureau of Indian Affairs and United States Indian Health to take over and
operate the respective facilities and programs.

In short, the Act promises a significantly increasing measure of Native
American self-determination -- within the framework of Indian treaty rights.

And where this has been done, it's usually worked pretty well:   e.g., some
Native schools and health facilities and criminal justice operations.  The
problem has always been that the Federal government is really, "deep in its
heart," very uncomfortable with tribal self-determination [unless it can
scuttle and dump the treaties.]  So the funds appropriated under the
Self-Determination Act, regardless of Republicans or Democrats, have never
been really sufficient to run the respective educational or health or other
operation with full effective force.  For that reason -- that they, the
Native nations, can very easily be fiscally cheated in this context -- many
tribes have been reluctant to get into direct control and operation under
the Act.

But  that particular Vision  -- the general direction of the 1975
Self-Determination Act -- and not the "privatization" so sacrosanct in the
reactionary litanies and liturgies of most Republicans and too many
Democrats -- is the direction where, however presently clouded, lives the
Real Glow of the Sun.

The Bush proposals have the usual cosmetic crepe paper to lure the gullible
and give a rationale to those in his camp who may have an occasional twinge
of primal conscience. In remarks attached to the current Bush budgetary
proposals, Administration spokespersons pay a bit of lip service to the
concept of Indian control of schools.  There is every reason to believe
that, given History in general and certainly the philosophical cant of Bush
et al., they are aiming -- in their final analysis -- toward classic
privatization pure and simple. In short, that means capitalists.

 And anyone who expects a Bush pet like Congressman J.D. Hayworth of
Northern Arizona to fight for Indian interests [or anyone else of "the
fewest alternatives"]  would be open to the jocular, time-honored Flagstaff
fraud of a gunny sack and a night-long "Snipe Hunt" up in the pines and
spruce and fir and aspens of the always chilly 13,000 feet-above-sea-level
San Francisco Peaks.  Up there, you can see five states and Mexico -- but
there "ain't no snipe."

So if Bush et al. and all "their works and ways" are dangerous to vast
Humanity, they're certainly very threatening indeed to Native American
tribes and people and  interests.

[The situation in Canada is very roughly -- I repeat,  very roughly --
comparable to that in the United States vis-a-vis history, government
policies and anti-Native forces, the challenges faced by Natives,
statistics, etc. ]

Bush and Forces in their erosion of treaty rights are being very consistent
indeed with that old, old goal of the predatory interests that always covet
Native land and mineral and timber and water resources.

Because, once and again and again, the major powers always -- in both the
U.S. and
Canada --  that seek an  end to the "Indian/Native problem" and consistently
yearn for Native American land and resources, are the corporate and land
interests and their mainline  political allies. No more, no less.

This is, again, as axiomatic as the existence of the class  struggle.

And, just as basic, is the fact that we all have to keep fighting --
organizing and fighting with cunning and determination and militancy -- to
safeguard and expand our rights.  We have to do this whoever we are and we
have to do it, increasingly, with all other oppressed people -- whoever
they are, anywhere.

The River of No Return keeps going -- and so will we:  all of us, the Good
Folks of whatever ethnicity.  We'll make it.

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]


President's new budget offers little for tribal programs

Posted: February 11, 2002 - 11:00AM EST
by: Brian Stockes and Tom Wanamaker / Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's new $2 trillion budget provides additional
billions for war but no great increase for Indian Country.

The most significant additional funding in BIA will go for management of the
troubled trust accounts, schools and guaranteed lending. The Indian Health
Service gets a five-percent increase for services, but spending on its
antiquated facilities is virtually frozen.

The budget also heralds a new policy to "privatize" BIA schools, finding
non-federal bodies to take over their management in an effort to improve
much-criticized performance.

The Fiscal Year 2003 budget supports America's war on terrorism and gives
largest increases to homeland security and the military. However,
domestic spending, including tribal funding, is up just 2 percent, barely
the rate of inflation. The overall budget projects a $106 billion deficit
FY2002 and an $80 billion deficit for FY2003, while also proposing nearly a
trillion dollars in tax cuts over ten years.

When it comes to funding for Indian Country, only a few bright spots appear.
Under the Department of Interior's $10.2 billion budget, the BIA request
includes $1.8 billion for the operation of Indian programs, a $59.2 million
increase over FY2002. The most significant proposed BIA increases are
for trust management activities, school operations and the Indian Guaranteed
Loan Program. For the Indian Health Service, the budget includes $2.5
for Indian health services, a $124 million increase over current levels,
with $370 million for IHS facilities, an increase of less than $1 million.

For trust management and reform, the budget contains an $84 million increase
for trust-related activities. This includes a $49 million increase for the
Office of Special Trustee and a $35 million increase for BIA trust program
operations and services at BIA headquarters, regional and tribal levels.
interested in any increase, tribal leaders see this proposal as a "drop in
bucket" in light of Interior's problems with trust reform.

"Secretary Norton may be excited to announce this new increase in funding
trust reform, but there are a lot of other areas that need to be addressed,"
said Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota and
president of the National Congress of American Indians. "To me, that's a
small portion of what it should be. The tribes were never consulted about
budget, even when it came to the trust reform issues. Is it that Interior
responds to areas where they're feeling the heat?"

In the budget document, the White House itself criticized Interior for its
track record on trust reform.

"Due to problems with its tribal trust accounting, DOI cannot provide
assurances that its trust management systems and internal controls meet
standards," wrote the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Indian education programs under the BIA also received shocking news. While
funding for school operations did increase by $18.8 million, the budget
poor academic performances at BIA schools and proposed to "reevaluate BIA's
role in the education of American Indian students." It said that the BIA
hold tribal consultation sessions and then solicit private entities to
BIA schools that do not elect to contract themselves through

Neal McCaleb, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, said that the budget
earmarks nearly $12 million to encourage the privatization effort. Part of
money will be used to encourage tribes to assume control of Indian schools
to hire experts to improve student performance.

"I don't want to say it's desperation, but we're at the lowest level and if
you're ready to try, it's incumbent on us to try different efforts," he

Regarding education, at least one congressman believes the proposed budget
deserves an "A" grade. "This budget proposes the financial resources our
schools must have to breathe life into the historic education reforms we
enacted last year," said Rep. J. D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., in a Feb. 6 news
release. "Of particular importance to Arizonans, because of the high value
place on educational freedom, the president's budget includes strong support
for charter schools and school choice for students trapped in failing

The congressman did not specifically mention American Indian schools in the
news release.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., was unimpressed by the Indian
education spending, however. In his own Feb. 6 news release, he said that
proposed $120 million for school construction and $168 million for
and repairs was a $15 million decrease from the year before. The
for tribal colleges, $39.1 million, was a $2 million decrease from the
budget, he said.

Daschle also criticized the $646.6 million allocation for tribal housing
authorities, which he called a $3 million decrease in funds for the
construction and maintenance of affordable low-income housing. He attacked
he called a 16 percent decrease in funding for IHS facilities, including
clinics and ambulance shelters, and the "complete elimination" of funding
construction of detention facilities.

"Several aspects of the President's proposed budget fail to address many of
issues Indian Country is facing," he said. "While I applaud the President
providing an overall increase in the BIA's budget, his decision to decrease
funding for tribal colleges, hospital construction, and low-income housing,
his complete elimination of a promising law enforcement program is extremely

Daschle touched on the sore spot of consultation, saying he was "concerned"
that the Administration floated several major ideas without first involving
tribes and Congress. He singled out the "measure that would privatize BIA
schools performing below their public school counterparts, and an initiative
completely restructure the Indian Health Service. "

Where the Administration has touted its intent to improve Indian schools,
of reforming the IHS has been decidedly low-key.

On Jan. 9, President Bush signed the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001." In
general, this legislation gives greater accountability to BIA-funded and
operated schools concerning student progress and academic achievement and
access to and greater flexibility in using federal education funds.

"Like their peers, Indian students deserve a good education and must have
access to good schools," said Neal A. McCaleb, Assistant Secretary for
Affairs, at the time. "By his action today, the President has assured Indian
Country's parents that BIA-funded schools will be held accountable for the
quality and success of the education services they provide."

Part D of the Jan. 9 legislation, the "Native American Education Improvement
Act of 2001," deals specifically with making BIA-funded schools more
accountable. Of more immediate significance to Indian Country, this act:

Mandates that all BIA-funded schools either be accredited or candidates for
such within two years of enactment;

Calls for a report on the establishment of a tribal accreditation agency for
BIA-funded schools;

Increases funds schools can receive at the beginning of each school year;

Consolidates all BIA personnel and support services directly and
involved in education within the Office of Indian Education programs; and

Authorizes a demonstration project to integrate Federal education and
services provided to Indian students with streamlined reporting

The President's new FY2003 budget must be approved by both the House and
and may undergo many changes before it reaches its final form. The budget
approval deadline is Sept. 30. The federal government's 2003 fiscal year
on Oct. 1, 2002.

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