The Founders of our country never contemplated separate tribal governments, nor authorized such entities within language the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, through Treaties and later legislation that arbitrarily authorized itself to create “Federally Recognized” tribes.
Commentary by Elaine Willman
Indian ‘Nations’ — and other sham terms: Let’s Speak Clearly and Truthfully
“We in America do not have government by the majority—we have government by the majority who participate…All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” —Thomas Jefferson
How often do we hear that “Treaties are the supreme law of the land,” or that American Indian Tribes are “First Nations?” Do tribal governments in the United States have “aboriginal rights” since “time immemorial?” Well, in light of a new Era that calls for America First, I think that clarifying some of these grandiose terms is in order. After all, it’s very difficult to have 567 “First Nations” in One Nation – America First.
Our U.S. Constitution is written in clear, plain language, so let’s begin there. We frequently hear that “Treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land.” That is the last part of the Supremacy Clause in order, third in place, which states: “(1) This Constitution, and (2) the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and (3) all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; [parentheses added]. Were treaties truly supreme, no subsequent congressional acts, or judicial rulings would supersede. Worse, tribes would have only beneficial use and occupancy of their lands (the federal government owned all the reservation lands); would have no governing or jurisdictional authority (that was the Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA] under treaties); and would not even be U.S. citizens. Any monies owed to tribes through treaties were long ago paid, and federal funding might not be necessary once all treaty obligations were fulfilled.
Likely advanced by Indian Gaming and wealthy tribal coffers, the term “tribal sovereignty” has taken on such financial and political power that it is perceived by too many elected officials to be superior to the true sovereignties. Below are the only three sovereigns discussed in the Constitution, in order of priority:
- Citizen/Popular Sovereignty: “We the People,” individual citizen sovereignty affirmed with the Bill of Rights;
- State Sovereignty:The People of the thirteen colonies created the first “States” and the Constitution, and thereafter;
- The Federal Governmentwas created by: first, We the People; and second, the States. The few enumerated powers of the federal government were intentional to keep American people and their states as overseers of the federal government.
The Founders of our country never contemplated separate tribal governments, nor authorized such entities within language the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, through Treaties and later legislation that arbitrarily authorized itself to create “Federally Recognized” tribes. Recently, Justice Clarence Thomas asked twice: “Where in the Constitution is the plenary (omnipotent) authority of Congress for federally recognized tribes and federal Indian policy?” (See. U.S. v. Lara (2004), and U.S. v Bryant (2016). That power is not in the Constitution. The source of tribal sovereignty recognized in this country, is derived from a delegation of federal sovereignty extended by Congress to “federally recognized” tribes. Tribal leader voices almost never mention “federally recognized.” It connotes a direct relationship with the U.S. that is not nearly as glamorous as perceived separate “nations.”
The very existence of “federally recognized” Indian tribes is at the plenary pleasure of Congress, to recognize or de-recognize tribes as has been done in the past. Congress cannot create nations nor have any authority over free-standing legitimate nations. Tribal governments are “federally chartered” organizations under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. They are a blend of a federal corporate existence with the right to self-govern only its members and its lands owned in federal trust by the United States. That sure doesn’t sound like a nation, as such existence is entirely contingent upon Congressional and federal agency decisions.
In September 2007 the United Nations approved the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many, if not most, of the U.S. Tribes have signed onto this UN Resolution, and it likely explains the ramped up usage of the term “nations.” In December 2010 former President Obama formally supported this UN Resolution, as did then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Unless and until Congress was to approve such resolution, it has no legal impact; however, the political fallout has been profound and escalating among the U.S. tribes.
The interaction of the United Nations and Indian tribes has prompted a flood of new terminology that is intentionally repulsive to the existence of the United States and the U.S. Constitution. Examples include:
Aboriginal Rights. If such rights existed at all, they predate the establishment of the United States and the purchase through treaties of lands from Indians. We did not steal lands and continually, annually pay billions out to the 567 tribes. All of the North American continent, in fact all continents, were at some time aboriginal. When one hears specific tribes push this term publicly and frequently, that tribal government voice is absolutely adversarial to the country, and the taxpayers that provide its existence and annual funding.
Time Immemorial. This is a term used to promote American guilt because tribes claim that “We were here first.” That is true, but the answer today is, “so what?” Indians are full American citizens along with the rest of us. My response to “we were here first,” is to remind tribes of how fortunate they are that we were not here second. Most other conquerors during the Doctrine of Discovery period completely decimated those they conquered. We could be studying Indians like the dinosaurs but for extensive, but difficult efforts to get along with those who were here first.
Pre-European. The United Nations and Agenda 2030 folks are promoting this term as a method to marginalize and ultimately remove the existence of the United States on the North American continent. Maps of the North American continent posted on Agenda 2030 websites show no states, or the United States. It shows “regions” governed by the United Nations. The UN is using U.S. tribes as pawns to facilitate the dismantling of our country, and of course, tribes are ever so willing, but continually demanding federal dollars. Tribes bite the hands that feed them, and if one protests, why, they are racist.
De-Colonization. This is a direct assault on the United States, its thirteen “colonies” and the formation of the U.S. Constitution and U.S. government.
All of these terms, nations, aboriginal rights, time immemorial, pre-European, de-colonization assault the very existence or legitimacy of the United States. These terms are not commonly expressed by the majority of enrolled tribal members who respect this country, their citizenship and their neighbors of all cultures. These spurious terms are mouthed by radical tribal leaders holding power over their members, and vigorously working to un-settle (de-colonize) the West. Former President Obama and his rogue federal agencies have raised havoc in the western states. Unfortunately, too many state governors and legislators, dependent upon federal funds, and loath to be called a bad name, simply and spinelessly abdicate their authority to protect the state’s sovereignty as superior to tribal sovereignty.
Hopefully, readers will not be swayed when hearing terms discussed in this article, but will push back with a simple comment: Anything pre-constitutional or extra-constitution is unconstitutional. And most certainly, Americans want the United Nations out of this country and minding its own business. America and its citizens has been a country of givers, and the takers are kicking us in the teeth. No more. America First! I have never heard the Native words for “thank you,” or “enough,” but a respectful attitude about our country might build better relations, and would be a good start!