Thursday, October 12, 2006

Anti-Indian Groups Will Not Go Away If We Ignore Them

Opposition to Indian self-preservation or betterment for our Nations and our people is growing by leaps and bounds in this country. If an Indian Nation mentions the words “property into trust”, the alarms go off. Mention the possibility of opening an Indian owned casino, smoke shop, convenience store or other business and you know that some group of local citizens are going to form an “organization” to oppose it. If that isn’t the way it unfolds in your locality then you can count on an established local, regional, or national organization to start lobbying against your efforts. You are all familiar with the scenario and most of you here have had some first hand experience in dealing with these issues.

The published and spoken directive of these groups is usually "sugar coated" in an effort to make it appear that they exist only for the best interests of the people they represent. They espouse that they are not racist or anti-Indian while they continue their efforts to stifle our business growth, sovereignty and our people themselves. In reality, most of these groups are biased toward Indians in some way or another. Their press releases, actions and their web sites clearly prove this fact.

They state their concern about the loss of tax revenue if property is taken off of the tax roll in their locality. We all know the reality of those figures. There is minimal loss for the state, county or municipality and a great gain in revenue in most instances.

One such group is One Nation United, a Redmond, Washington and Thousand Oaks, California based organization formerly known as United Property Owners, who merged with the Oklahoma based One Nation, on January 1, 2005. This merger combined a grassroots organization with big business and big money backing interests from the One Nation group, which at one time claimed in excess of 150,000 members alone.

The One Nation line up includes the Petroleum Marketer's Association of America, the National Association of Convenience Stores, and the Farm Bureau Insurance Company, among other business interests. If you think for one minute that the people behind these organizations are pro-Indian, think again. They are fully supportive of their business plan, their stockholders and the dollar. Millions of those dollars are at their disposal and they are using them to lobby against us at local, state and Federal levels.

Barb Lindsay, National Spokesperson for ONU and David Jaques, President of ONU were on hand for a public meeting of the Douglas County, Oregon commissioners on August 2nd, 2006. What ensued, in my opinion, was a fiasco of "us against the Indians" brought on by Lindsay in an attempt to justify her organization's stand on the issues against the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians, a Federally recognized tribe and good neighbor to the county. While Ms. Lindsay stated that the organization was not racist or anti-Indian, her rhetoric said volumes more.

These groups are everywhere in Indian Country. They continue to grow, they continue to multiply and they continue to gain support. I was told by the Public Relations head of a large Oklahoma Indian Nation a couple of years ago that their position was, “They will go away if we just ignore them.” It appears that that Nation was wrong in their assessment and we should all know it now.

They will not go away if we ignore them.

Many of these group’s supporters are non-Indian property owners and concerned citizens who buy into their inflamed and false rhetoric. But, many are businesses or business organizations that have deep lobbying pockets and the desire to stop us in our tracks. This fact alone should give us cause for deep thought about the solutions we must search for to sway public opinion. A mutually tribally funded positive advertising campaign across the country would be one way to sway opinion. The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma has done an excellent job recently with the campaign they are currently running on television.

I know there are many battles we must fight in the course of our history. We, as Nations and as individuals, each have our own battles, our own hardships to endure. But, only with determination and unity, as Indigenous People, shall we prevail. We must all come together in support of a common goal. The preservation and continuation of our inherent sovereignty and our rights as the first people of this great country is of the utmost importance to us all.