Republicans attack sovereignty

  WASHINGTON


Native Americans throughout the West say they're disgusted with Republicans in Washington state: Delegates at the state GOP convention this summer passed a resolution to abolish tribal governments.


John Fleming won his party's support when he complained that as a non-Indian living on the Swinomish reservation in northwestern Washington, he can't vote in tribal elections.


Fleming's resolution says the "executive and legislative branches of the federal government (should) immediately take whatever steps necessary to terminate all such nonrepublican forms of government on Indian reservations."


Passed unanimously in the last 90 minutes of the state convention, the resolution is not part of the party platform and cannot force any action to shut down tribal governments. But some Native Americans say it represents a racist attitude.


"This still shows that people will do anything they can to destroy our sovereignty," says Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. Cladoosby says that the tribes' right to determine reservation laws has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.


"It's not hard to figure out what would happen if nontribal members were allowed to vote," Cladoosby says, explaining that only 1,000 of 3,000 people on the reservation are tribal members.


After a flurry of criticism in the media, the GOP state board adopted a second resolution that reaffirms their "support for Native American sovereignty."


"We believe in tribal sovereignty," says Kelly Hinton, the executive director of the Washington State Republican Party. "But (Fleming's) concerns are not going to go away. (The fact that he can't vote) tends to fly in the face of everything our nation is supposed to stand for."


Cladoosby says this second resolution does only "a little to repair the damage."