Sovereignty: never having to say 'may I'

  Dear HCN,


I want to comment on Bruce Selcraig's article, "Tribal Links" (HCN, 6/4/01: Tribal Links). Someone - Charlie Rose, I think - asked Sherman Alexie about the morality, the vibes of Indian casinos. Like, is it a "good" thing to do? Alexie said he was more concerned with the morality of having enough to eat.


As far as I'm concerned, the Indians can do what they want to get money back from the society that screwed them over. Call it "reparations," maybe. They got the worst of everything, the way the deals went down. Euro-America attempted to control everything from the language they would speak, to the way they dressed, where they lived, to the way they prayed. Does anyone doubt this? When the Indian Nations began making money off their casinos, there were loud voices raised that this was not "spiritual" behavior. Immoral, said too many Euro-American voices. Besides, they were taking money from Anglo-owned gambling operations.


Now, golf. Personally, I enjoy the idea that the last bastion of "country club" activity - read high status WASP society - is being taken up by Indians. Those other minority people were bad enough, but Indians?


How much water are they using? Two percent of what goes to agriculture, according to a source in the article. Gee whiz. How many private swimming pools are there in Albuquerque or Tucson? But the Indians cut down ponderosas and bulldozed topsoil. Horrors! What the hell is happening in those cities I just mentioned? Pick 25 other cities and towns around the West: the same thing is happening. Maybe its easier to go after the Indians for trying economic self-improvement. A little perspective is a good thing to have.


Tribal sovereignty means self-determination, pure and simple. The Indian Nations do not have to ask Euro-Americans for permission to do these things. They have rights guaranteed by treaties, for the most part. But when they attempt to do things that offend the environmentally and morally correct, like the Makah's resumption of whaling, for example, this inalienable right to self-determination is quickly ignored. "This is different! This is about what's right and what's wrong!" The question is, who is deciding what's right and wrong: the Indians or the Anglos? Yeah. The same people who've been doing it for the last few hundred years.


It really is time to give up messing with the right to self-determination, no matter what Euro-Americans think the Indians are doing to the environment. Pots should not call kettles black.


Peter Webster
Bend, Oregon
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