Monday, September 17, 2012

BIA Inaction Defies Logic

The history of the United States government versus the Indigenous People of America is long and sordid.  It runs the gambit from genocide, biological warfare, treaty violations, theft of land and resources, and cultural annihilation. 

As the Indian Rights movement took hold a move toward self governance was embraced by the Department of the Interior.  The BIA began working with tribes to help them set up tribal governments.  The goal was self reliance and economic development.  This however still did not stop the BIA or the U.S. Government from meddling in Indian Affairs when it suited them particularly when there were resources such as oil and uranium that the government wanted.

After 1950 a series of Supreme Court decisions handed more power over to the tribes under the heading of Sovereignty.  Still, this did not stop the BIA from overseeing tribal governments, approving their governing documents, and certifying their elections.

By the 2000's Indian Casinos grew to a multi-billion dollar a year industry.  With it came the mentality by the U.S. Government of "hands off" Indian Tribes.  Well, hands off those that have casinos anyway.

Armies of Jack Abramoff type lobbyists flooded Congress.  Their message was clear - "hands off Indian tribes.  Oh, and here is your check to help your re-election campaign".

Tribal Sovereignty was now viewed as powerful as kryptonite against Super Man.  The BIA has routinely for over 10 years now sat on their hands and claimed Tribal Sovereignty prevented them from getting involved in tribal affairs.

Tribal Officials emboldened by the in-action of the BIA have since run amok all over California disenrolling and banishing any members who dare challenge their political power.  Even in cases where it is clear to all that disenrollments should not have happened the BIA claims Tribal Sovereignty and sits on their hands.

Tribal Officials armed with powerful attorneys go to court with one document and one statement for the courts - Tribal Sovereignty - Hands Off.

So now we have this situation at Pala where the Federal Government through the BIA recognizes Margarita Brittain as 4/4 and recommending that disenrolled Pala members continue to be enrolled at Pala. Yet the BIA refuses to get involved beyond a toothless recommendation.

The BIA has in effect allowed the Pala Executive Committee to overturn the BIA's final decision that Margarita Brittain is 4/4.

What's more, the BIA has allowed the Pala Executive Committee to alter the 1913 Pala Allotment Roll which clearly lists Margarita Brittain as 4/4 and her children as 1/2.  In order to get an allotment one had to be at least 1/2 degree of Indian Blood.  If Margarita's children were not 1/2 they would not have received an allotment.  The BIA in 1913 was not exactly looking to hand out allotments to just anyone.  They made sure those that received them were entitled to them.

I do not understand how the BIA can sit idly by claiming Tribal Sovereignty while the Pala Executive Committee violates their 1989 final decision on Margarita Brittain and in effect alters the 1913 Pala Allotment Roll.  If the BIA wanted to they could get involved.  There are more than enough violations committed by the Pala Executive Committee to justify involvement.

The Pala Executive Committee has made a complete mockery of Tribal Self Government and Pala's Governing Documents.  So why does the BIA continue to turn a blind eye not just to Pala but to several tribes up and down the State of California? 

Why does the rise of inaction by the BIA seem to coincide with the rise of Tribal Casinos?