THE CONGRESSIONAL ASSAULT ON TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY; Congressional Record Vol. 141, No. 129
(Extensions of Remarks - August 04, 1995)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1636]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


            THE CONGRESSIONAL ASSAULT ON TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY

                                 ______


                          HON. BILL RICHARDSON

                             of new mexico

                    in the house of representatives

                        Thursday, August 3, 1995
  Mr. RICHARDSON. Mr. Speaker, I share the grave concerns of my 
colleagues and the more than 550 American Indian and Alaska Native 
tribes of this Nation regarding the unprecedented budgetary cuts and 
assaults on tribal sovereignty currently underway in the 104th 
Congress. As the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Native 
American Affairs, I find it especially difficult to watch as this body 
attempts to undermine the hard fought victories that Indian tribes have 
won in the past 30 years.
  It is hard to understate the enormity of the cuts in this year's 
appropriations bills. For instance, the House Interior appropriations 
bill cuts BIA and Department of Education funding for Indian education 
by $61 million, eliminates important scholarships and adult education, 
and restricts funding of self-determination contracts and self-
governance compacts. The Interior bill fails to include enough funding 
for the Indian Health Service to maintain its current level of 
services. And, the House Interior report penalizes tribal self-
determination and economic growth by requiring the Secretary of the 
Interior to prepare a means testing report on Indian tribes who conduct 
gaming operations.
  The Commerce, Justice appropriations bill eliminates the line-item 
for Indian legal services. The Agriculture appropriations bill calls 
for the termination of the commodities program. The VA-HUD 
appropriations bill cuts funding for new Indian housing by two-thirds. 
The Labor-HHS appropriations bill eliminates additional Indian 
education funding, funding for the protection of tribal elders, reduces 
meals for tribal elders by $845,000, and eliminates the low-income 
heating assistance program. In addition, the Labor-HHS bill would put 
sharp curbs on the amount of political or legal advocacy that tribal 
governments or organizations could undertake at the Federal level.
  The tribal outcry that has arisen because of these actions and others 
should tell us that we need to seriously examine and rethink our 
relationship with Indian country. In order to do so, we must:
  Recognize that tribes are sovereign entities and not merely another 
set of minority or special interest groups.
  Acknowledge our moral and legal responsibility to protect and aid 
Indian tribes.
  Adhere to a set of principles that will enable us to deal fairly and 
honestly with Indian tribes.
  From the founding of this Nation, Indian tribes have been recognized 
as distinct independent, political communities exercising the powers of 
self-government, not by virtue of any delegation of powers form the 
Federal Government, but rather by virtue of their own inherent 
sovereignty. The tribes' sovereignty pre-dates the Constitution and 
forms the backdrop against which the United States has entered into 
relations with the Indian tribes.
  The United States also has a moral and legal trust responsibility to 
Indian tribes. Since the founding of the country, the U.S. has promised 
to uphold the rights of Indian tribes, and serve as the trustee of 
Indian lands and resources. The U.S. has vowed, through treaties such 
as the 1868 Navajo treaty, that Indians would be housed, educated, and 
afforded decent health care. We have failed on nearly every count.
  Perhaps we need to look to the past in order for us to understand our 
proper relationship with Indian tribes. More than two centuries ago, 
Congress set forth what should be our guiding principles. In 1789, 
Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, a set of seven articles 
intended to govern the addition of new States to the Union. These 
articles served as a compact between the people and the States, and 
were to forever remain unalterable, unless by common consent. Article 
three set forth the Nation's policy towards Indian tribes:

       The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the 
     Indians; their land and property shall never be taken away 
     from them without their consent * * * but laws founded in 
     justice and humanity shall from time to time be made, for 
     preventing wrongs to them * * * .''

  Each of us should memorize these words. Our forefathers carefully and 
wisely chose these principles to govern the conduct of Congress in its 
dealing with American Indian tribes. Over the years, but especially in 
this Congress, we have strayed from these principles--the principles of 
good faith, consent, justice and humanity. It is time for us to return 
to and remain faithful to these principles.


                          ____________________