August 4, 1995 - Issue: Vol. 141, No. 129 — Daily Edition104th Congress (1995 - 1996) - 1st Session
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. ____________________