Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Price of Sovereignty

Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills of South Dakota
Depending on your point of view, Friday was either a really good day for the Cherokee Nation, or a really bad day for the Cherokee Nation.

They didn’t decide we were right, though.  They decided to dole out the money because we had caved in.  Specifically, they decided that as long as we ignore our own Supreme Court ruling, we can have housing money, no questions asked.

The bad news?  We now know the price of our sovereignty, and it’s about $40 million depending on which news story you believe.

Why?  Well, our Constitution says that you have to be Indian to be in our Indian tribe.  We voted for it to be that way, our Supreme Court said the Constitution was right, and that’s it.  If we are a sovereign Nation, we decide our own citizenship.  You don’t have to like the citizenship policy, but we voted on it.  If it is against a treaty, we should have a court tell us that it is (which is what the whole Cherokee Nation v. Nash case is about).  If it isn’t against a treaty, and we are ignoring our own law for cash, should we be happy about that?

Well, let’s put it in perspective.  The Sioux tribes in South Dakota say that they own the Black Hills.  And did you know that the federal government is willing to give it back to them--on certain terms.  As of last year, there was more than $1BILLION (with a B) in a settlement account.  

That account has been growing every year since the 80s, and the Sioux haven’t touched a penny.  Not one.  Why? Because they are fighting for their treaty rights.  And their tribal sovereignty is more important to them than a billion dollars.
It’s okay to want housing funding for our people.  It’s also okay to fight the federal government for it.  We can fight the feds and win.  We just did, in fact, on this very issue (Vann v. Kempthorne).  It is possible to set our own citizenship criteria AND have housing funding, but to do that we have to actually follow our own laws AND fight for our own Constitution.

Or we could just take the $40 million.  For us, it appears our sovereignty is worth $40 million or less.