To Defraud Native Tribes
- An AIM Activist's View of Jack Abramoff
Another Racist Out to Defraud Native Tribes
By ROBERT ROBIDEAU
January 26, 2006
Historically racism has characterized and justified unscrupulous
behavior toward Native Americans. This attitude has kept us in poverty
and ill health since the inception of the reservation system.
The long historical racist mentality, accentuated through the doctrine
of Manifest Destiny, has allowed countless political types and racist
individuals like Jack Abramoff to defraud Native tribes of billions of
This theft is consistent with congressional double-dealings that
manipulate away profit, land, natural resources and enterprising
attempts by Native American tribes to make their nations economically
and socially independent.
When tribal people stand up in self defense, as they did in the 1970s,
when thousands marched across North America on the Trail of Broken
Treaties to Washington, D.C., to protest tribal corruption sanctioned
by federal policies and congressional acts, we were met with clubs and
Before federal treaties removed tribes from their traditional lands,
they lived a rich and abundant life for thousands of years. Since
then, congressional acts have kept tribes locked in poverty and ill
health to the present day.
The federal government's programs enacted by Congress have whittled
away millions of areas of reservation land for profit, and continue an
ongoing policy that sanctions thefts of Indian land and natural
resources. The gaming industry represents a continuation of
congressional manipulations that erode tribal sovereignty and continue
to plague the quality of life for Native people.
We have fought the land rush, gold rush and oil rush. Now comes the
gaming rush, which has created more corruption in our tribal
governments and animosity among Native Americans. Congress passed the
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, and it has only brought
money-mongering politicians scurrying in from Washington, D.C.,
sniffing out casino profits.
Governmental reports alleging that gaming revenue has been used to
"reduce poverty and unemployment rates, build schools and hospitals,
paved road and construct sewer systems, preserve and revitalize
cultural traditions and build responsive and responsible government
institutions such as tribal courts" are a smokescreen for the United
States to escape its treaty obligations.
If these treaties had been honored decades ago, the Native American
communities would have enjoyed the same opportunities and the same
standard of living as mainstream America.
The United States is the wealthiest country in the world, with a
higher poverty rate than any other progressive nation. Native
Americans rank the poorest in health and economy due to federal
The government has attempted to mask these policies as good and
wholesome, but in reality, they are bent towards genocide, ethnocide
and land and resource theft in the name of divine "manifest destiny"
to spread civilization by territorial expansion and subjugation of
* * *
THE AMERICAN Indian Movement fought against tribal corruption in the
1970s, which resulted in us being labeled "terrorist" and wholesale
federal attacks on us by their political police force, the FBI, which
used its counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO) to destroy our
legitimate protest movement.
The Church Committee declared that these methods were in violation of
the constitutional protections. Despite the Church Committee's
findings, the federal government declared war on the American Indian
Movement, resulting in over 300 assaults and homicides by a corrupt
tribal government that was armed and protected by the FBI, an agency
of the Department of Justice.
The USA PATRIOT Act is today using similar methods against us. The
federal government justifies such acts through scare tactics that
label threats under the name "terrorist." Leonard Peltier, a victim of
the COINTELPRO program, has served 30 years in prison to date, and
there seems to be no end in sight to his continued incarceration.
Congressional acts are passed to regulate the lives of Indian people
into oblivion. One of the most outrageous congressional acts passed
was about freedom of religion. Why did we need a special act
protecting our religious rights when the U.S. Constitution alleges to
protect everyone's religious freedom and rights?
Just as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) controls the lives of
tribal people through corruption, so too does the casino business
create and maintain corrupt tribal leadership. Tribal leadership is
now using what remains of our sovereignty as a weapon against their
Many American Indians now view the Gaming Act as just another
congressional act of genocide, similar to congressional acts like the
Relocation and Termination Act. These were attempts to remove Indians
from their remaining lands and make them disappear into the melting
pot of North America.
Many California tribes, in order to get a bigger share of the profits,
have been thinning out their population by arbitrarily kicking
hundreds of members from tribal roles and/or denying them enrollment.
The Enterprise Rancheria kicked out 75 members, while still other
tribes corrupted by the money are kicking out hundreds.
The real kicker is that when these tribal members attempt to appeal
these outrageous acts of genocide by their own Nations through the
U.S. Department of Justice, tribal sovereignty is recognized. It is
clear that institutions of the federal government continue to
manipulate tribal sovereignty to the disparagement of Indian people.
Tribes began as sovereign powers, which are recognized by treaties
between them and the United States of America. Congress has
historically limited tribal sovereignty by passage of such
congressional acts as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which are
cloaked as progressive economic opportunities for tribal nations,
while they are, in fact, designed to take from the tribes' control of
their lives, by expressly limiting tribal sovereignty.
ROBERT ROBIDEAU is co-director of the Leonard Peltier Defense
Committee. Along with Leonard, his cousin, He was an activist in the
American Indian Movement, an organization formed in the 1970s to
demand civil rights and defend Native Americans from government
violence. He was accused along with Leonard of killing two FBI agents
on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Robert was
acquitted; in a separate trial, Leonard was convicted and sentenced to
prison, where he remains unjustly to this day.
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