© 2020 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
We have often said that the notion of tribal governance was generally intended to provide an avenue for self-determination of individual tribal members to manage their own affairs. Self-determination was intended by the federal government to be SELF determination for the tribes to make their own path. It does not mean Indian determination over the future of everyone else.
What began as a well-intended desire by the government to provide individual Indians with the same rights, privileges, immunities and responsibilities of free-born American citizens, became corrupted with the 1934 passage of the Indian Reorganization Act and the creation of tribal government corporations that control every aspect of individual tribal member’s lives.
Tribal Council Minutes are full of instances of tribal members going to tribal council to plead for something. We would argue that even our own county government has done the same. Here’s is one small example (Note: we have redacted the tribal member’s name):
2013 Tribal Council Minutes: (Redacted Name), Tribal Member, requested approval to have his non-tribal member son assist him while hunting big game on the reservation, due to medical reasons. Council explained that hunting is a treaty right re-served for tribal members and they asked that he try to find a tribal member to go hunting with him. (Redacted name) does not want to be prohibited from the privilege of hunting with his son. It was explained to (Redacted Name) that hunting on the reservation is a treaty right re-served for tribal members only. No action taken.
How awful it must be for tribal members to live this way. yet like it or not, we all are moving in that direction.
The fundamental problem that has arisen is that the Tribes, and federal agencies, have advanced the political notion that tribal governments have the same legal power as the state and federal governments over everyone–counties, non-Indian citizens, the states, and in our case, the federal government. The Tribes have set themselves up as possessing more rights and more “sovereignty” than the rest of us.
Unfortunately western Montana has allowed itself to become victim by acquiescing to the myth of “tribal sovereignty” the advancement of which is being used by federal, state, and county governments to destroy the self determination of people, both Indian and non-Indian.
That same tribal government is not satisfied with just controlling the lives of its membership, it also desires to control the lives of non-Indians living within the boundaries of the former Flathead Indian Reservation. Its “state condoned” actions of the past several years have provided a clear picture of their roadmap that includes the expansion of their control to include 2/3 of the state of Montana.
The vehicle of choice for that overreach? Through their water.
Will the ratification Senator Daines S3019 Water Compact elevate the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Government to the top of the government sovereignty food chain?
In other words will Senator Daines place the “sovereignty” of the CSKT above the sovereign status of individual Americans, county governments, and the United States government?
Will the first sentence in SB262 WHEREAS, pursuant to the Hellgate Treaty of 1855, 12 Stat. 975, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes reserved the Flathead Indian Reservation, have other consequences? It was used to get all of the water and jurisdiction over the water rights of everyone, what else could it be used for?
What impact will this “government” acquiescence to a statement as simple as the tribe’s reserved everything, and then codifying it into the law of the land, have on the rights and protections of individuals, and their own ability to be self-determined?
Are Tribes really a “nation within a nation”, or something else?
Does a tribe and tribal government have the same sovereign powers as a state, the citizens of the United States, and the United States? That is, do Tribes have governmental power over non-Indians?
What is the source of “Tribal governance”?
If the Daines compact does in fact represent a sea change in the sovereignty food chain, what is the new order of governance?
Does this sovereignty shift also entail a change in congressional “representation”? In other words, will Senator Daines now see his role to be the representation of tribal government interests only (at least with respect to the newly defined Flathead Indian Reservation?
At what point will this madness end?
For more information on the notion of “tribal sovereignty,” reference this great post by Dr. Kate: