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Americans Are the New Indians

A column by Ruth Hopkins about how the National Defense Authorization Act is dangerous, especially for Native Americans.

On New Years Eve, President Obama signed The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. Essentially the law does what previous NDAA incarnations have- it provides funding for the U.S. military. The controversy over this version of the NDAA arises from Section 1031. It gives the federal government, in particular the president, global authority to apprehend and detain anyone, including American citizens on U.S. soil, who are suspected of terrorism, assisting terrorists, or who are perceived as being in league with “associated forces.” The law also states that those detained may be held without being charged or receiving a trial, “until the end of hostilities.” In other words, perhaps indefinitely. That’s right: indefinite detention without trial is now codified law in the United States of America.

Section 1031 should be distressing to Americans and especially American Indians. While lauded as legislation that will offer the United States and her interests greater protection and enable us to win the War on Terror, Section 1031 tramples on Habeas corpus (a common law legal action that allows prisoners to seek release from unlawful detention) and constitutional rights promised to U.S. citizens in the Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable searches and seizures), the Fifth Amendment (right to a Grand Jury and protection against double jeopardy and self-incrimination), the Sixth Amendment (right to a public, speedy trial, to be confronted by witnesses, and to have the assistance of public counsel), and the Fourteenth Amendment (right to due Process and equal protection). One may infer that Section 1031 puts the First Amendment (right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly) in jeopardy too, because the wording of the law is so broad and vague that what exactly is deemed “terrorist” activity or aiding “associated forces” is left open to interpretation. It’s not unrealistic to foresee that citizens will become wary of participating in any dialogue, group or activity that may put them in danger of being seized by the government and detained indefinitely. Understand that Section 1031 will also supersede the rights enumerated in ICRA, The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, that makes most of U.S. Constitutional rights applicable to Tribes.

In your analysis of this law, I encourage you to put any personal politics aside. It doesn’t matter whether you support President Obama, or if you’re voting in the next Republican Presidential Primary. Section 1031 spells doom for the United States as we know it, and opens the door to turning the United States into a military run regime where freedom is an illusion, and innocent Americans are taken from their families and communities and locked away without being charged or given a trial, possibly for the rest of their lives. Think about it. What determines whether an activity supports terrorism or “associated forces”? Could someone be seized under Section 1031 for clicking on a website later found to be affiliated with someone on a terror watch list? Possibly. Could political activists protesting government activities be arrested under this law? More likely than not. So what do you think the chances are that Section 1031 could lead to natives being seized by the government for going against federal interests in the course of protecting native lands, natural resources, sacred sites, civil liberties and tribal sovereignty? Remember, we natives have often found ourselves at odds with the federal government, and with good reason. We are proud, sovereign nations that pre-date the United States. Our ancestors were the original “insurgents.”

Reportedly, the Obama administration asked that language prohibiting American citizens military detention without due process be removed, and for the bill to give the President definitive authority for detaining people, instead of the State Department. Under Section 1031, Americans considered militant can be placed on a capture or kill list by a secret White House panel of top officials that advises the President of their decisions. While President Obama has promised not to use the new indefinite detention authority seeded to him under Section 1031 against U.S citizens, how the law is interpreted and utilized by future U.S. Presidents is anyone’s guess. I’m disappointed in the Obama administration’s short-sightedness concerning the multitude of disastrous ramifications that NDAA Section 1031 could bring for the American People as well as the U.S. Tribes Obama has promised to stand up for.

Mainstream society snickers at conspiracy theorists who warn us about the Illuminati, FEMA camps, and fascist government control, but laws like NDAA Section 1031 remind us that we should not blindly follow leadership, elected or otherwise. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by fear- of terrorists, the government, or any other force. Our grandparents did not fight, suffer and struggle for survival just for us to duck our heads in the sand and hide. We should stay informed, take heed and do all we can to protect our legal rights. Only a handful of corporations control the global economy. We must do all we can to insure that the interests and welfare of the people take precedence over greed and those who would dominate us.

The fate of Section 1031 now rests on the shoulders of nine judges responsible for interpreting the law: The United States Supreme Court. If they don’t overturn Section 1031, it could result in another Wounded Knee or Sand Creek- and Americans are the new Indians.

Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) is a writer, speaker,former science professor and tribal attorney. She is a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and Ruth may be reached via Twitter, Facebook, or by email at