SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Native American Caucus passed a resolution denouncing a platform resolution by Washington state Republicans who had vowed to end tribal sovereignty at their convention in Spokane last month.
The resolution has been adopted into the official platform of the California Democratic Party.
The Native American Caucus and the California state Democratic Party drafted the counter resolution July 7, calling the Washington state resolution a "reprehensible and racist attack on the American Indian people."
It went on to state the federal precedents for tribal sovereignty and specifically listed 700 treaties the U.S. government signed with American Indian tribes since 1789. These treaties, say the letter, set the precedent for government-to-government relations between the United States and the 558 federally recognized American Indian tribes.
The Washington state Republicans plan to push the platform at the National Convention later this month in Philadelphia.
Members of the California Democratic Party Caucus said they feel Washington's Sen. Slade Gorton, who has gained notoriety for his attacks on American Indians, was the muse behind this bill. Though he has officially denounced the resolution, many feel his record of attacks on tribal sovereignty make his words ring hollow.
"Slade Gorton may have said that this resolution isn't going to be considered in Congress and isn't being considered law but the platform represents the stances adopted by Republican Party candidates across the country. The platform is their blueprint of what a party stands for. I think that says a lot about the Republican Party," says Raven Lopez-Workman, a member of the Native American Caucus.
Lopez-Workman added that Gorton had expressed sympathy for those who drafted the resolution.
"He's talking out of both sides of his mouth. You can see that he is still pandering to those folks that are behind this awful resolution. That's why we felt that the California Democratic party had to do something," says Lopez-Workman.
The counter resolution was introduced by California state Sen. Art Torres for inclusion into the California Democratic party platform who was unavailable for comment.
Bob Mulholland, a jack of all trades in California Democratic politics and campaign advisor, California Democratic Party and state Democratic caucus member, says he is surprised the national news media didn't pick up on this story sooner and that they only became aware of the Washington state resolution about three weeks after it had happened.
Mulholland said he feels the resolution is racist and needs to be exposed. He likens it to actions taken by the state of Alabama during the civil rights movement and thinks it shows the true colors of the Republican party across the country. He wondered why likely Republican nominee George W. Bush has not condemned the resolution.
"We saw that something needed to be done and we, at the California state Democratic Party, became the first in the nation to answer to this racist resolution. We're hoping others will follow," Mulholland says.
Andrew Masiel, chairman of the Democratic Party Native American Caucus, is trying to make sure others follow. His group requested the National Republican Party in Washington, D.C., to state its position on the Washington state resolution.
"We're waiting on pins and needles to hear what they say," Masiel says. "We think that it's essential for people and the Republican Party to know that they're talking about our livelihood and our very survival as tribal people."
Masiel, a member of the California Nevada Indian Gaming Association, says that group has Republican members going to the Republican convention in Philadelphia to confront the party leadership on the issue and find out exactly where it stands.