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CERA: The Ku Klux Klan of Indian country

Anti-Indian hate groups are desperately attempting to gain a foothold in
American politics by attacking tribal self-governance. This disturbing
trend is being allowed to happen, unchecked. Recently the hate group
Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) held a Mother's Day conference in
Washington, D.C. entitled "Confronting Federal Indian Policy." While tribes
are appalled that such organizations even exist, these groups are eliciting
from their members contributions to shore up their attacks against
federally-protected rights and to finance campaigns of their favored
candidates. It's time we labeled these groups for what they really are:
hate groups.

CERA's sister organization, Citizen's Equal Rights Foundation (CERF),
recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case U.S. v. Lara before
the United States Supreme Court. CERF urged the Court to find that Congress
had no power to recognize inherent powers of tribes. This group is also
seeking the attention of congressional leaders who do not really understand
the despicable implications of their activities. But before candidates
accept political contributions from these racist organizations, they should
look deeper.

Who are these people and what are they so afraid of? These groups are
comprised mainly of non-Indian land owners on Indian reservations. They are
afraid of being regulated by brown people, and by the efforts of tribes
under federal law to reclaim lost homelands. These non-Indians often
acquired their property within the "permanent homelands" of tribes through
the General Allotment Act, the national disgrace.

The Allotment Act, passed by Congress not long after slavery was abolished
in an effort to dismantle tribal governments and "assimilate" Indian
people, was the single most significant breach of every treaty made with
tribes. It authorized the carving up of reservations into allotments and
threw open the "surplus lands" to non-Indian acquisition. Many call it "a
national theft." Senate Joint Resolution 76, introduced on April 6, would
finally offer an apology for what the United States did to tribes and
Indian people under the 1887 Allotment Act.

SJR 76 would "acknowledge a long history of official depredations and
ill-conceived policies by the United States Government regarding Indian
tribes." It expressly names the General Allotment Act as one of those
depredations. Even without a formal apology, the fact that non-Indian land
owners acquired title through the condemned policies of the Allotment Act
cannot be ignored.

Treaties entered with tribes under the Constitution recognized tribes as
governments. By 1934, Congress came to recognize the devastating effects of
the Allotment Act, and expressly condemned its assimilationist policies in
favor of policies recognizing tribal self-governance. To reverse the
effects of the Allotment Act, Congress provided statutory methods by which
alienated homelands could be restored to Indian ownership.

Since the early 1970s, tribal self-governance has been the cornerstone of
numerous federal statutes. The policy of self-governance, therefore, is a
constitutionally and federally-protected right of tribes. The goal of these
hate groups is to attack those federally and constitutionally protected
rights. They prefer to hearken to the condemned Allotment policies."

These hate groups pride themselves in having among their members Indian
people who have become disillusioned with their own tribal councils. By
having brown people among their ranks, they can claim their hatred toward
tribes is not race-based. But these beneficiaries of the national disgrace
are functioning on fear. Tribes are reacquiring their homelands at
ever-increasing rates. Ask those non-Indian landowners if they would like
to welcome in those Indian members as neighbors and you are likely to get a
different response. It is one thing to have Indians join their groups, but
quite another to have them join their neighborhoods.

There was a time in our recent history when racist organizations used
tactics that were more blatant and open. Now their messages of hatred are
more subtle, and are shrouded in legal arguments and campaign
contributions. Rather than burning crosses and marching in white hoods,
these hate-mongers are using direct mailings with slogans about
constitutional rights. Where once such organizations met in secret at night
around bonfires in the deep woods, these new groups meet openly on Mother's
Day in Washington, D.C. and surround congressional leaders.

Visit CERA's Web site and you'll see tactics used by terrorist groups. The
group urges people to form cells in their own regions to carry out the
group's objectives. Why is the Justice Department turning a blind eye to
these purveyors of hate? An organization whose sole purpose is to attack
rights protected by federal and constitutional law is not any different
than the Ku Klux Klan. It is time we identified these groups for what they
really are. Rather than engage in their ridiculous debates about the
fundamentals of federal Indian law, which would only help legitimize them,
we need to question their very existence.

Their cries for help, however, may provide an opportunity to educate the
public on why a national apology for the General Allotment Act is
necessary. The title history on the property of these non-Indian land
owners tells the story. Whenever they speak, before their questions are
addressed, ask them where their lands are located and trace how they got
there. Only in that context can we have an informed discussion.