Elouise Cobell is upset because she wasn't consulted when Kevin Gover was hired as the new director for the National Museum of the American Indian. Now she knows how many of us felt when she filed a class action lawsuit on our behalf without ever consulting any of us. Her actions, I believe, gave the federal government the needed excuse to give Ross Swimmer the road map to begin dismantling the BIA. Did she ever consult with our tribal governments on the impact her lawsuit would have on our unique relationship with the United States?
When I was in college we had the opportunity to hear Vine Deloria Jr. speak. I asked him a question regarding the difference between an individual tribal member's relationship with the federal government versus their tribe's relationship. His answer has guided my thinking ever since. He said the unique relationship was based upon the legal relationship between the tribes and the federal government and not between the individual and the government. If the individual was only considered, we would be considered citizens of the United States with the same rights as every other citizen. That is, except if the individual owned allotted land. If that was the case then the United States would continue to hold their land in trust. He said if the United States would ever only consider their trust responsibility to the individual and find an excuse to end their relationship with the tribes, it would mean the ''termination of our tribes.''
I know others will disagree with my position. I disagree with what Elouise Cobell started and how she dragged the rest of us onto this slippery slope towards termination. Now that she's complaining about not being consulted, she needs to remember that she failed to consult with us or with our tribal leaders who may or may not have supported her plan. She didn't give them the opportunity and now our leaders have to deal with Ross Swimmer and his gang of ''terminators.'' Are we better off today with the Cobell lawsuit? Should she have consulted our leaders before she began her lawsuit?
I support Kevin. I've known him for 22 years and never in all of that time did he do anything to jeopardize tribal sovereignty. I would ask people to compare his time at the BIA with Ross Swimmer's and see who protected the tribes. Granted, in the arena that Cobell chose to work he may have been on the opposite side, but we cannot judge him on that alone. All of his work with Indian country has to be taken into consideration. I believe he will do a fantastic job. He will continue to respect and protect tribal sovereignty which will ensure that my grandchildren will continue to be members of a sovereign tribe.
- Mary Lee Johns
Cheyenne River Sioux TribeLincoln, Neb.