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If not now, when?

When the colonists from Europe came here, the majority did so trying to escape some form of tyranny. Evidently they forgot what they were running from, and turned around and tyrannized us, Native people, instead. Unfortunately, that process is still being carried on today. ("Peace without justice is tyranny."-William Allen White)

We know how this process totally annihilated so many of our relatives of tribes now extinct. We know how this process is hurting and destroying so many of our relatives today. In his book, "The Free and the Colonized Person," John McCall states what this did, and is continuing to do to the colonists themselves. "The more the injustice of the situation becomes apparent to the colonizer, the more angry he gets at the colonized!" (We happen to be the colonized. Maybe this is why the BIA shut off all the computers and didn't proceed to manually write checks for the needy and for leases.)

McCall continues as a colonizer: "When we take advantage of people and feel guilty about it, we flail out and want to punish the people who are our victims. We get angry with the people we oppress. Through their oppression we gain and, instead of feeling sorry for them, we become angry with them." The colonizer almost wishes that the colonized would disappear, but if that happened the colonizer could not be a colonizer. If he gets rid of the colonized, whom he is always criticizing, the whole colonial system would break down. As much as he says he hates it, if this were to happen he would have nothing. This system is exactly what gives him his security, prestige and respect more than is his due. His self-esteem comes from consciously or subconsciously thinking that he is better than someone else.

In order to assuage his guilty feelings, the colonizer makes a public show of his virtues and talks about how heroic and great he is. The meetings taking place around the country regarding the BIA's "new plan" for trust fund management, called the Bureau of Indian Trust Assets Management, are only another public show of how "heroic and great" the United States government is; through the Department of the Interior it will let us say what we want to say about its plan. We all know they will do what they want to do, no matter how many angry or eloquent speeches are given. Any task force, or committee, new Department, or even token Indian, will be just that, a token, patronizing gesture, and the BIA, or the BITAM, will continue to do whatever they want to do anyway. We know that but we continue to participate in the process because we think that is all we can do.

However, there is a silver lining to this cloud, this process, almost a blinding opportunity, like a ray of sunshine, if we only can stay solidified and grab it. We are all united against the Interior's new plan. We need to stay united in seizing the opportunity that is before us. Will the colonizers be angry with us? Of course they will. They will be angry with us no matter what we do ? or don't do. But we have an obligation to the seven generations to come, not just the seven generations of our own people, but the seven generations of all people. We have an obligation to stop this process! We have an obligation to stop this process of colonization. We have an obligation to form a new vision for the seven generations to come, the same as our great-great grandparents had for us.

At the Interior hearing on BITAM in Rapid City, S.D., Tex Hall, the chairman of the National Congress of American Indians, and the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Tribes, kept reminding everyone that there was another party not sitting at the table - the U.S. District Court. This new process started with a court case questioning the BIA's management of our money. The final outcome was that the BIA, which is part of the Department of the Interior, had lost, mislaid, misplaced, possibly stolen billions, probably trillions of dollars that belong to Native American people. Judge Royce Lamberth has been trying to find out how much was gone, and further protect our money and other assets. As the BIA records were so shabby, or totally gone, the one held responsible for everything was the Secretary of Interior Gale Norton. Consequently, she devised this plan to create a new Bureau to take care of our money and assets under an old BIA Director, Ross Swimmer. Judge Lamberth seems to be one who wants to see justice done ? for the Indians! Amazing!

If that is so, then we, as the trustees, have a voice in this process, contrary to the Interior's manipulation. What if we told Judge Lamberth, "No! We don't want the fox guarding the chicken coop anymore. We are very capable of taking care of our own assets, thank you very much." It's time we stopped being the colonized. It's time we said, "No more." Our people have been subjected to too much abuse for too long. We can no longer allow the BIA under the Department of the Interior under the United States to continue to treat us as incompetent, colonized people, dividing us into separate tribes, and saying we are unable to manage our own lives and affairs. It is our human right to manage our own selves, and our own assets. If we fail, that is of our own doing. If the United States truly believes in freedom, then we, the First Nations of this continent, need to finally be free.

A philosopher named Hillel once said, "If I am not for me, who is? If not now, when?" We already know, after 200 years of colonization, that if we are not for us, no one is. We have an opportunity that we need to seize. It might be small, almost minuscule. But, if not now, when? When are we going to be free?