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Indian Wars Must End Now

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Former Congressman Ernest Istook, says that the “New Indian Wars are Fought at the Casino,” [Washington Times May 21, 2015].

Why would Istook try to start new “Indian Wars?” After 200 years of genocide by the United States, enough is enough!

Indian nations are the original American democracies. Native Americans exercised our rights to self-determination thousands of years ago, when our grand-fathers and grandmothers created self-governing, self-sustaining societies. Before the United States, Indian tribes were independent nations.

For 150 years, the colonists entered into treaties with Indian nations, and upon its formation, the new United States continued to recognize the sovereign status of Indian nations through treaty-making. The Constitution affirms the earliest Indian treaties entered into in the Revolutionary War period.

Indian nations were incorporated into the United States through treaties that guaranteed our lands as “permanent homes” and reserved our original rights to self-government.

In 1789, the same year the Constitution was ratified, President George Washington signed the 1789 Northwest Ordinance into law, which recognized and pledged to protect the original, inherent rights of Indian nations to our lands, liberty and property: “The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity, shall from time to time be made for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.”

In 1803, in the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, President Thomas Jefferson acknowledged that the United States acquired Louisiana Territory subject to the existing rights and lands owned by Indian nations and pledged to respect existing International treaties with Indian nations, until the United States entered its own treaties with Indian nations based upon “mutual consent.

In America, a Nation founded upon democracy, rule by the will of the people, and equality, the Constitution’s framers never claimed a right to impose upon Native peoples. Rather, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other framers knew that the same principles that animated the Constitution required respect for the sovereign rights and status of Indian nations.

After 90 years of treaty-making and more than 370 Indian treaties, the 14th Amendment repeats the Constitution’s original recognition of “Indians not taxed” and acknowledges the “jurisdiction” of Indian nations over tribal citizens.

When American Indians became citizens, our chiefs and tribal leaders sought to preserve our Indian nations and tribal citizenships and the United States did so. We have a right to self-government in our own Indian homelands. We are people of equal dignity with other Americans, and the United States has no right to impose on our right to self-government in Indian country without our consent.

Former Congressman Istook’s claims otherwise are shameful and dishonorable. After 240 years, it’s time for the Indian Wars to end. It’s time for America to honor our Indian treaties and to respect Native Americans as people of equal dignity in our own lands.

Kurt Luger is the Executive Director, Great Plains Indian Gaming Association, Bismarck, North Dakota. He is Cheyenne River Sioux who grew up at Standing Rock, the land of Sitting Bull, Touch the Clouds, Gall, and Big Foot. He is a Champion Roper and an expert on Indian lands.