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Intervention to strengthen GOP Indian plank

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NEW YORK - Drafters of the Republican Party Platform forgot to mention
tribal sovereignty and government-to-government relations in its Native
Americans section, until Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert reminded them.

According to several participants in an Ad Hoc Native American Caucus at
the Republican National Convention, Hastert saw the draft two weeks ago and
sent it back for strengthening.

John Gonzales, former govenor of the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico and
a delegate to the convention, said that Hastert was influenced by a visit
to tribes in Oklahoma and a meeting with Chairman Maurice Lyons of the
Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California.

The new language, to be adopted by the convention shortly, now pledges
respect for both principles, the touchstone of the modern Indian revival.
Some Indian delegates say the platform is the most favorable they have
seen.

The new language, on page 83 of the draft reads: "We will strengthen Native
American self-determination by respecting tribal sovereignty, encouraging
economic development on reservations, and working with them to reorganize
the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

"We uphold the unique government-to-government relationship between the
tribes and the United States and honor our nation's trust obligations to
them."

The draft, circulated at the caucus, also listed four "guiding principles"
to replace "decades of mismanagement from Washington":

"Tribal governments are best situated to gauge the needs of their
communities and members.

"Political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency are twin
pillars of an effective Indian policy.

"Private sector initiatives, rather than public assistance, can best
improve material conditions in Indian communities.

"High taxes and unreasonable regulations stifle new and expanded businesses
and thwart the creation of job opportunities and prosperity."

The caucus, which met again Aug. 31 in the Milford Plaza Hotel, drew a
standing-room crowd of 35, including delegates, candidates and Native
members of Congress. U.S. Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Kevin Calvert,
R-Calif., gave talks along with Ruben Barrales, White House director of
intergovernmental relations. The meeting was organized by the National
Congress of American Indians represented by Jackie Johnson.