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Senator Schumer could be more fair to Indians

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Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could be a lot more fair to the Indian side of the central New York equation. For some reason, the erstwhile champion of liberal causes and of the downtrodden consistently endorses the virulently anti-Indian and often bigoted forces in central New York, refusing to even meet with tribal leadership and outright condemning all attempts by the Haudenosaunee people to gain any measure of justice over their homelands and right to self-government.

Schumer is a tough-talking, urbane, New York politician. He builds his base painstakingly and wants to ride the local populist wave on most issues. He fights hard for New York and presses his case with a vigor that can border on hostility. At least it seems so on central New York Indian cases impacting the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and even Mohawk nations. Sensitive to tribal consciousness, as a practicing Jew who often invokes his own peopleís struggle over the Israeli ìhomelands,î Schumer seems able ñ out of hand ñ to dismiss these Indian nationsí side of the discourse over their own ancient homelands.

We wish Schumer would reconsider and contemplate the issue of justice for Native nations, small yet imbued with substantially distinct cultures, spiritualities and languages, and determined for more than two continuous centuries to achieve a level of recognition and justice from New York state for the loss of their properties and the repression of their culture. These kinds of issues fester with emotion and engender much bitterness, particularly when for 30 years the U.S. courts offered to lay out a rug of welcome to the ìAncient Indian land claimsî ñ only to pull it brusquely from the feet of two dozen historical and three intense contemporary Native generations. These are the kinds of ìroot causesî that turn young men to aggressive radicalism.

The issue of Native homelands is quite hot in New York among the Haudenosaunee communities who have had their hopes of justice seriously dashed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even as economically viable Native nations attempt to buy their lands back and use their tax-free status to stimulate economic rotor zones (generating some 5,000 jobs), millions of dollars in spillover revenues to area businesses and tens of millions in New York state taxes from employees and tribal members alike, the Native nations are under attack. Leading the charge are anti-Indian organizations that have sprung along with national umbrella groups to fuel the perception that ìthe publicî is against Native economic development based on tribal jurisdictions.

It is understandable that any politician would align himself with vociferous interest groups that can coalesce attacks on Indian tribal sovereign strategies and legal bases. They project as patriotic Americans fighting for ìequalî rights and make the case against tribal bases by invoking the need for historical amnesia. This is precisely the argument that the Jewish people ñ and many others ñ rejected as they asserted themselves to a right to a homeland. They could not forget the holocaust they had suffered.

That there is conflict in the reassertion of any right, that some in the neighborhood will be against it ñ this is to be expected and, in a context of education and legal cases (not violence), not such a horrible thing. ìCheckerboarded jurisdictions,î so dreaded by the U.S. Supreme Court and by Schumer, are in fact what happened to Indians ñ not what Indians are causing. Why allow issues resolvable at their present level to fester and become intractable and costly conflicts? Why not talk with everybody? Why not respect the Native governments, elders, clan mothers and chiefís councils, and hear what the Indians have to say? Why not encourage the land into trust solutions that lie before the tribal strategists in central New York, and do the right thing to address a ìroot causeî of an otherwise never-ending political and legal issue.

By contrast, another Jewish, statewide politician, Eliot Spitzer, likely the next New York governor, has signaled the wish for straightforward dialogue with the tribal nations. Spitzer appears open to interpreting court decisions and cases from the standpoint of how Indians understood the agreement at the time it was made. He is signaling patience and goodwill negotiation.

While Schumer stumps openly for the anti-Indian forces, some of which the Southern Poverty Law Center has found to be ìracistî and aligned with known hate groups, this otherwise expansive senator spurns the very idea that the Indian community may have any legitimacy at all. Refreshingly, Spitzer projects a wish for fairness and for finding the proper legal principle to apply ñ more the careful chisel than the ax-and-sledgehammer politics of Schumerís violently anti-Indian friends in central New York. While Schumer commandeers the anti-Indian war wagons, Spitzer appears to seek resolution in the manner of the statesman, listening to all sides and reaching for win-win solutions even as he will not allow operations that defy state law and federal court.

At one point, circa 1999/2000, Schumer had a point when he railed against the possibility of non-Native people losing their homes to tribal land claims. It was a true enough disturbing issue, but one that resolved itself (now several years ago) when the Indian claimants negated that strategy altogether. Now, the claims are not in strong position, given recent court decisions. The new context is much more on the level of assisting the Indian jurisdictions to develop excellent tribal enterprise zones that support Indian communities and can attract economic forces and publics beyond the out-country areas, such as central New York, that lack major attractions for tourism and other development.

For a U.S. senator to sustain a purely negative discourse with the Indian nations within his own state is necessarily a troubling spectacle. Much better to reach out, on all sides, and see what a joining of talent and resources ñ Native and non-Native ñ could do for the whole eco-region of central New York.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could be a lot more fair to the Indian side of the central New York equation. For some reason, the erstwhile champion of liberal causes and of the downtrodden consistently endorses the virulently anti-Indian and often bigoted forces in central New York, refusing to even meet with tribal leadership and outright condemning all attempts by the Haudenosaunee people to gain any measure of justice over their homelands and right to self-government.Schumer is a tough-talking, urbane, New York politician. He builds his base painstakingly and wants to ride the local populist wave on most issues. He fights hard for New York and presses his case with a vigor that can border on hostility. At least it seems so on central New York Indian cases impacting the Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and even Mohawk nations. Sensitive to tribal consciousness, as a practicing Jew who often invokes his own peopleís struggle over the Israeli ìhomelands,î Schumer seems able ñ out of hand ñ to dismiss these Indian nationsí side of the discourse over their own ancient homelands.We wish Schumer would reconsider and contemplate the issue of justice for Native nations, small yet imbued with substantially distinct cultures, spiritualities and languages, and determined for more than two continuous centuries to achieve a level of recognition and justice from New York state for the loss of their properties and the repression of their culture. These kinds of issues fester with emotion and engender much bitterness, particularly when for 30 years the U.S. courts offered to lay out a rug of welcome to the ìAncient Indian land claimsî ñ only to pull it brusquely from the feet of two dozen historical and three intense contemporary Native generations. These are the kinds of ìroot causesî that turn young men to aggressive radicalism.The issue of Native homelands is quite hot in New York among the Haudenosaunee communities who have had their hopes of justice seriously dashed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even as economically viable Native nations attempt to buy their lands back and use their tax-free status to stimulate economic rotor zones (generating some 5,000 jobs), millions of dollars in spillover revenues to area businesses and tens of millions in New York state taxes from employees and tribal members alike, the Native nations are under attack. Leading the charge are anti-Indian organizations that have sprung along with national umbrella groups to fuel the perception that ìthe publicî is against Native economic development based on tribal jurisdictions.It is understandable that any politician would align himself with vociferous interest groups that can coalesce attacks on Indian tribal sovereign strategies and legal bases. They project as patriotic Americans fighting for ìequalî rights and make the case against tribal bases by invoking the need for historical amnesia. This is precisely the argument that the Jewish people ñ and many others ñ rejected as they asserted themselves to a right to a homeland. They could not forget the holocaust they had suffered.That there is conflict in the reassertion of any right, that some in the neighborhood will be against it ñ this is to be expected and, in a context of education and legal cases (not violence), not such a horrible thing. ìCheckerboarded jurisdictions,î so dreaded by the U.S. Supreme Court and by Schumer, are in fact what happened to Indians ñ not what Indians are causing. Why allow issues resolvable at their present level to fester and become intractable and costly conflicts? Why not talk with everybody? Why not respect the Native governments, elders, clan mothers and chiefís councils, and hear what the Indians have to say? Why not encourage the land into trust solutions that lie before the tribal strategists in central New York, and do the right thing to address a ìroot causeî of an otherwise never-ending political and legal issue.By contrast, another Jewish, statewide politician, Eliot Spitzer, likely the next New York governor, has signaled the wish for straightforward dialogue with the tribal nations. Spitzer appears open to interpreting court decisions and cases from the standpoint of how Indians understood the agreement at the time it was made. He is signaling patience and goodwill negotiation.While Schumer stumps openly for the anti-Indian forces, some of which the Southern Poverty Law Center has found to be ìracistî and aligned with known hate groups, this otherwise expansive senator spurns the very idea that the Indian community may have any legitimacy at all. Refreshingly, Spitzer projects a wish for fairness and for finding the proper legal principle to apply ñ more the careful chisel than the ax-and-sledgehammer politics of Schumerís violently anti-Indian friends in central New York. While Schumer commandeers the anti-Indian war wagons, Spitzer appears to seek resolution in the manner of the statesman, listening to all sides and reaching for win-win solutions even as he will not allow operations that defy state law and federal court.At one point, circa 1999/2000, Schumer had a point when he railed against the possibility of non-Native people losing their homes to tribal land claims. It was a true enough disturbing issue, but one that resolved itself (now several years ago) when the Indian claimants negated that strategy altogether. Now, the claims are not in strong position, given recent court decisions. The new context is much more on the level of assisting the Indian jurisdictions to develop excellent tribal enterprise zones that support Indian communities and can attract economic forces and publics beyond the out-country areas, such as central New York, that lack major attractions for tourism and other development.For a U.S. senator to sustain a purely negative discourse with the Indian nations within his own state is necessarily a troubling spectacle. Much better to reach out, on all sides, and see what a joining of talent and resources ñ Native and non-Native ñ could do for the whole eco-region of central New York.