OLYMPIA, Wash. - Keyboards, faxes, e-mails, cell phones - even old '60s tunes - are the tools of choice in a battle of words and resolutions triggered by the Washington state Republican Party at its state convention in June.
Reaction to the GOP resolution calling for immediate termination of "non-republican forms of government on Indian reservations" has been swift as the story has made its way from the back pages of newspapers to the forefront of Indian consciousness across the nation.
State GOP Party chairman, State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, is fighting fires as best he can, which includes juggling the meaning of the basic content of the resolution, sponsored by Skagit County delegate, John Fleming.
"The resolution does not advocate the abolition of tribal government," Benson says. "The resolution clearly states that the executive and legislative branches take whatever steps necessary to terminate non-republican forms of government, which means that they should try to be more inclusive and have people who are affected by regulations that they adopt, participate in the process that adopts those regulations.
"That is not and should not be construed to mean that the resolution advocates the elimination of treaties, the elimination of tribal governments, et cetera."
Benson also speaks out against the "inflammatory and inappropriate" comments on implementation of the resolution by "individual delegates" that include the use of military force should tribes not wish to have their non-republican forms of government terminated.
Individual voices speaking out from Indian country make it clear they are not about to be lulled into the belief that the GOP resolution is a harmless mistake. Calling the resolution, among other things, an "outrage," "flagrant racism" and "disgusting," most express concern that if one lone voice in the Washington wilderness can get a resolution like this passed by 1,300 Republican delegates, what else is going on?
"The general consensus of this proposed resolution is that 'no one will take it seriously,'" writes R. Gigi Fast Elk Porter of Long Beach, Calif. "I take it quite serious. The article says, 'Democrats and Republicans alike have said they doubt the Washington resolution would make it into the national GOP platform.' When I read this article, the cold wind of 400 years of history blew the hairs on the back of my neck, eagle flutes echoed, and the voices of all my ancestors sang, 'Somethin's happenin' here ... .'
Most letter-writers labeled the resolution a "racist" grab for land and monies by non-Indians. Others have made a more telling point. Porter, for example, says that were roles reversed and it was an American Indian calling for the use of force against the United States or state governments, the resolution itself could be construed as a "terrorist act."
"By law, the actions of the GOP constitute a legal basis for all Indigenous people of this land to have each and every one of this resolution's endorsers arrested on felony charges for making - or conspiring to make - terrorist threats," Porter says. "It took more than one voice of an elected representative to get this resolution passed. It took the voice of the Washington GOP. Where, now, is the voice of justice?"
Emotions on both sides resulted in misperceptions of the political processes of the Republican Party and the context of the resolution. Delegates are not elected representatives of the Republican Party and a resolution is not a part of the party's platform unless officially adopted as such.
Sen. Benton made it clear this resolution has not been adopted by the party nor will it be proposed at the national GOP convention ... as far as he can "foresee."
Political fine points and psychic ability apparently don't count for much in Indian country in the face of the resolution's overall apparent intent.
"The inanity of the resolution again demonstrates the wisdom of America's founding fathers that the rights of Native Americans, as with the rights of all Americans, cannot be left to the vagaries of popular majorities," writes Deron Marquez, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in California. "... the greatest danger to them (Indians), and thus, to the peace of all Americans (see Federalist Paper #3) - the passion of the mob most clearly expressed at the local and state levels of government."
National Congress of American Indians President Susan Masten points out that if anything good is to come out of the resolution fracas, it will be that through education, American Indians as individuals, as tribes and tribal organizations can stand up as a political force to be reckoned with.
She says the best safeguard against continuing affronts to tribal sovereignty is knowledge, in this case, an insistence by Indian country on public awareness of the true constitutional legality of the sovereignty of Indian tribes.
With education, there will be more letters - and more voters, like the following - standing between Indian country and "the passion of the mob" and similar resolutions, should they ever come.
"I am not Indian, but I think this idea of the GOP is insane. Who in the world is John Fleming and who pays his salary? Thank goodness this came out before the elections. I will not vote for anyone connected to the GOP!" Mary Cooper (an old registered voter) Salem, Va., said.