The case for being Native American and Republican

ICT editorial team

Johnson and Bergstrom write: Native American tribes naturally fall into a conservative/libertarian model of government

Kirsten Johnson and Donna Bergstrom

We believe the Native American culture is in the beginning of a massive political shift to the right. It’s no surprise that all two of Native Americans elected at the federal level (Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin) are both Republican.

Our history in American politics, like most things relating to American history for our culture, has been volatile and at the direction of external forces. Clearly, we had little to say about the forming of the modern United State of America, but let’s go a little past that to see how the Republican Party of Minnesota best understands that individuals know best how to govern their lives.

It wasn’t until 1817 that the first Native Americans were granted US Citizenship (irony, right?) when 300 Cherokee had it provisionally included in a treaty. Then, in 1931, the Choctaw followed suit, and not only requested citizenship, but also to have a member in the House of Representatives.

However, as we were playing the U.S. political game, they set the rules, and they said to become a citizen, the Native American would have to “leave his nation or tribe and take up abode among the white population” (Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, 1857, appointed by a Democrat President) but at least we had a seat at the table. That would become irrelevant with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1871, when they considered all of our tribes invalid and all treaties revocable. It was only then that we saw the terror of total government control.

First, the government took our education. They said they could teach us better than our elders, traditions, and oral history. They told our parents that the government run boarding schools would help us get good jobs and quality lives in the new United States. We trusted them, but we had our language beat out of us, our history erased and replaced with a whitewashed version of events, and these impressionable babies were made to think their own families and their tribes we stupid and savage so they would aspire to the Anglo-Saxon way of life. We know how important it is to let us decide how to teach our children, and not conform to written standards, but move back to our oral and nature based learning that guided us for so long.

Then, with the children separated, the government came for our weapons. They knew the value of the 2nd Amendment from their experience against the British, but we hadn't learned those lessons with them. So when the white generals who we trusted and fought alongside in the Civil War, told us to turn in our weapons because they could take care of us better, with their organized militia and technological advances, we trusted them. We sat in camps unarmed with white men on all sides and they betrayed us. Wounded Knee is remembered as a massacre, not a battle, because we had already surrendered when they asked for our weapons politely. The government is leading another “well-intentioned” gun grab based on worst case scenarios and fear mongering, but WE know the outcome and we can’t let history repeat itself.

Native American tribes naturally fall into a conservative/libertarian model, where the rules start at the most local level and move up. First, you listen to your family above all else. Then, your village, and the people who you take care of and who take care of you day to day. From there, you support the tribe and you fight for them, and speak their language, but little else.

The LAST levels, and the levels we never even recognized for all the centuries before the 1400s, are national or continental. We didn’t pretend that the same rules for the Ojibwe in the north could ever work for the Apache in the south, the Oneida in the east, or Chinook in the Pacific Northwest. We valued our own cultures and kept our nations separate. That is what eventually led to our downfall as a people, that we couldn’t defend the entire land as we were too factioned to fight a foreign invader.

We need to fight like hell for our autonomy and we need to band together as a diverse and full group of First Nations to stand up and say that we need a voice at the table.

We need to move away from dependence on a government that doesn’t truly care for us the way we cared for our villages.

We need more representation, we need to play the game and speak out at every level of government.

We are imploring our fellow Natives of all tribes and corners of the United States to take your next step in getting involved and having a say in government. Improve your own life, then volunteer in your community, run for tribal board, run for state and national political office, volunteer in your community, take care of your family - bring back the values to speak for our culture on the tallest soapboxes and loudest voices again. The true conservative movement believes in you and your abilities, believe in us to support you in getting there.

Kirsten Johnson, Leech Lake Ojibwe, is former US Army medic, and candidate Minnesota House 50A. Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake Chippewa, is a retired Marine, and a Republican candidate for the Lt. Governor of Minnesota.

Comments (12)
No. 1-11
JackBilly71TL
JackBilly71TL

WE were raised in a "Dine' traditional" (conservative) upbringing all the while going to local rez-public school, catholic church, newly-minted Indian Sovereignty (brought on by Nixon and bi-partisan politics. We were raised with the understanding, it makes no sense "standing around and crying over spilt milk" all the while that YOU CAN MAKE something outta yourself. Dress nicely, look at the person, speak clearly and distinctly, say thank you. Get up early and say your prayers, help your elders. Very sad of the fact, the GENERATIONs (1900-1920, 1920-1940) have passed away and/or in the process of moving on. If there were any generations that had legit gripes, and instances of "SNOWFLAKE grievances", it were these ancestors at the turn of 1900. But instead they didn't cry nor deny the tragic history of centuries past (1492, 1863). They carried on proudly and weathered the instances of racism, discrimination, stereotypes, etc. for the sake of ESTABLISHING a foundation for their descendants. it was these grandmothers and grandfathers that came back from Wartime and established, tribal governments, tribal schools, infastructure, Economies, Tribal Gaming for the sake that their children will better manage and generate better systems given Tribal opportunities, i.e. Tribal Sovereignty, Tribal Gaming. Yet instead, there is a small percentage SNOWFLAKES, SAFE-SPACE users who would much rather dwell on 500 year old grievances for the sake of race-based politics given the extremity of the National Democratic Party ideaology of 2018...

JulietF2
JulietF2

You do NOT want to be associated with the current Republican Party. They don't care about anybody who is not rich, white, and Christian. All they want is more money and power, and to hell with everything else. They are for states' rights except when it comes to grabbing land and treating women like children. They're the spiritual descendants of the people who slaughtered, raped, and kidnapped their way across the continent and told the survivors to throw away their cultures and lifeways if they wished full participation in white society.

Found a new party. A sane party that doesn't want to leave people to starve and die in the name of a few more dollars in overseas accounts; a party that respects diversity and individual dignity; a party that recognizes that rights come with responsibilities. A party that really is in line with your values and what USED to be Republican values.

Wiizon
Wiizon

As an elder, "I've seen a thing or two." I'm neither Republican nor Democrat, I'm Ojibwe. I need not talk about my culture, I live it. I speak the Ojibwe language from the day I was born. This I do know, there are those yet who wish to take away or destroy what remains of the Ojibwe way. The proof is self evident: every year I see changes, fewer birds, fish unsafe to eat daily, sick deer, trees are dying, first the elms, then the white birch, black ash, spruce, now jack pine looks like it has the beginning of something. Trees speak but where are ears? Most sad, now times I see young people using their thumbs instead of their ears. The Republicans, at least Trump as fake chief for one, is intent on carrying out the promise of Manifest Destiny. Why would any native person support the obvious is beyond my understanding considering what I was taught by my elders, some who were born before the Civil War. They lived Ojibwe and I sat by their side with ears on. I'm grateful for them. The elders never made promises, but they shared what they carried, earned by long time ago ears....

Leperous
Leperous

So Natives are supposed to vote Republican because... Republicans like guns? And somehow ownership of guns will protect us from a violent American government's tanks and helicopters should they decide to use them? Or because the Republican Party supposedly believes in small government and local lawmaking, even as they seek to strip California of the right to set their own automobile emissions standards (for just one example of their hypocrisy on this issue)? This is ridiculous nonsense. This racist Republican bully of a "President" is acting against Natives and our interests on a daily basis, whether by downsizing the Bears Ears National Monument to aid uranium drillers, by weakening pollution laws which protect us against America's dirtiest corporations, by deliberately tanking the 2020 Census which will harm tribes nationwide, by approving oil pipelines across tribal lands and through tribal water sources, by cutting SNAP which will starve Native children nationwide, by gutting Medicaid through which many tribal members get health care, by arguing in federal court that Tribes are not sovereign nations and Natives aren't sovereign peoples just another category of racial minority, and dozens of other ways too numerous to mention here. There is no "conservative Republican Party" any longer, only the Cult of Donald Trump, and any Native who puts their trust in Trump clearly has never seen his 1993 testimony about Natives to the US Congress where he lied under oath, concocted unproven fantasies about tribal allegiance to the Mafia, and asserted without proof that every Native tribe opening a casino competing with his wasn't actually native. And if 1993 wasn't recent enough to prove his hatred of Natives, how about when he "honored" two Navajo codetalkers in the White House by forcing them to stand in front of a painting of notorious Indian Killer Andrew Jackson? He could have taken those photos and held that press conference anywhere in the building, but chose to do so under that painting, knowing full well what Jackson's legacy represents for Natives because he has stated numerous times that he has read biographies of Jackson and believes Andrew Jackson to be his role model as President. Bad tidings indeed for America's tribes. Trump is a bigot and a bully and a racist, he has a long history of hating Natives, and the idea that any Native should vote for him -or the party which refuses to rein him in- is offensive in the extreme.

Avram ben Aharon
Avram ben Aharon

Tribal Peoples, whether Native Americans, Kurds, Jews, Tibetans or whatever, should be very suspicious and wary of being either 'republican' or 'democrats'. Either 'left' or 'right'. Both the Left and the Right have screwed all tribal Peoples again and again. Tribal Peoples need to remember that our system of life is based in Land, Kinship, Language and common shared destiny. All of the Left/Right systems are ideological. They will happily grind us under (and have done so), for whatever 'ideology' is the current flavor. Making common alliance with the Dems, or the Repubs for a specific venture is good. Trusting them to have our interests in mind in the long run is suicidal.

Avram ben Aharon
Avram ben Aharon

To hell with both the republicans and the democrats. Let us trust the ways of our fathers and try and stay true to it as best we can.

Michael Rainy Chief
Michael Rainy Chief

If these two are the hope of Natives, they've got a lot of education to catch up on. There are numerous errors in this article. The reasoning of their argument is based on 150 year old political designations that have now switched (Dixiecrats are now staunch Republicans). How sad that any Natives believe weapons are the basis of voting. Government gun grab? What are you talking about? This article is paranoid Trumpism. On one hand you are berating the government for treating all Natives the same, yet you're "imploring" all Natives to vote and act the same. What a joke. Native values do not start with the individual and family. Talk about getting globalization and Native values confused. The majority of Native values expect one to work for the betterment of the community over the individual. I couldn't be more ashamed that you two are representing Natives in politics. How embarassing for our peoples.

waynito
waynito

Most of my life I have been ashamed of my mainly white roots. This article makes me ashamed of my native ones. What drivel!

maryflanagan
maryflanagan

The Libertarian party with its emphasis on less federal control segues with Native values and traditions and might even provide a faster return to sovereignty. I can remember, too, that Clyde Warrior backed Barry Goldwater, not because he was Republican or in favor of a strong military, but because he thought the Native tribes would fare better--he did not see the trend of government dependence as a positive thing for Natives. Donald Trump is hardly a Republican at any rate. He is a power hungry and attention loving egoist who lucked into the Republican presidential slot because so many Democrats crossed over in the primaries (in a hideous attempt to help Hillary's chances; no one believed Trump could win, and he seemed a much easier opponent than Rubio or Kucinich.) On the Republican side, though, is Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (surprisingly nominated by Trump) who has a history of siding with Natives on treaties. It's not about which party as much as it is about what the Native candidate can accomplish under the demands of the chosen party. There is always an expectation of party loyalty which could backfire in terms of tribal priorities. I hope the Native candidates, whichever party, are able to use their position to help their tribes and further the definition of Native sovereignty.

BasketOfApples
BasketOfApples

#FUCKrepublicans

E.K.Billie
E.K.Billie

The fact you think the republicans are the better representation of Natives is ridiculous.


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