Wednesday, December 2, 2009

JMO - Indian Tribes

I was reading about the healthcare debut and how the proposed bills not only exempt indians and Tribes from mandatory health insurance, it will increase the government funding of their already free healthcare for nearly 2 million on Tribal reservations. That's on top of the $500 Million for them in the Stimulus bills previously enacted.

When the President met with the Tribe recently, they all called for more federal money to help indians. Except that many of those same Tribes operate casinos across the country for huge profits to the Tribal leaders and members, which is exmpted from many state, local and federal taxes the rest of pay as individuals or legal entities.

In additon the Tribes are exempt from state and local laws, despite not only using but demanding local and state services paid by taxpayers. They're exempt from many federal laws since they're declared soverign nations within the United States and their reservation not governed by the United States. Where else can an indian commit a felony, drive to a reservation and not only not be arrested, but never be prosecuted.

Here in Washington State, many local counties and cities prohibit or restrict fireworks over the Independence Day (July 4th) holiday. Yet Tribes operate fireworks stands just inside reservation boundaries selling illegal and more powerful fireworks to anyone, and there is nothing we can do to regulate it except the token, and rarely enforced. ordinance prohibiting transportation of the fireworks outside the reservation.

Yet, it's the local hospitals and police who have to respond to complaints and injuries from those same fireworks.

When a local Tribe wanted to build a huge amphitheater in a rural area which would unduly burden the people and resources of the local area, the county sued to prevent it. The Tribe won and we paid for new roads, water/sewer treatment, utility and other infrastructure to service the Tribe's entertainment center. And we didn't and don't get any share of the profits.

During the proposal stage when the State tried to negotiate a compromise, the Tribe told the State and everyone else where to stick it, that they had the right to do with thelr land what they wanted and we simply had to accommodate them. When the county said no to the new roads and services, the Tribe eventually paid some of it, as well as some of the new law enforcement, but not completely and the residents have to live with the noise, traffic and problems.

That's only some of the examples of the Tribe's arrogance against the rest of us as citizens and governments.

So when do Tribes stop coming to Washington DC with the hand out for money when they already have all the money they need and just need to manage it or share it with all members or with other Tribes. They demand independence from not only the US government, except of course when they need money, and they demand independence from us, the citizens of this country, but claim discrimination if and when they're treated like the rest of us.

And we write the checks so we don't offend them. Why? When will they stand up for themselves and really and truly be independent?

I've worked with indians from many Tribes over the years, and they've often some of the most generous people you'll ever meet. I've also found they're not the best money managers by any stretch of the imagination, and for a Tribe, that's a financial disaster, but always at the taxpayers expense when we wrote the checks and bailed them out when the money was lost.

And now they're getting more money for healthcare. I won't argue they don't have the best healthcare system in this country. But why it that our mistake and our problem? What happened to them solving this themselves? When will they realize they are the own worst enemy?

I won't argue the Tribes have done some good things. They were the critical part of saving the fisheries in Washington State. About half of the salmon originate from Tribal hatcheries (eg. Lummi Tribe in NW Washington). And there are other examples of some Tribes doing well managing their reservations to balance their history, the environment and the economic conditions for all members (eg. Warm Springs Tribe in Oregon).

But there are failures. The family leaders of the Hoh Tribe on the Washington coast embezled all the federal monies and grants for several years and the FBI had to take over the Tribal finances. The contracted government agencies and companies never recouped the money or was anyone convicted. It just wasn't made public to avoid the political fallout.

When some floods destroyed a Tribal community and moved the reservation boundary, losing land to adjacent federal or state land, the Tribe complained, and sure enough, we gave them land and then moved and/or rebuilt the community. None of them or the Tribe are required to have flood insurance like the rest of floodplain home owners to recieve compensation and avoid the government from bailing them out. We just wrote the check.

In short, Tribes aren't what we've been lead to believe, and they're no better than we are when it comes to money and power. They're equally greedy, but more so because they can always claim discrimination and get the taxpayer to write checks. And in the end, though, it always seems to me the Tribes want their cake and our cake too and then want us to both make it and pay for it. But don't touch anything they make, cake or money.

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