Star Phoenix – Doug Cuthand
The Trump presidency and the United States’ First Nations are on a collision course brought about purely by Trump’s racism and hatred of anyone who gets in his way.
After Trump took power, the White House website was changed and its Native American page was taken down. The pages for civil rights, people with disabilities and climate change also disappeared. In their place was a biography of Melania Trump.
Earlier, Obama renamed Mount McKinley in Alaska to Mount Denali, which is the Native American name for the mountain. This incensed Trump, who vowed that when he became president he would return the name Mount McKinley to the country’s highest mountain. This is a small matter, but it illustrates Trump’s temperament and micromanagement approach.
The Trump government is quickly proving that it’s no fan of Native Americans, and Trump’s negative relations with Native Americans goes way back.
In the 1990s, when Native American casinos were expanding, they began to cut into his gambling profits. He began a fake news campaign that Native American casinos were run by the mafia and career criminals. He even stated that some tribes were faking their ancestry.
Meanwhile, Trump tried to strike a management deal with the Agua Caliente Band in Palm Springs; they turned him down, further inflaming his bruised ego.
In 2000, the St Regis Mohawk tribe at Akwesasne planned a casino, and a series of ads came out in local newspapers with pictures of hypodermic needles and lines of coke. The caption read, “Are these the kind of neighbours you want?” The ads were sponsored by an organization called the New York State Institute for Law and Society. As it turned out, Donald Trump was the principal funder.
The repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also called ObamaCare, will have a serious effect on Native American tribes. When the act was passed it included the Indian Health Care Act and a funding stream was established to fund Indian health care. Since ObamaCare is about to be repealed, no allowance has been made for Native American health care.
Like Canada, health care is promised in many of the treaties in the United States, but their implementation is spotty.
This brings us to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been under attack by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. President Obama refused to grant a licence to tunnel under the river, instead calling upon the Army Corps of Engineers to find an alternate route. The Republican state governor, along with the Republican representatives, were all in favour of pushing ahead. North Dakota state Senator John Hoven (Republican) has been elected chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Hoven has been an outspoken opponent of the action taken by the Standing Rock tribe.
Standing Rock faces a perfect storm of law makers from the president on down who have no qualms about crushing opposition to the pipeline.
Trump signed a presidential memorandum calling for the re-authorization of the Dakota Access Pipeline in spite of the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers had denied Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline owner, an easement to tunnel under the Missouri River at Standing Rock. The Army Corps is currently studying alternate routes for the pipeline.
The question is, can the environmental process be rescinded by a presidential memorandum?
The Dakota Access Pipeline has become the line in the sand where America’s next Indian war will be fought; the new battlefield will be the courtroom. The Standing Rock tribe has stated that they will take the government to court and tie them up for years.
The tribe can move forward on three fronts: first, they have the moral authority to protect their land and water; second, they have the legal authority based on their treaties; third, they have the political authority based on a nation to nation relationship with the United States, and unilateral action by one party cannot be allowed.
It’s becoming obvious that Trump has little regard or knowledge of process and the role of government. Governments are not there to be run like a corporation, but have checks and balances and due process. It’s a lesson the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is about to teach him.