Cowlitz Country News - Archives - Sovereignty Issues
  On-line since 2011 - Updated April 13, 2013
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Sovereignty: The Stop Act Is an Encroachment on Tribal Sovereignty - Under this law State Tax Administrators and the States Attorney General Offices will now have direct access to Tribes, Tribal manufacturers and wholesalers’ tax filings. States will be able to use that data against Tribes. An alleged violation of state cigarette tax laws could be the basis to suspend or revoke a native manufacturer’s license. So here is the real reason behind the STOP Act: Big Tobacco and States will profit. Tribal businesses will be eliminated. Our Sovereignty will be changed forever by this law which would allow the States to enforce their tax laws on our reservations. Under this law the States will be able to allege the Tribes have violated State Tax Laws and their business will be shut down. Compacts with Tribes will no longer be needed.

Sovereignty: Tribes in Washington Could Get More Authority Over Civil, Criminal Matters - Gov. Chris Gregoire on March 19 signed HB 2233, which establishes a process by which tribal governments can ask the state to retrocede, or return, jurisdiction over certain civil and criminal matters to the U.S. government. The bill was approved by the state Senate on March 5 and the state House the next day. If approved, tribes would have authority over adoption proceedings, compulsory school attendance, dependent children, domestic relations, juvenile delinquency, public assistance, and operation of motor vehicles upon public roads, streets and highways.

April 2013

Sovereignty: Our Originally Free and Unbaptized Existence - The claim of U.S. plenary power over Indian nations is a conceptual formula of domination that is not typically recognized as such. Far too many of us have been conditioned or programmed to needlessly accept that claim.

February 2013

Sovereignty: Indian Self-Determination and Sovereignty - In general there’s a huge difference between what the federal government means when it talks about Indian sovereignty and self-determination and the kind tribal nations mean. Although it can be said that the concepts probably vary from tribe to tribe, self-determination for Indian people overall is representative of the state of political independence that existed prior to colonization.

January 2013

Sovereignty: Non-Indians and Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction - One of the increasingly more vexing problems for contemporary tribal governments is consistent federal court rulings that non-Indian citizens are not subject to tribal criminal courts. A double standard with strong assimilative orientations prevails in the management of justice in Indian country. Indians, who are U.S. citizens and tribal citizens, are held accountable in U.S. courts and to U.S. laws, if they commit a criminal act off the reservation.

Sovereignty: An educator in need of education - In the U.S., there is city government, county government, state government, tribal government, and federal government. Tribal governments have a special relationship with the United States arising from treaties, statutes, executive orders and their historical relationship with the U.S. Note: Prior to the Civil War, states were considered to be essentially sovereign nations, much as members of the European Union are still considered sovereign nations today. Alexis de Tocqueville very explicitly noted this in Democracy in America (Penguin Classics). The Federalist Papers also made it very clear. But then the Civil War was fought to erase the concept of sovereignty from the American psyche. (The issue of slavery was an afterthought added to justify northern aggression against the south.) So most Americans are very confused about the issue today.

July 2012

Sovereignty: Domeland Security and the Attack of the Drones - The vast majority of these surveillance (30,000 military drones) and security measures will be directed at and against the American people as a whole over the course of the next decade. For Indian country, there is great cause for concern. Given the looming police state, with 30,000 military drones monitoring our every move in the U.S., not to mention all the other government data mining of every person within the geographically limits claimed by the United States, there will be no “ensuring and protecting tribal sovereignty” and no way to prevent “negating, or diminishing treaties or agreements” with Indian nations.

June 2012

Sovereignty: American Indian tribes alarmed by IRS tax audits - John Yellowbird Steele, chief of the Ogalala Sioux Tribe, said the Internal Revenue Service is failing to recognize tribal sovereignty by trying to tax government-funded assistance such as housing, school clothes and burial aid that tribes give their members. Speaking to a Senate panel Thursday, Steele invoked the treaties between the U.S. and his South Dakota tribe as he criticized the IRS for what seems to be a stepped-up effort to tax tribal assistance. "We fix houses, and they want us to put a value on how much that lumber cost to patch a hole in a roof or a floor, put shingling on, they want us to put a value on that and give the person a 1099" tax form to possibly be taxed on the help, Steele said. "The next year, where are those people going to find the money to pay the IRS?"

Sovereignty: Questions about taxation raised by Carcieri - The Poarch Band of Creek Indians said this week that the Interior Department’s statement — which affirms the tribe operates on land held in federal trust — proves the tribe is no jeopardy of taxation from the county or state government. But members of the Escambia County Commission disagree — and are considering further action. “In the Carcieri case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of the Interior does not have legal authority to administratively exempt an Indian tribe from state and local taxation if the tribe was not a ‘recognized tribe under federal jurisdiction’ by 1934, when Congress enacted the tax exemption for Indian tribes of the day,” the commission’s attorney Bryan Taylor said in a statement.

Sovereignty: GOP activist targeting tribal sovereignty again - Is the Washington state Republican Party taking another misguided run at tribal sovereignty? They are, if Bob Eberle and his fellow Skagit County Republicans have anything to say about it. Eberle lives on the Swinomish Indian Reservation on Puget Sound. He supports a Skagit County GOP platform that included a plank calling for federal intervention in tribal elections, forcing them to allow nonmembers to vote. He presents the notion as simple and inoffensive, a matter of fairness, and not an assault on the right of tribes to govern themselves. But the truth is that Eberle and his fellow travelers don’t believe in the right of tribes to govern themselves at all. “This business about the Indians having sovereign authority is a bunch of bunk,” he said. “They adhere solely to laws passed by the U.S. Congress.”

May 2012

Sovereignty: The power of language and the words we choose - Chris Tibbs, candidate for District 1 County Commission, should take a course on the indigenous history of this region, as well as on tribal sovereignty. Tibbs and fellow candidate Rob Gelder participated in a Q&A at the May 15 meeting of the North Kitsap Herald Community Advisory Board. When asked about his understanding of tribal sovereignty, Tibbs seemed to grasp the meaning of self-governance but referred to the Treaty of Point No Point as the treaty of 1888, and frequently referred to the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe as “the Little Boston tribe.”

Sovereignty: Final Alternative Site Dedicated to Replace Drowned Celilo Falls and Other Lost Fisheries - The 15,000-year-old cascading falls that had cut into the basalt gorge was the most important fishing grounds to have existed anywhere, and served as the oldest continually inhabited settlement in North America. The building of the dam killed the largest Native trading center in the country, one that had drawn Natives from the Plains, the Southwest, and points beyond to trade furs, and especially obtain the obsidian brought in from central Oregon.

April 2012

Snoqualmie: Tribe hosts Earth Day event at Sandy Cove Park - The Snoqualmie Tribe is hosting an Earth Day event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 20 at Sandy Cove Park, 7970 Falls Ave. S.E., in downtown Snoqualmie. Learn more by contacting Lisamari Emery at or 888-6551, ext. 2103.

March 2012

Sovereignty: Senate passes bill for tribal retrocession process - The Washington state Senate has passed a bill that opens the door for dismantling state jurisdiction over American Indian tribes.

February 2012

Sovereignty: State Indian tribes may regain autonomy if Legislature acts - You don’t have to watch Disney’s version of a glorified Pocahontas to know the long history of turbulence between Native Americans and the American government. But steps to give back tribal leaders control of their own communities and their laws are advancing in our state Legislature.

Sovereignty: State bill would allow tribes federal jurisdiction in civil, criminal matters - A state bill nearing approval by the House and Senate would allow tribes in Washington to have jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters returned to the federal government. If the bill becomes law, tribes would submit a request to the governor to return to federal jurisdiction — known as “retrocession” — and the governor would approve or deny the request within a year. If approved, the request would be sent to the U.S. Department of Interior, which would approve, deny or negotiate retrocession.

Sovereignty: Legislature mulls bill returning rights to tribes - Lawmakers in Washington are considering a proposal to start dismantling the state's civil jurisdiction over American Indians, a step many consider long overdue. But some say they worry that restoring full sovereignty to tribes over their members might subject outsiders to unfair treatment in tribal courts. Some people, though, fear tribes may fail to ensure due process for everyone, given a perceived lack of separation between some executive and judicial tribal government branches. They contend state courts must remain an option to settle disputes.

Sovereignty: Growth a Source of Pride and Strain for Some Northwest Tribes - The membership rolls at some Northwest tribes are swelling much faster than growth in the general population. Some of that increase is due to a high birth rate among American Indians. Also, rising prosperity from casinos and other businesses is luring Native Americans back into the fold. However, fast growth has strained the fabric of some tribes, while others wish they had more.

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Copyright © 2012 Rod Van Mechelen; all rights reserved.

Rod Van Mechelen, Publisher & Editor, Cowlitz Country News

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