WE REQUEST FIELD HEARINGS on Violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act
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Dear Chairman John Hoeven,
A report by the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) referenced the fact that internal tribal disputes “seem to be occurring more and more frequently.” Such disputes have resulted in the disenrollment, which is the stripping of citizenship in one's own tribe, banishment, denial of membership, loss of voting rights, and/or denial of health/medical benefits of thousands of Indians, including children and elders.
In response to the growing number of these types of disputes, the GAO felt it was necessary and appropriate that nominees to the Secretary of Interior be asked how they would address such issues. Since most of the civil and human rights abuses have occurred under Democratic leadership, I believe it is also important to know how your committee will work with individual Indians in trying to resolve or prevent such disputes.
The TRUST RESPONSIBILITY of the United States Government is NOT just to the Chairmen and Tribal councils, it's to all Native Americans, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has failed to uphold the trust responsibility to the individual Indian.
Your role as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs should be to help facilitate (1) internal tribal disputes that harm Native Americans and (2) the protection and preservation of individual Indians’ basic rights in internal disputes. The BIA has abdicated responsibility and are leaving it to the IBIA to overturn their decisions. In fact, the BIA may be culpable in some of the misdeeds, as we've seen in the San Pasqual descendants issue, where Indian Affairs has allowed NON natives to control tribal interests.
In addition, do you believe that tribal sovereignty and the protection of basic individual rights are mutually exclusive of each other? Should sovereignty be wielded like a club to beat the weak and defenseless?
I eagerly await your response to the questions raised above, and look forward to you setting hearings for California, where the majority of disenrollments have occurred and finding true justice for all Native Americans who have been harmed by their tribes.
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