Democratic Platform on Native Americans

O.k., now we are looking forward to reading the Republicans’ 2008 Platform.  For the time being, we have to make do with the Democratic Platform.


So, let’s see.  Native Americans made it in second to the end of the Democrats’ Platform – hah, take that American Samoa and Guam!


But seriously, the Democrats do say the right things (pages 56-57):


“American Indian and Alaska Native tribes have always been sovereign, self-governing communities, and we affirm their inherent right to self-government as well as the unique government-to-government relationship they share with the United States. In exchange for millions of acres of land, our nation pledged to provide certain services in perpetuity; we will honor our nation’s treaty and trust obligations by increasing resources for economic development, health care, Indian education, and other important services. We will respect American Indian cultural rights and sacred places. We will reexamine the legal framework that allows extreme rates of violent crime in Indian country; we will create a White House advisor on Indian Affairs; and we will host an annual summit with Indian leaders.”


We dread “summits” so, the only quibble we have with this is that we would have preferred an “annual barbecue” on the South Lawn.  We do appreciate the commitment to an Indian “advisor” and we sincerely hope the position comes with an “Assistant to the President” title, or at least “Deputy Assistant to the President” tag, like Loretta Avent’s or Lynn Cutler’s roles in the Clinton White House.


We also find the new “partnership” (page 56) with the federal government tantalizing because the Democrats promise that they will give Indian tribes “significant and immediate temporary funding” to cover shortfalls.  We don’t know just exactly what “significant” means, or how long “temporary” is, but we really hope this promise pans out.


The Democrats also promise to spur economic development in tribal communities (page 23) by investing in renewable energy (it “will transform the rural economy and create millions of new jobs”) and by focusing on lack of basic services — like water, sewer, broadband, electricity and telephone — that plague Indian Country.


We read the Democrats’ Platform as a strong boost for Senator Dorgan’s domestic violence bill, the “Tribal Law and Order Act”.   The Platform says ending “violence against women must be a top priority. … We will strengthen sexual assault and domestic violence Laws…” (page 51).  Strengthening those laws will presumably include passing the Tribal Law and Order Act which gives tribes more power to make arrests on their own lands, and increases the ability of tribes, the FBI, and US attorneys to fight domestic violence and drug crimes in Indian Country.  Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota has introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives (and wrote an Op Ed about it).


All in all, we like what we see.  So now it’s the Republicans’ turn.





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