For some years now, my husband has driven an older car with no CD or cassette player. As a result, he tends to listen to a lot of AM radio programs. In the area where we live, AM radio means right-wingers more often than not. For my very liberal, Native American husband this generally serves for a good laugh.
The other day my husband came home and told me about something he heard on the “Laura Ingraham Show”. He told me that in this particular program Laura Ingraham was commenting about President Obama signing the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, the result of a 14 year legal battle over the mismanagement of the Indian Trust Fund. Ms. Ingraham commented that Natives lost their lands and should just “get over it”.
The speech that President Obama made during the signing of this historic act made it clear why he was doing so; “It’s about restoring a sense of trust between the American people and the government that plays such an important role in their lives.” Apparently Obama believes in the Constitution he has pledged to uphold.
Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution (the Supremacy Clause) establishes that treaties made by the United States shall be the Supreme Law of the Land and mandates that all judges uphold these treaties. But don’t take my word for it; let’s look at exactly what this clause says:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Treaties were made, hundreds of them, with many of the over 500 indigenous nations residing on the North American continent. These treaties were made so that there would be a cessation of hostilities and an exchange of materials between the signatories. In most cases, native lands were transferred to the US government in exchange for various provisions such as access to medical care and education.
These treaties do not have an expiration date, in fact, most of them read (in the flowery language of years past) that the treaties will remain in effect for “as long as the grass shall grow and the rivers flow”.
The treaties are still in effect. The treaties that were agreed upon by the United States government and hundreds of Indigenous Nations. The treaties that the US Constitution sets forth as the Supreme Law of the Land.
The Indian Trust Fund was established by the US government to “manage” the holdings of the tribes that live within US borders. This has nothing to do with government hand-outs; this is lease money that companies pay for extracting minerals, timber, coal, oil and other resources from Indian-owned lands.
The US Government was supposed to be handling these lease funds for native people, but audit after audit revealed mismanagement, misappropriation, incompetence and billions of missing dollars.
If someone was handling your money and you discovered that billions of dollars were missing, you would try to get your money back, or at least try to find out where it all went. After over one hundred years of complaints, that’s what finally happened in 1996 when Elouise Cobell initiated a class-action suit to try to account for the billions of dollars missing from the Indian Trust Fund.
Ms. Ingraham, there is nothing to “get over”. All that Natives are asking is that the United States follow the rule of law and uphold its own Constitution. If you don’t like it, you can just “get over it”.