My Turn: Native sovereignty is not a convenience banner

Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2001

In 1934, the U.S. Congress adopted the Indian Reorganization Act and amended it in 1936. This important act led to providing Indians an opportunity to govern themselves without interference from a paternalistic appearing federal government.

To this day, locally and throughout the United States, Indians are held accountable through contracts or compacts to serve their members in areas of education, human services, housing, roads, natural resources, and matters of the environment and employment. In order to serve the people, elected tribal government councils have taken on the responsibilities of hiring employees to administer services. The day-to-day operations of services are handled by staff. The council is mandated by its own constitution, bylaws and ordinances to fulfill its legal obligations. This governing responsibility has fallen short for the Douglas Indian Association because of allegations of election misconduct by losing incumbents and unfair treatment of employees. There is "talk" of a desire for a fair election by people who chose not to follow their own governing documents. There is a request for another election to validate illegal actions taken by an illegal quorum.

The losing candidates participated in the election. The past president would not swear in the superintendent of elections. If the five people impacted by the election results really believe that the election were flawed, why were efforts made to contact winning candidates to fill their preconceived council vacancies?

The past Council's action and disregard for the people who voted them out reflect an uncaring attitude for tribal justice.

The BIA Alaska Region has listened to a minority of the Douglas Indian Association members by continuing to recognize people who have demonstrated unethical behavior under the guise of tribal government.

There are usually three branches to a government: executive, legislative and judicial. The Douglas Indian Association does not have a tribal court and consequently has to deal with tribal disputes by other means. Justice is not always served.

The playing field is not level. Elected officials do not always take advantage of training in human resources management. Law is disregarded.

In order to view tribal justice further, the state of Alaska is worth mentioning. Recent agreements signed by tribes have added definition to government-to-government relationships.

Is the state of Alaska in a position to advocate on behalf of tribal members who were wrongfully treated? Is the state of Alaska willing to request that tribal governments meet state requirements for equal treatment of all citizens?

Tribal governments need to ask themselves if they are a government of, by and for the people. Sovereignty is not a convenience banner but a commitment banner to consistently and fairly serve. Until we decide to give our ancestors the dignity in the manner they served us, justice will not be served.

Evelyn Myers is Yanyeidi and a Douglas Indian Association member.

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