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Commentary: Tribal lobbyist scandal is familiar tale
Thursday, January 13, 2005

"Ever since Columbus waded ashore, say the elders beside the Knife and the Little Big Horn, white men in funny hats have been asking, "Where did that Indian go?" In this context, the latest scandal involving Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, the Republican operatives who allegedly fleeced six casino tribes out of $80 million by promising them, well, a little slice of heaven in Washington is an old story come full circle.

Sure, editorial boards at the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others, are right to call for their heads. The practice of mocking tribal leaders as "morons" and "monkeys" while allegedly stealing them blind gives off a foul odor, even in the nation's capital.

Tribes have grown so accustomed to this sort of treatment from Bible-thumping politicians in "the party of values," though, that when the Scanlon/Abramoff story broke, it didn't prompt enough reaction in Shiprock or Lame Deer to bump the girls basketball team off Page 1. Out there in the Big Empty, where silence has always been as bold a statement as any, the Republican Party's stone-faced vigil amid mounting outrage is as clear an indictment as any headline.

Tribal leaders' collective shrug over the scandal is their way of asking: Where was your outrage when Mike Whalen, then assistant attorney general for the state of South Dakota, declared in the '90s: "The Native American culture is a culture of hopelessness, godlessness, joblessness and lawlessness, a mongrelized people living on the outskirts of Western civilization"? Where, they ask, was your outrage in August 2000, when delegates to the Republican Party's convention in Washington state asked the federal government to expel native people from their homelands and declare all Indian treaties null and void?

Eighty million dollars? Heck, that's chump change, say tribal attorneys. What about the billions of dollars in mineral royalties owed to native people that went missing over the last century?"

Get the Story:
Paul VanDevelder: Just One More Tribal Tale of Abuse (The Los Angeles Times 1/13)
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