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Abramoff Scandal
Opinion: Abramoff investigation hasn't gone far enough


The following is the opinion of Bobby Thompson, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I read the Friday December 2, 2005, article (Radio show focuses on tribal lobbying practices) with amazement. I note how many people in this country continue to believe that an Indian tribe would fight another tribe to gain economic prosperity.

Unfortunately, Cate Stetson, the Democratic lobbyist on the show, was way off base in assessing that an Indian tribe would fight another neighbor tribe to gain economically. This assessment suggest that Indians will hurt other Indians at any cost. This is far from the truth. By nature, Indians normally don't hurt other Indians regardless of their economic stature, conditions or interests. In fact, if anything, true Indians would share their knowledge, skills and financial resources with their brothers and sisters as some Indian tribes have done. I applaud these Indian tribes who did.

I would surmise that the non-Indians who work at the forefront of the Indian tribes are the one who would use ruthless tactics through the highly paid lobbyists to damage other Indian tribes and its economic endeavors. This is their nature. Economic competition, prosperity and money is all they know so when there is a competitor on the horizon, they will resort to any mean available to them including Congressional intervention to stop them.

I am sorry to say the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, of which I am a member, is allowing such tactics to thrive under their watchful eye. Unfortunately, the tribal council members are not savvy enough to know the difference between the political process and corruption because they have not been taught. The tribal council has allowed non-Indians to make major financial decisions as part of the political financial dealings. The only thing the tribal council do is approve annual budgets. The budgets includes multi-million dollar budget line items to be spent. Expenditure decisions are left to the hands of the so-called experts who administers them.

A case in point -- the recent Indian gaming scandal investigation by the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs reflected briefly that several non-Indian tribal employees were largely involved in passing huge sums of money to the now embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. However, the investigation has brought little attention to the internal affairs of the tribe. Nothing has changed really with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians because they hired some of the very same people who worked with Jack Abramoff previously.

This tells me that someone is hiding something. Has anyone looked deeper into the pockets of those non-Indian employees and contractors of these tribes who were supposedly defrauded? Could the culprits have been among the non-Indian employees and officials of the Indian tribes? I wonder if anyone will ever investigate the internal affairs of the Indian tribes for their sake and its members? I don't think the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has gone far enough with its probe.

Even though the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is labeled as a wealthy tribe in the public's view and by many journalists, this is a far cry from the truth. Majority of the tribal members remain poor and desolate in terms of the economic prosperity. They are under-educated, lack of knowledge and lack of skills to hold high paid positions on the reservation. Majority of the mid-to-top level management positions are held by non-Indians and have been since the 1970's. It is a cinch that these highly paid non-Indians employees will not train the Choctaw Indian people to take over their jobs.

So, the non-Indians are the ones who fight the other Indian tribes to preserve their own economic self-interests and WE ALLOW THEM. Thus, millions and millions of dollars of tribal funds are diverted to the lobbyists to protect themselves.

The monies could have been used to upgrade tribal members with an improved education and training. Only than will I say we are serious about the long range goals of economic self-sufficiency and prosperity for the Indian tribes and its members. Otherwise, after 15 years later, the goals of Public Law 93-638, Indian Self-determination is still but a dream for many Indian people in this country. Who's fighting who?

Relevant Links:
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians - http://www.choctaw.org

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