Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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Opinion
Opinion: Indians and constitutional rights


"On Thursday, June 12, 2008 Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine with a statement of apology expressing regret for the forced placement of 150,000 aboriginal children into residential church schools from the 1870’s to the 1970’s.

The next day in Minneapolis, Minnesota, American Indian Movement activist Clyde Bellacort called for the Minnesota Governor and other elected officials to apologize to the American Indian people. In seeking an apology Mr. Bellacourt lists a host of historical injustices including stealing of land, violating treaties, and sending children to boarding schools. Without question, the Federal Government was guilty of numerous and great injustices to the Indian people.

The problem with Clyde Bellacourt’s call for an apology is that it perpetuates a backward-looking mentality which ignores the real and continued injustices faced by Indian people. The Indian people deserve more than an apology. They deserve their constitutional rights.

It is a shocking fact that the Indian people living on reservations are not protected by the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights from the excesses of tribal government. Often saddled with constitutions written by the Department of the Interior in the 1930s, which do not contain a separation and balance of powers and do not provide for an independent judiciary, Indians living on reservations simply lack the guarantees of constitutional protections that other Americans take for granted. The result is an unaccountable tribal government system that too often is dysfunctional and fails to protect the needs of its own people."

Get the Story:
Howard Hanson: Native Peoples Deserve More Than an Apology (The Hawaii Reporter 7/29)