Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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Opinion
Opinion: Obama not living up to Indian promises


"U.S. President Barack Obama has been heralded for taking more actions in the first 30 days of his administration than some presidents have done in their entire service as president. In his first few days in office, Obama issued executive orders and presidential memoranda to direct the U.S. military to develop plans to withdraw troops from Iraq, reduce the secrecy given to presidential records, order the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention camp, change procedures to promote disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, and reverse President Bush’s ban on federal funding to foreign establishments that allow abortions. By February, he signed into law a $787 billion economic stimulus package, declared combat operations will end in Iraq within 18 months, and lifted of restrictions on federal funding for human embryonic stem-cell studies.

However, on Feb. 6, 2009, Obama’s administration also registered its retrograde position on a significant Indian preference case, despite promises to include more Native Americans in the federal government. As reported on Indianz.com, the Department of Justice filed a notice of appeal of a decision that backed a broad Indian preference policy at the Department of the Interior. The Obama administration’s appeal is in line with both the Reagan administration and the Bush administration, which had restricted the Indian preference policy at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Many people throughout Indian Country who worked on Obama’s campaign understandably feel betrayed. How can the president reconcile his stated commitment to a nation-to-nation relationship when his administration seems bent on appealing the ruling on Indian preferences? It seems Obama’s administration is sending a signal that it does not trust Native people to manage their own affairs."

Get the Story:
J. Kehaulani Kauanui: A Time for Change? President Obama on Indian Country and Native Nations (The Academy Speaks/Diverse Issues in Higher Education 3/27)