Opinion

Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Not all nations are in position of strength





" To be in a position of leadership—at least for NCAI’s president Jefferson Keel—is to be in the role of a politician, and that means taking predictably centrist positions (at least publically) to appease as wide an audience as possible. In this case it means articulating problems that still remain in Indian country while simultaneously not appearing to bite the hand that feeds you ($8.4 billion flows through Indian country every year in the form of grants, contracts and services). This is the fine line Mr. Keel was walking in his recent State of Native Nations address. I can appreciate the precarious nature of the job; however, not risking a brutally critical stance inevitably means glossing over some pretty crucial issues. These are the elephants in Indian country’s living room that few public leaders—Indian or federal government—care to address.

Mr. Keel characterizes Indian country as “strong” but strong is a relative term. Compared to a hundred years ago when our nations were at their weakest, yes, we are stronger. But compared to two or three hundred years ago when many tribal nations were still well intact and some didn’t even have contact with Europeans yet, we are still reeling from the catastrophic affects of colonization.

Nations struggling to revive moribund languages, have Eurocentric governmental structures based on values that are contradictory to traditional tribal values, are forced to pay taxes on resources from their own lands or have no land bases at all—to say nothing about rampant social disorders like teenage suicide and drug and alcohol addiction—are not in positions of strength."

Get the Story:
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Elephants in Indian Country’s Living Room: Responding to NCAI’s State of Native Nations Address (Indian Country Today 2/19)

Relevant Links:
Video | Audio | Text of Speech | Sen. Cantwell Response

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NCAI President Keel calls on Congress to protect Indian women (2/15)
NCAI President Jefferson Keel to give State of Indian Nations (2/12)