Briggs: Gonzales kept NCAI waiting as he resigned

"In a scant two and a half years as the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales presided over far-reaching attempts to undermine U.S. trust responsibility to Indian nations.

He advocated for a cheap settlement of the Cobell case, which even more outrageously was contingent upon ending U.S. trust responsibility to tribal nations. His Justice Department leaked a litany of nitpicking objections to Congress in an effort to derail health legislation for American Indians. And he undoubtedly participated in the politically motivated firing of eight respected U.S. attorneys, including five who were leaders in prosecuting violence on Indian lands.

Eleven days before his resignation, Gonzales traveled to the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. But what sticks in my mind is his visit in March 2006 to Yakama Nation in Washington state. His entourage traveled across the reservation to the White Swan High School gymnasium where, wrapped in a blue Pendleton blanket, he stood greeting students.

The students in this high school are mostly Yakama, but some are the children of Mexican immigrants, some of whom came to the agricultural valley of the Yakama Nation as migrant farmworkers. Could Gonzales see himself, a son of former migrant farmworkers, or his children in these students?

A tribal leader speaking at the National Congress of American Indians' midyear conference in Anchorage remarked that maybe Gonzales hurt us a little more because he was a person of color who, passing on the street, we might say hello to.

Since that June 2007 conference, NCAI President Joe Garcia and Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson had sought a meeting with Gonzales. Finally, they were scheduled 11 a.m., Aug. 27. Staff told them the attorney general was running late, about 15 minutes. They waited while the attorney general of the United States resigned.

Suddenly, Alberto Gonzales had all the time in the world."

Get the Story:
Kara Briggs: Undermining trust: Gonzales' legacy in Indian country (Indian Country Today 8/31)

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