Joe Garcia/Ernie Stevens: Original sovereignty
"Attacks on Indian sovereignty no longer start with a charge of the 7th Cavalry. Instead, these attacks start with bureaucratic ignorance. In the debate over the National Labor Relations Act, after treating Indian tribes as governments for almost 70 years, the National Labor Relations Board flip-flopped and decided to treat tribal governments as “quasi-commercial.”

The IRS, for its part, has decided to audit tribal government health care programs to determine if tribal citizens should pay income tax on health care. Federal health care benefits are not taxable, state health care benefits are not taxable, so why does the IRS discriminate against tribal health care – after all, tribal governments are providing care because the federal government has never adequately funded its treaty and statutory obligations for the IHS.

As Indian nations, we must stand firm. The Constitution acknowledges our status as prior sovereigns, treaties guarantee our status as governments, and federal statutes must treat Indian tribes as sovereigns. So, we reject the NLRB ruling that Indian nations are less than other governments. We reject the IRS actions that discriminate against tribal health care benefits. It is wrong for agency bureaucracies to act contrary to the Constitution’s recognition of Indian tribes as governments, contrary to congressional enactments and contrary to executive orders. Yet, it may take further acts of Congress to once again set these wayward agencies back on the straight path. Because we honor our grandfathers and grandmothers and those who have gone before, we cannot and will not negotiate away our status as the first sovereigns of this great land.

We call upon all of Indian country to join the fight to protect Indian sovereignty! Call your senators and congressmen and tell them to honor their pledge to uphold the Constitution by treating Indian tribes as governments under the NLRA, the Internal Revenue Code and all federal statutes. Thank you for your strong support of Indian sovereignty."

Get the Story:
Joe Garcia and Ernie Stevens: The original sovereigns (Indian Country Today 7/24)