Ray Halbritter: Improving tribal-state relationships
"Tribal governments still need – perhaps more than ever – the federal government’s protection from state designs on their land, businesses, and status as self-governing people. In 1934, Congress authorized federal trust land for tribal nations specifically to put a rein on overreaching state and local governments that were hostile to tribal rights.

Unfortunately, state and local governments are no less hostile to their neighboring tribal governments in the 21st century. In fact, some U.S. lawmakers, including Central New York’s own Rep. Michael Arcuri, want state and local governments to have “veto power” (or at least considerable influence) over trust land applications – a power that would undermine, if not eliminate, the very protections Congress sought to establish with trust land. If state and local governments could be trusted to respect tribal government rights, tribal land wouldn’t need federal protection. Giving those same officials the final say in the land into trust process is akin to hiring coyotes to guard the sheep.

State and local officials have always viewed their tribal nation neighbors as another cook in their kitchen and attempt to manipulate or intimidate Indian nations into ceding their rights as sovereign entities – many times over Indian revenues or to better position the state and local governments for litigation in their courts. These officials need to begin to understand and respect Indian nations’ standing as independent sovereign entities. Then the leaders of these various governments – state, local and tribal – could begin to work on finding long term creative solutions to issues of mutual concern, rather than spending their energies on fruitless political bickering and perpetual litigation."

Get the Story:
Ray Halbritter: White House Tribal Conference: Next step is getting state, local officials on board (Indian Country Today 12/16)