Peter d'Errico: NCAI president is singing songs for the miner

"The problem seems to be that the canary is still singing, but not its own song. For example, an NCAI staff attorney was recently quoted on whether Native leaders will hold the US accountable for Indigenous Peoples’ “traditional ownership” of lands, as called for in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She responded that tribal leaders—in the US—do not interpret such articles literally: “The vast majority of tribal leaders are more realistic, today. They still interpret [the Declaration] in a reasonable manner. They just think they should have more access and control of lands than they do right now.”

What does it mean to be “realistic” when faced with opposition to a fundamental right like land ownership? One might think it would be to name the opposition for what it is, instead of going along with it to be “reasonable.” What is “reasonable” anyway? Does it mean pulling back from a strong critique? Does it mean moving away from your own position when your opponent is moving aggressively against you? These questions were not asked or answered by NCAI.

NCAI President Keel is fond of referring to “our America” and emphasizing that Indians are “American citizens.” In his 2012 State of Indian Nations speech, he went further, thanking Native people in the military for “protect[ing] the sovereignty of the United States and the tribal nations of North America.” He did not discuss how the 1924 Citizenship Act was an extension of the Dawes Act assimilation process; nor did he examine how the US denies equal sovereignty to “tribal nations.”"

Get the Story:
Peter d'Errico: Canaries, Frogs and the National Congress of American Indians: What’s Realistic? (Indian Country Today 2/10)

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