Mike Myers: A love/hate relationship with settler governments

Native Hawaiians celebrate the 177th birthday of Queen Liliʻuokalani on September 6, 2015. Photo from Office of Hawaiian Affairs / Facebook

Is fear holding back Native peoples from true self-determination and sovereignty? Mike Myers (Seneca Nation) of the Network for Native Futures explores the idea:
As a Haudenosaunee citizen I’ve grown up with the clear policy set out in the Two Row Wampum Treaty – we are two distinct and separate nations, governments and peoples and as such, we do not interfere in the internal affairs of the other. Not that the settlers have upheld this treaty but that certainly isn’t an excuse for us to violate it either.

I’ve heard all of the rationales that Indigenous folks come up with for working in the settler governments as well as getting involved in their politics and political parties. The two key ones are: “I’m doing it to make a difference for our people.” and “To show we can beat the Whiteman at his own game.” So after more than 30 years of hearing this, my questions are – How’s that working out for you? Can you show me the change you’ve made? Are we winning yet?

This is also manifesting at the nation and local level but in the form of people who identify as “traditional” running in nation/tribal elections. In talking with a couple of folks who have done this I once again hear the same rationale about “making a difference” or something to effect of “we can’t sit on the sidelines and complain, we need to do something.” But I’m not hearing any discussion about a focused agenda around nation re-building or strengthening our sovereignty and inherent rights. It’s always about trying to transform or impact a system that isn’t ours, that isn’t an authentic expression of our principles, values and beliefs.

I get it that getting elected into an alien system is easier than trying to re-conceptualize what our forms of governance would look like in the 21st Century.

Get the Story:
Mike Myers: Putting the World Back Together (Indian Country Today 10/28)

Federal Register Notice:
Procedures for Reestablishing a Formal Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community (October 1, 2015)

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Mark Trahant: Indian Country can learn from vote in Canada (10/21) Native Hawaiians take another step towards federal recognition (09/29)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Native Hawaiians work toward sovereignty (11/28)

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