Philip Baker-Shenk: Salvaging Indian Country's forced marriage

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Photo: The White House

The honeymoon with Republican President Donald Trump, if there ever was one, is officially over. So how will Indian Country survive its forced marriage with the White House? Attorney Philip Baker-Shenk offers four main ideas for tribes to advance their issues for the next four years:
I would argue that there are four basic keys to reframing Indian country’s relationship into a successful marriage.

First, Indian country would be well-advised to discipline itself so that everything it does emphasizes the governmental identity of Indian tribes. To the extent an Indian tribe looks like a government, sounds like a government, thinks like a government, acts like a government, and reacts like a government, that tribe bolsters its inherent sovereignty. To the extent it does not, it erodes and undermines its inherent sovereignty. More than anything, sovereignty is what distinguishes Indian tribes and makes them great governments.

Second, Indian country best keep very close and friendly relations with its Republican and Democratic allies on Capitol Hill. It is in the interest of Indian country to treat these allies like they are beloved siblings who are regularly visited, worked with, and perhaps even called in for an occasional intervention if the marriage with President Trump is on the rocks. At the same time, Indian country best resist being used for partisan purposes by any Hill Democrat or Republican and instead use Democrats and Republicans for Indian country purposes.

Third, it is in Indian country’s interest to compare its priority list with the Trump Administration’s priority list, and focus, laser-like, on the priorities that match up based on territorial sovereignty.

Fourth, since President Trump is a master Twitter debater, Indian country best boil down what it wants into some pithy, succinct, evocative language that invites its government-to-government partner to better understand Indian country. This would suggest that Indian country funnel everything it wants through the filter of parity.

Read More on the Story:
Philip Baker-Shenk: Indian Country’s Arranged Marriage With President Trump: Can It Be Saved? (Indian Country Today 1/23)

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