Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) speaks at the State of Indian Nations in Washington, D.C, on February 13, 2017. Photo: Senator John Hoeven

Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Sen. John Hoeven raises red flags in Indian Country

Dina Gilio-Whitaker, a citizen of the Colville Tribes, tells Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) why she doesn't think he will make a good chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs:
To begin with, in the statement you issued with Senator Udall on January 5, Mr. Hoeven, you claimed that jobs and economic growth in Indian families, communities, and businesses will be your priorities in order to “improve the lives of people across Indian country.” You further claim that in your role you will address the issues of job creation, health care, education, public safety, housing, and natural resource management. While these are noble goals, I notice that nowhere do you personally guarantee to uphold the government-to-government relationship with Native nations, or even the federal trust responsibility. Only Senator Udall explicitly affirms both. Senator Udall’s track record in New Mexico speaks for itself relative to tribal sovereignty, and given my experience working with him when he was a congressman, I know that he is deeply committed to these vitally important political realities.

Mr. Hoeven, your statement reflects a startling narrow concern for economic development, and the specific mention of natural resource management is to me a red flag, signaling what your agenda really is: maximized fossil fuel extraction, and removing any and all obstacles toward that goal, regardless of what tribal governments want. The new GOP controlled, fossil fuel-heavy government has made it quite clear that they will prioritize their own corporate interests, from Trump’s initial moves to silence the EPA and Department of the Interior, to congressional goals to abolish the EPA and dismantle environmental protections. To say nothing of Republican dreams to privatize tribal lands.

And why would you be interested in advancing the constitutionally-based treaty rights of Native nations, given that when they assert those rights, you consistently work against them? So little regard do you have, that your own website doesn’t even have dedicated space to Native American issues, even though you have a sizeable Native population in your home state of North Dakota and are chairman of the Senate committee.

Read More on the Story:
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: An Open Letter to Senator John Hoeven, the New Fossil Fuel Gatekeeper (Indian Country Today 2/19)

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