Tribal treaty fishermen in Washington. Photo: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
Opinion | Politics

Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties

Attorney Bryan Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community who worked at the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the Obama years, has dug into the Trump administration's greenbook and found an alarming cut to the Rights Protection Implementation program. He explains how the cut will impact treaties, jobs and economic development in Indian Country:
President Trump has proposed to cut this line item by a whopping 24%. At any level of government, a 10% budget cut would be considered drastic. Cuts at this level – especially when paired with budget cuts to law enforcement, conservation, wildlife, etc. – will impair the ability of tribes to fully implement their treaty rights. If tribes cannot comply with those court orders their treaty rights are put into jeopardy. So are real jobs.

Tribal treaty rights protect more than cultural and spiritual values, which are invaluable in their own right. They protect the ability of tribal members to earn a living. They also benefit the economy in areas around Indian country in the Great Lakes and the Pacific Northwest.

In Michigan alone, there are 209 tribal fishermen who are licensed to fish under the 1836 Treaty of Washington and the court orders in United States v. Michigan. In economically depressed areas like northern Michigan, these can be good-paying jobs (albeit, demanding and dangerous jobs). Those fishermen buy gas, gear, and goods for their operations at local stores, and their catch is bought by restaurants and markets across the region.

Treaty rights are economic rights. As the Supreme Court stated in the 1905 case of United States v. Winans, those rights “were not much less necessary to the existence of the Indians than the atmosphere they breathed.”

Read More on the Story:
Bryan Newland: The President’s Budget Cuts for Treaty Rights Funding Affect Jobs (Turtle Talk 6/21)

Department of the Interior Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Documents:
Bureau of Indian Affairs Budget Justifications "Greenbook" | Budget in Brief |Indian Affairs Highlights | Department Office Highlights [includes Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians]