On being an advocate in the U.S. Congress

Representatives-elect Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, D-Kansas (Photo via Twitter)

A history of legislative achievements of tribal leaders

Alan Parker

I am pleased to join with many of my fellow tribal citizens across the country in offering my congratulations and best wishes to the newly elected members of Congress, Representatives-elect Debra Haaland, D-New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, D-Kansas.

I served as chief counsel and, subsequently, staff director to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in the 95th and 96th Sessions (1977-1981) and 100th and 101st Sessions of Congress (1987-1991).

As such I have experiences that should be of value to these two Native American women who are now members of the the House. In April 2018, the Michigan State Univ. Press published my book, “Pathways to Indigenous Nation Sovereignty,” subtitled “A Chronicle of Federal Policy Developments,” this book tells the story of the major legislative achievements of tribal leaders in the 1970s, thru 1980s and beyond.

In 1978 thru 1981, we saw Congress enact the Indian Child Welfare Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and major Indian land and water rights claims thru legislative settlement acts passed by Congress.

In 1988, Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and in 1989 the National Museum of the American Indian Act which opened its doors on the National Mall as part of the Smithsonian Institution in 2004. The Tribal Self-Governance Act was adopted by Congress in 1994, as a law which completed the goals of Indian leaders enshrined in the Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975. Congress attempted to transfer the responsibilities to govern Indian lands to the tribes away from the Bureau of Indian Affairs when they adopted the Indian Self-Determination Act, but the BIA was able to retain control through the regulations that they wrote in the years immediately following 1975. The Coalition of Self-Governance Tribes came back to Congress in 1987 and asked that they overrule the BIA regulations by changing to a system of Governmental Compact Agreements. After Congress authorized a trial period for Demonstration Grants to be made to the Tribal Self-Governance Coalition Tribes, the enacted the Tribal Self-Governance Act as permanent law in 1994.

American voters sent a message to President Trump on November 6th when they voted for a Democratic majority in this year’s mid-term elections. The new Democratic majority now includes Representatives Haaland and Davids and we look forward to seeing them sworn into office in January. I look forward to seeing at least one of the two new members appointed to the House Committee on Natural Resources and their service on the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs.

Professor Alan Parker is a citizen of the Chippewa Cree Tribal Nation.

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