Open Letter: Native Women oppose Judge Brett Kavanaugh For U.S. Supreme Court

Judge Brett Kavanaugh Photo: U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit

Over 40 Native women leaders in Indian Country ask for closer examination of Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Reprinted with permission:

Letter to the editor toHigh Plains Reader

Judge Kavanaughs views on voting rights and racial justice in America are extremely troubling - in light of the fact that right now Native voters in North Dakota are fighting for their voting rights in Brakebill v. Jaeger, which is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Native women leaders of North Dakota who understand fully the decisions we make today will not only affect us, but seven generations ahead of us, we urge Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven to closely examine Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaughs record regarding Native peoples. We believe that as both a lawyer and as a judge, Judge Kavanaugh has failed consistently to acknowledge the sovereignty, natural resources, and unique history and heritage of Native People.

His actions and writings reveal a lack of understanding about the rights of Native People. Additionally, it is unlikely he will support access to affordable health care through the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or advocate for the health care rights of women.

In 2012, Judge Kavanaugh ruled against the Obama Justice Departments challenge to a South Carolina voter ID law that claimed significant racial disparities in the laws photo ID requirement [South Carolina v. United States, 898 F.Supp.2d 30 (D.C. Cir. 2012)]. In writing the opinion for the three-judge panel, Kavanaugh refused to acknowledge the importance of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which provides the review process for new voting laws and without which the South Carolina law would have been even more restrictive.

We agree with the concerns expressed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) over Judge Kavanaughs tribal sovereignty views, particularly as they relate to voting rights and health care.

Voting rights are first-generation rights along with freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion. Yet American Indian and Alaska Native voters continue to encounter language barriers, enormous distances to polling places, arbitrary changes in voter identification laws, purged voter rolls, and intimidation and animosity in reservation border towns that disenfranchise Native voters. Equal access to voting is not only a matter of fairness, but it is a fundamental civil right afforded to all citizens, including American Indians and Alaska Natives. - NCAI Executive Director, Jacqueline Pata

In 1999, Kavanaugh co-wrote an amicus brief, as an attorney, (on behalf of a group that opposes minority rights and affirmative action) he argued that a Hawaii law allowing only Native Hawaiians to vote for trustees of a state office, an original treaty between the US and Native Hawaiians to compensate Native Hawaiians for land that had been taken from their ancestors, was unconstitutional [Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495 (D.C. Cir. 2000)].

He said in an interview that the case is one more step along the way in what I see as an inevitable conclusion within the next 10 to 20 years when the court says we are all one race in the eyes of government (The Christian Science Monitor, 1999). Kavanaughs misleading use of language and law, such as utilizing the veneer of equality to obliterate treaty obligations, is a deeply troubling indication he is opposed to critical civil rights protections and to equal opportunity programs that are designed to advance diversity and remedy past discrimination.

Our concerns are grounded in human and Native rights, not partisan politics. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, another appointee of President Trump, has a good record with regard to Native People, we supported him, and he has sided with Tribes in two of three cases since he joined the court.

We have no such confidence in Judge Kavanaugh, and we encourage Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven to vet him thoroughly and to vote NO for his selection to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Finally, as mothers, daughters and grandmothers, we believe Judge Kavanaugh is a significant threat to the ACA and its important protection for pre-existing conditions, as well as to womens reproductive and health care rights.

Native People deserve better. We all do.

[Links to theNCAI statementandTurtle Talksdiscussion of Kavanaughs Indian law record.]

Respectfully,

Twyla Baker

MHA Nation

Sandra Bercier

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Melissa Brady

Spirit Lake Nation

Ruth Buffalo

MHA Nation

Anita Charging

MHA Nation

Danielle Finn

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Cedar Gillette

MHA Nation & Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Lillian Jones

MHA Nation

Cheryl Kary

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Hillary Kempenich

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Denise Lajimodiere

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Sheridan Seaboy-McNeil

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Mary Baker

MHA Nation

Tawny Cale

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Sunshine Carlow

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Kelly Charging

MHA Nation & Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Stephanie DeCoteau

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Andrea Denault

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Lisa DeVille

MHA Nation

Nicole Donaghy

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Alayna Eagle Shield

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Amber Finley

MHA Nation

Bill Jo Gravseth

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Natasha Gourd

Spirit Lake Nation

Ashly Hall

MHA Nation

Tammy Hammer

MHA Nation

Tonya Hertel

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Margaret Landin

MHA Nation

Amanda Mhyre

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Joyce Shining One Side

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa

Jodi Spotted Bear

Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance

Wendi R. Wells

MHA Nation

Kandi White

MHA Nation

Angel Young

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

LaDonna Allard

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Glenda Rush

MHA Nation

Chairwoman Myra Pearson

Spirit Lake Nation

Prairie Rose Seminole

MHA Nation and Northern Cheyenne

Linda Bradfield Gourneau, MD

MHA Nation

Melanie Nadeau, PhD

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa


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