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Indian Endorsements

Via the comments to a Calpundit post, I found these two stories relating to Native Americans and the Democratic presidential candidates:

Native American Times
Endorses General Wesley K. Clark

A strong belief in tribes as sovereign governments must be first and foremost in the mind of our country's top leader to understand the complex relationship Indian Country has with our federal government. Treaty obligations with tribes are seldom understood by most political leaders, which can lead to a deterioration of this relationship and dire circumstances for Indian Country. There is one candidate running for President who not only understands it, he has enforced treaty agreements and sovereign rights of other nations around the world. As the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations (NATO) Supreme Commander, Wesley Clark put his own safety at risk while supporting treaty agreements between nations around the world. This is one of many reasons why the Native American Times endorses Wesley Clark for President of the United States.

It's interesting that the Times endorsement focuses mostly on Clark's military record, relating it to specifically Native American concerns through analogy and Natives' high rate of military service. One of the things that concerns me about Clark is the heavy emphasis put on his biography, by the campaign itself and by observers. He's come out with some smart and provocative proposals on other issues, so it's a shame -- and potentially a liability -- that so much attention is given to his military credentials.

The second article, while reflecting poorly on Howard Dean's treatment of the Abenaki in Vermont, does contain the first defense of his record on the issue that I've seen:

Abenaki Chief Slams Dean Record

"There have been differences of opinion between Gov. Dean and the Abenaki, but those were based on Gov. Dean's well known opposition to gaming in Vermont," said campaign spokesman Garrett Graff.

He said Dean helped provide funding for the first Abenaki cultural museum, worked on economic development issues with the tribe and established a class on Abenaki culture in Vermont's schools.

"Gov. Dean began his speech to the National Congress of American Indians by mentioning his personal opposition to gaming, but that as president would support it wherever it was legal," Graff said. "His directness was received by an enthusiastic and supportive audience of tribal leaders."

Gambling seems to be the biggest wedge between whites and Indians these days (though not all whites -- somebody's putting money in those slot machines). I'll have to think about it some more, but it seems that there's a feeling among a lot of whites that Indian casinos are somehow unfair, perhaps because the tribes have a special status that allows them to run casinos. The taxation issue (i.e., that Native Americans don't have to pay any to the state) is another side to it, which is doubtless amplified when the tribe is raking in the cash. I wonder, though, why -- if Dean's opposition to gambling is a state revenue issue, as has been suggested -- he couldn't negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement (of the type many other Native American enterprises have with their states) in return for dropping opposition to recognition of the tribe. That seems like a win-win situation, especially if the casino pulled in a lot of out-of-state gamblers. Perhaps he never thought of it, or was reluctant to court electoral backlash from strongly anti-tribal white voters (though that didn't stop him from signing the civil unions bill). Or perhaps the Abenaki rejected that kind of an arrangement, either on principle (since it resembles a threat) or because even putting the agreement in hypothetical form ("if the tribe ever builds a casino ...") would seem to presuppose the tribe's decision on gambling, and it wouldn't want to have that kind of PR. I guess I should find some actual information, huh?


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