Christmas Wish Lists From Indian Country

Rob Capriccioso
12/20/11

Every Indian has hopes and dreams. Sometimes they manifest into wishes. This holiday season, Indian Country Today Media Network offers a peek at some real and some imagined wishes from the hearts and souls of Indian country.

Tashina Iron Horse: “Fresh water…and bubble gum…and a backpack.” That’s what the 5-year-old resident of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation told Diane Sawyer last year that she would ask for from President Obama if given the opportunity. As Sawyer followed up with the girl throughout 2011, her wishes morphed to match those of her pals. Now a first grader, she told the newswoman that her biggest wish is for Justin Bieber to be her boyfriend. Plus, she wants to grow up to be a police officer—much needed on her reservation.

Indigenous Environmental Network activists: If there could be only one wish granted for these persistent and proud indigenous activists, it would be to see Santa burn the plans for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion once and for all. “The need to protect our sources of clean water, to fight for stabilizing climate change, and to say ‘no’ to corporate polluters setting the agenda in Washington is now,” said IEN’s Tom B.K. Goldtooth in November after the Obama administration announced a delay of its decision on whether to allow the pipeline expansion. The pipeline is currently a hot potato in American politics, with Republicans and Democrats all playing surreal games with its future, which could have very real bleak consequences for Indian country.

Jack Abramoff: His wish of wishes: For everyone to forget that in his quest to become the richest and most ruthless lobbyist in all the land in the early 2000s, that he committed some really awful acts against Indians and tribes, and he said plenty of racist things about them. If the mainstream media keeps cozying up to him the way it has since he got out of jail and released his book this fall, he may just get his wish.

Intertribal Council on Utility Policy: All they wanted for Christmas was federal support for tribal renewable energy to take off like bottled lightning. After all, America needs more energy, and Indian country has it in abundance in terms of wind and solar power. Problem is, Congress and the Obama administration aren’t focusing as much on green energy support after the Solyndra scandal of this year. But Indian energy experts, like those at Intertribal COUP, will definitely keep their wishes glowing.

Tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934: A Clean Carcieri fix…yesterday! The Supreme Court made this awful and wrong decision in 2009, and many Indians have been pushing since then for an uncomplicated legislative remedy that would allow the Interior Department to take land into trust for tribes federally recognized after 1934. Foes who have tried to tie the issue to gaming have hampered the effort, which leads to another wish from post-1934 tribes: Lumps of coal to all the foes.

The Native American Rights Fund: A Supreme Court that doesn’t hate Indians. NARF has been running its Supreme Court project for years now documenting the injustices the high court has committed to tribes, and trying to prevent more from happening. But under the John Roberts court, the losses have continued to mount, such as in this year’s Jicarilla Apache trust ruling. If not a whole court of pro-Indians, NARF would probably settle for just two more justices who take an active interest in understanding federal and tribal Indian law.

Suzan Shown Harjo: The Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist who’s been fighting the Redskins team trademark for decades has got to be wishing that team owner Dan Snyder would somehow get enlightened. Still, after all these years, this one promises to be impossible. Harjo’s best bet would be to wish that a lawsuit brought by six American Indians ranging in age from 18 to 24 finally achieves her intent.

Snowbowl protesters: Don’t spray excrement on our sacred site. Seems like a simple wish, right? For Indians fighting further snow-ski development of the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, it’s been anything but simple. This year, as in the past, they asked President Obama for support sans much luck, and a Hopi case aimed at preventing the spraying of reclaimed wastewater is ongoing.

Big gaming tribes: As the ultimate Christmas wish, many tribal leaders from big gaming tribes would probably most like to be granted limited competition from nearby gaming enterprises for all eternity—but there’s a dilemma here: How far are they willing to go to get this wish, if limiting competition means harming tribal sovereignty overall? Those tribal lobbyists who have been working hard behind the scenes to oppose a clean Carcieri fix have been playing a dangerous game in this very wishing well.

Cobell beneficiaries: When is that meager payout supposed to come again? With appeals pending, they’ll have to keep on wishing long into 2012.

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