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NCAI Presidents: Harper Is a Role Model for Indian Country

Brian Cladoosby, Jefferson Keel, Joe Garcia, Tex Hall, Susan Masten & W. Ron Allen
5/28/14

We are living in historic times for Indian Country. As we are still celebrating the confirmation of Diane Humetewa, the first Native American woman who will serve as a Federal Judge, there is another opportunity for a historic ‘first’ at our fingertips. The United States Senate is scheduled to vote on Keith Harper’s Nomination to be the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

A member of the Cherokee Nation, Mr. Harper would be the first member of a federally recognized tribe to serve as an Ambassador for the United States. Like, Judge Humetewa, Harper is highly qualified for this position and they will be the first of many talented Native Americans to serve their country in these high profile roles in the future.

Keith Harper has been a longtime advocate for the civil and human rights of Native Americans and Indigenous people here and around the world. He has represented the National Congress of American Indians at the United Nations and Organization of American States in negotiations on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As a skilled litigator, tribal court judge and experienced advocate for tribal governments Mr. Harper’s unique skills and experience make him the ideal nominee for this important position.

His prompt confirmation is essential to ensuring the United States is represented at the upcoming sessions of the U.N. Human Rights Council. Also, his presence at the U.N. General Assembly’s World Conference on Indigenous Peoples will send a strong message to the world about the United States’ commitment to the rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives and all Indigenous peoples around the globe.

Indian Country has waited a long time – far too long – for a Native woman to be confirmed to the Federal Bench and for a tribal citizen to be representing the United States abroad as an Ambassador. While our children and grandchildren will always face great challenges in their lives, they will soon be facing them with role models like Judge Humetewa and Ambassador Harper, and the many more that will follow.

As the legendary Billy Frank Jr. wrote, not long before his passing, “I cannot think of a better representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council than Keith…I can't tell you how proud that makes me and how important a message it sends to our families and children all across Indian Country…I know he will serve his country well and make all of Indian Country proud.” There are still countless challenges facing Indian Country, but right now the United States Senate has an opportunity to send a strong message with these trailblazing public servants.

We thank and congratulate the President Obama for these historic nominations and we call on the United States Senate to overwhelming support Mr. Harper’s confirmation when it comes to the Senate floor for a vote. He deserves to be confirmed and qualified Native Americans need to always be considered for such important positions from this point forward.

Brian Cladoosby, Chairman, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community;
Jefferson Keel, Lieutenant Governor, Chickasaw Nation;
Joe Garcia, Head Councilman, Ohkay Owingeh;
Tex Hall, Chairman, Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation;
Susan Masten, Vice Chairperson, Yurok Tribe; and
W. Ron Allen, Chairman/CEO, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.

The co-authors have all served as the President of the National Congress of American Indians. The National Congress of American Indians, founded in 1944, is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.
 

 

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Mary Aurelia Johns's picture
Are we still having to deal with Keith Harper – I thought he was taken off the table and the Senate moved on to more important matters. Because a letter has been sent to the Senate from former Presidents of NCAI I thought it would be important to voice my objections to Harper being confirmed. I don’t doubt for one minute the organizations support for him and their ability to garner these individuals support. It goes with the territory. The President of NCAI has lost its once important role of true advocacy for Indian Country and now it has become a mouth piece for the Obama Administration. What I want to know are how Harper will make a stand on the Keystone Pipe Line being built across the Treaty lands of the Lakota; how it will be built under the Moreau and Cheyenne River. Both of these rivers are major water ways that dissect my reservation (Cheyenne River) and can have terrible consequences to our drinking water. The Oceti Sakowin (the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation) is adamantly opposed to this pipeline being built and many of our leaders have gone on record in opposition to it. I would also like to know Harpers stand on Uranium Mining in the Black Hills area in South Dakota the pollution of Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and the Cheyenne River Reservations once more will be polluted if this is allowed to happen. Furthermore, I want to know what his stand is on Hydraulic Fracking that is going on in North Dakota – it is a well-known fact that the United States and the Rich Oil companies have agreed to sacrifice the Western Half of North Dakota for oil extraction. The Upper Main Stem Dams on the Missouri are polluted with the chemicals from the fracking which is going on Tex Hall’s reservation. They are now finding chemicals in the Oahe which is where all of the Lakota Tribes on the Western part of South Dakota get our drinking water. These are blatant violations to the Oceti Sakowin Nation’s Human Rights. The truth of the matter is this – Harper will have to toe the company line when it comes to what he can and cannot do. He’ll have to support the position of the U.S. and it hasn’t always been what is good for the Indigenous people. “Just because” isn’t “good enough”… Just because he’s an Indian isn’t good enough for me… why isn’t he making a fuss about the Cobell Payments being paid out? Why isn’t he speaking out regarding the Indian Health Service, or Indian Education, or the taking of Indian children, or any of these real issues that touch the lives of Poor Indians? All of these Presidents of NCAI with the possible exception of Joe Garcia are wealthy by Indian Country standards so what do they care about the fact that a large number of Indian people suffer from poverty. As long as they can have dinner with the President of the United States they have blinders on to the real truth of what is happening here where I’m living and working.
Mary Aurelia Johns
Mary Aurelia Johns's picture
Response to NCAI Presidents supporting Keith Harper 5/22/2014 There is a real clear distinction between the leadership of NCAI and the rest of Indian Country. All one has to do is look at their web-site. There is terms like “tribal governance, tribal consultation, youth, economic development, etc.” these are important issue areas in Indian Country but you don’t see what the real serious issues are – issues such as: what child poverty does to the cognizance ability of small children; how does long term deep persistent poverty effect the mental health of families; what to do about meth in Indian Country and how we are losing an entire generation of young people to this insidious drug; why is there over 4000 arrests by tribal police of a population that only number over 6,000. No these issues are too negative for the pretty corporate structure NCAI has become where poverty is referred to as “…prosperity remains a distant dream.” When you’re a tribal leader and a large number of your people are living with a serious lack of basic needs; when you’re scrambling to make sure your elders and children are not freezing to death when the temperatures fall to -25 below zero; when your people are burying sometimes two and three members per week; when your store opens at 12:00 AM on the day when the EBT cards are renewed (food stamps) so your families who have gone without can buy food. This is our reality… So when I read that five former Presidents of NCAI have sent a letter pleading with the Senate to appoint one of “THEIR OWN” as Ambassador I see where there continues to be a tremendous growing gulf between tribes on what is a high priority for the leadership of NCAI and Indian Country. Yes, just like there are two Americas there is also two Indian Countries. One is where people get kicked out of the tribe so members can get more cash and the other where there is overcrowding in homes so members of our families are not left homeless. I see five leaders who represent only one side of Indian Country and it isn’t my side.
Mary Aurelia Johns
Two Bears Growling's picture
Sister, you raise VERY valid concerns & questions in your commentary. Like yourself, I am wondering what has become of the accusations brought against Mr. Harper. I have yet to hear the outcome of his accusers claims. Were they founded or unfounded? ................................................................................................................................. Those accusations were very concerning to me as a Native person. I don't care what tribal nation he came from or how much education he is said to have or what previous jobs he has had. If even ONE of those accusations were found to be true then this man does not deserve such a powerful position. ................................................................................................................................. Too many times I find that the higher the council level the more arrogant some people become. I have seen power & position destroy people who had always been good folks. What those folks ignore or forgot is that ANY talent they seem to possess or esteemed position they find themselves in is not by chance. The Creator is the vessel & origin of all things. Man Above just loans us those gifts for a short time while we are in this realm. ................................................................................................................................. Individuals who seek power are the very ones who do not need it. The people who make the best of a position of honor & power are those who are running away from the appointment! Many times they feel unworthy of those positions & do not want them at all. However, those folks take up that mantle because their people want what is best for the whole community or tribe. ................................................................................................................................. It is a great burden when on a committee or position that can have grave consequences if one fails in the tasks before them. Becoming prayerful & meditating becomes a daily need to those leaders. Always being out & about a community seeking advice, asking folks what they feel is a need for them & their families can be a full time job. ................................................................................................................................. Power is a two-edged sword that can both heal & destroy. It should be handled carefully, prayerfully & never used for ones own good, but instead, should be meeted out in small measures when needed.
Two Bears Growling
Two Bears Growling's picture
Wow! Is all I can say about what you wrote Ms. Johns. You are someone who totally understands what is going on in so many tribal communities. How I wish MORE people would stand up & tell the truth of what all IS going on here & there. ................................................................................................................................. You are so right in what you say about the two types of folks in Indian Country. So many tribal nations are setting things up just like the waschichu corporate world that they are totally getting away from how our world in the times of our ancestors was ran through our councils. ................................................................................................................................. I am with you sister when it comes to what we need here in Indian Country. There is a staggering amount of nepotism, cronyism & embezzlement that has been revealed as well out here among goings on at certain reservations that has involved millions of dollars. I will not name any names, but if you read our papers here & there you know exactly the tribal nations I am talking about. GREED is destroying the whole world like nothing else. ................................................................................................................................. It is shameful & dishonorable when these very people who were elected by their people siphon off money that was meant to help the whole tribe & diverted it to their OWN bank accounts or those of their friends. It is a slap in the face to justice when the courts hand down suspended sentences or given a mere slap on their wrist when these people are convicted in a court of law! What needs to have happened to these crooks is that they would be handled as our ancestors handled bad people long ago. No wonder our people have no confidence in the courts to do the right thing with criminals. Our tribes need to re-institute banishments & run these hooligans off our lands once & for all! ................................................................................................................................. When a people shrug their shoulders in defeat they have lost their pride in living in a good way. They have accepted they are helpless against fighting against the criminal element on our lands. I refuse to put up with criminals regardless of who they or their families may be. To put up with bad people is the same as saying what they are doing is OK. It is NEVER OK to look the other way when criminal activity is going on regardless of what or who is involved in it. The Creator becomes angry when a people turn their backs to wrong doings & put up with it. When that happens the people are going to be punished in all sorts of ways by the Creator. Until our People take a stand against corruption & bad people nothing will ever change for them. ................................................................................................................................. It ALL starts when one person stands up & says, "No more!" & taking that message & strength to others & becoming one people who take those criminals & throw them out! A fire starts with just a small spark. A wildfire starts with just one flame & then spreads. The same goes for driving out evil people & groups who are set on destroying our tribal communities. Our people MUST stand up & take control once more & drive those bad apples out before they spoil the whole barrel! ................................................................................................................................. Change in our tribal communities all across Indian Country starts with Y-O-U! Stand up with your family & stand up against crime & criminals regardless of who they may be! Take the stand that says, " No More!" Take a stand that says you refuse to turn away when bad things are going on & you refuse to turn your back to crooks regardless of where you see them in your Native community. A flood starts with just one drop of water. Take back those communities & take back your families one at a time! Hoa!
Two Bears Growling
jaytaber's picture
In 2009, when the thirteen-year lawsuit against Interior reached a negotiated settlement of $1.4 billion of the estimated $47 billion stolen from the Indian Trust Fund by the U.S. Government, the lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell said the willingness to settle "reflects the desperate poverty of the plaintiffs...as well as the realization that it's probably the best they could do given the American political system." Given the UN political system, Harper might be the best NCAI could do in negotiating with Obama and Kerry. That doesn't let Harper off the hook, but it should temper our expectations.
jaytaber