A Republican Native American? How Can That Be?

Myrna Gardner

In a speech to fellow Republicans in Chicago in December 1856, Abraham Lincoln said: “Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government, practically just so much. Public opinion, or any subject, always has a 'central idea,' from which all its minor thoughts radiate. That 'central idea' in our political public opinion, at the beginning was, and until recently has continued to be, 'the equality of men.'”

For Lincoln, this central idea was the Declaration of Independence and its notion of equality as the basis for republican government - the simple idea that no one has the right by nature to rule over another without the latter's consent: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Lincoln saw more clearly than his critics that equality is inseparable from democracy. I’m Alaska Native of Tlingit and Haida descent from the Heinyaa Kwaan (Water People) of Southeast Alaska, I am a woman and I’ve been a registered republican my entire adult life. Often I am asked, “How can you be a republican?” as if I violated some law by being Native and a Republican.

My response is simple and unscripted. I believe in the founding principals of the Republican Party: equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a Republican I believe my commitment to our country and countrymen and women is to the dedication to keeping these truths despite public opinion.

When the United States was formed in 1776, slavery was worldwide. However slavery was only part of the world’s reality. Prior to America being founded, all regimes were based on the principle of interest—the interest of the stronger, that principle was articulated by the Greek historian Thucydides: "Questions of justice arise only between equals. As for the rest, the strong do what they will. The weak suffer what they must."

I believe we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves, as a Republican, am I dedicated to protecting the inalienable rights of all Americans, not just the strong, or popular or rich or poor.

Are we dedicated to the principles of the Republican party or do we support the radicals who have hijacked our party, those who hold instead that rights are "prescriptive," i.e. that government determines what constitutes a right and then distributes those rights unequally according to its own preferences.

Prescriptive, such as: gay citizens have limited rights, Native American citizens cannot govern their land, America does not have to honor the treaties our forefathers signed, women cannot chose what happens to their bodies, insurance companies will cover what we tell them to based upon our religious preferences.

When you make laws that dictate you are enslaving those citizens. At the Cooper Union Address in 1860 President Lincoln “urged fellow Republicans not to capitulate to Southern demands to recognize slavery as being right, but to "stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively." I ask fellow Republicans to not capitulate to extreme radical Republicans who hide under a cloak of “god-fearing,” “family values,” “real Christians” or “real Americans.”

Don’t allow Rush Limbaugh to call a law student at Georgetown University a slut or prostitute for advocating health insurance plans to cover the cost of contraception. When we shift federal funds to private schools and our public schools are falling apart; we have created and support segregation for the elite. In 2010 when a schoolteacher paid more income tax proportionately than GE Corporation we prove to the world that America has fallen prey to the principles of Interest – the interest of the stronger.

As Citizens of this great country, I believe we must defend the separation of church and state, equal liberty and justice for all. As Dr. Martin Luther King so eloquently said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Myrna Gardner is the CEO of 3R Products and the Managing Member of MGM Properties, LLC. She resides in Juneau, Alaska.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page




sroetman's picture
The Republican party of Lincoln's time is much more like the Democratic party of today. That, and Lincoln ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history, and it was against Natives.. So I find it hard to care very much about what he has to say. While I initially was excited to read this because, while I am not a Republican (or a Democrat for that matter), I find it interesting and exciting to read about other Indians who are/might be. However, every idea you wrote about falls in line with what the Democrats, not Republicans, are doing. It sounds, from what you described, that you do not believe in the founding principles of the Republican party but rather of this union itself.
thechief's picture
Great article. I think it's funny how tribal leaders always talk about sovereignty while the pander for more federal or state subsidies. I am a libertarian. I think if natives really wanted sovereignty they'd also want a smaller federal and state government. Instead every election cycle I hear hear same rhetoric from tribal leaders to their members. Vote democrat or the republicans are gonna cut out low income housing grants, tanf, wic, etc... If tribes really want to be sovereign let them cut those programs. Dependence creates control, I think the democrats know this that's why they love seeing impoverished natives pandering for more federal dollars.
tylertegoseak's picture
You do realize back in Lincoln's time, the Republican party was equal to today's Democrats and vice versa? "Prescriptive, such as: gay citizens have limited rights, Native American citizens cannot govern their land, America does not have to honor the treaties our forefathers signed, women cannot chose what happens to their bodies, insurance companies will cover what we tell them to based upon our religious preferences." Today's Republicans actively advocate these things, using their religion as a crutch. For Christ's sake, the Republican presidential candidate is saying that he will do ALL of these things when he becomes president. I'm not criticizing you because you're Native and Republican, I'm criticizing you for believing all the BS they feed you. Everything you stand up for and believe in, the Democratic party believes in and are actively lobbying for. Republicans are against it because, it's simple, they need to oppose EVERYTHING the Democratic party stands for. Stop being an imbecile. Republicans are against us. A Native American being a Republican is as ludicrous as black slaves volunteering to fight for the Confederation. You just look stupid.
ffdrh's picture
Thank you, Ms Gardner, for your thoughtful editorial. I believe we are both "real Americans." The lack of civility in today's political discourse is very sad -- real Americans should denounce it no matter from whose side the utterance comes. I do not subscribe to "prescriptive rights," but neither do I believe our government should try to require me to pay for others' choices when that payment would violate my conscience and deeply held religious beliefs. What choice is there between disobeying man's law or losing one's soul for eternity?
m8lsem's picture
My goodness, seems to me that you have made a powerful argument to move over to the Democratic Party ...
swrussel's picture
I take it, then, that Christian Scientist employers should be exempt from providing any health insurance? That Jehovah's witnesses employers should be exempt from providing health insurance that covers blood transfusions? Let's not get started on Scientologist employers. Every other modern industrialized nation seems to provide a common health insurance package for all without descending into slavery. Express your religious views when you worship, not when you make public policy. You are not paying for this or that medical procedure. You are paying premiums for your employees, who may not agree with you, to have the same treatments any other American can get from a doc. Treatments you need not accept (although polls say 98% of Catholics in fact use birth control, which seems to be the current issue...Catholics having more political stroke than Christian Scientists).
natlib4vr's picture
Once again, someone gets a little money and thinks they are so much better and smarter then everyone. everything you spoke about are Liberal ideals...oh, you didn't know that?? Someone just explained to you what a conservative is...and you bought into it.I'm glad you had the courage to say this on a native blog, we can identify you as being against the native people, now.You quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln both had Liberal views. Your whole article is on the side of the liberals...do you know who you are?Being a republican today is like being on the side of Custer and the other white anti-native people.Yeah, vote on the side of the whites, the one's that defaced the sacred black hills and turned them into a tourist attraction, the trail of tears, still not living up to the treaties .Explain again why you are what you are...i still don't get it!
tmsyr11's picture
The Republican Party of today are more like the Democratic Party that President John Kennedy belonged to. Then how far left has the Democratic Party of today gone and whose principles do they represent?
tmsyr11's picture
This is a breath of fresh air to read. Not all American Indians are ill-advised nor un-informed to truth and principles that matter. I tire of the hypocrisy that the Democratic hordes exercise when freedom of speech is legitimate as long as it isn't used against the liberal establishment. It is okay to attack another nation as long as it justifies the liberal establishment's principles. It is okay to take money from Wall Street as long as it supports liberal causes and not reported in the TV news outlets. It is use racial/radical epitets to the United States under the guise of Democratic principles and still become US President.
beaver's picture
Shame on you all for forgetting the very concept of Indian sovereignty and buying into a colonial government's agendas. Would you consider yourself a Chinese CPC or a Chinese NPC? Would you consider yourself a part of any Germany's party?