News

Why the Native Vote Matters – for Tribal Communities, our State and our Country

IN EVERY ELECTION, THE NATIVE VOTE IS IMPORTANT.

Many experts say the Native vote has been the deciding factor in elections across the country in recent years. In Oklahoma, there are 38 federally recognized tribes and those identifying as American Indian over 18 years of age, make-up 12.1% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2016 Population Estimates.

If this 12.1% mobilized and took action, the tides could turn in elections with the significant power of the Native vote. It’s important for our tribal members to educate themselves on the candidates running for office and on the issues important to Indian Country.

Tribes spend millions of dollars each year lobbying Congress to pass legislation that will impact tribal communities. As a tribal member, you can do your part by showing up on Election Day. The smaller elections and statewide elections decide what happens in our communities.

Use your voice, your vote to make a difference with important issues such as Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), Tribal Sovereignty, Gaming, Criminal Justice Reform and Healthcare.

It’s also critical that we continue to support and elect Native Americans to public office on the local, state and national levels. You can do your part by campaigning, making donations and voting for tribal members running for office.

There are so many critical issues facing Indian Country, issues that don’t get nearly enough attention on the national stage. Voting alone won’t fix every complex social or policy problem, but it’s the first step in holding elected officials accountable for progress on these issues.

We, as Native Americans, must show our strength through unity. If we vote, we can elect representatives who support the causes important to the tribes.

There’s much work to be done and the easiest way to affect change is to VOTE! See you at the polls on June 30th. For information on Native candidates, how to register to vote and issues important to tribal communities, contact Native American Action on Facebook.

Native America Action raises Native issues to Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders during his visit to the Comanche Nation

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (Senator, I-VT) visited the Comanche Nation Fair, and Native America Action was there. NAA Director and Board Member LaRenda Morgan, and NAA Volunteer Raven Morgan, advocated for key native issues including murdered and missing indigenous woman, funding for Indian Health Services and Indian child welfare, and expressed concerns regained the lack of government compliance in these areas.

Native America Action Volunteer Raven Morgan with Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during his Oklahoma visit to the Comanche Nation’s Fair

The opportunity to provide awareness of Native issues to a Presidential candidate keeps Native needs at the forefront during an election cycle. The coming 2020 election will be a pivotal one for Native communities, and one where the Native vote (regardless of political party) has the opportunity to be seen. Whether Republican or Democrat, Native voters are encouraged to look at Native issues when they consider their vote. Likewise, Native America Action continues to look at ways to promote Native needs and raise awareness regarding threats to Native Sovereignty amongst candidates of all political parties to educate them and provide the opportunity in which all candidates can see Native issues and speak about how to resolve them.

Native America Action is a non-partisan operational arm of the Native America Super PAC with a specific focus on protecting Native Sovereignty. NAA provides voter registration to Native communities and events and attempts to raise awareness for the importance of the Native voice and vote. Native America Action also invests time to educate political candidates of any party regarding Native issues and challenges.

Director and Board Member LaRenda Morgan (sitting middle) was among the those who spoke with Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at the Comanche Nation Fair

Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Largest Contribution to a State Economy In Nation – Governor Stitt Interested In More?

Oklahoma’s Tribal Gaming tax and direct payments as well as the economic output contributing to the state economy are often listed as the second largest in the United States, but when examined in financial context on a state by state basis they are actually the largest in the nation.  Billions of dollars of direct and indirect economic value and the third largest industry employing Oklahomans have only been possible because of the Tribal Gaming Compacts that have been in place.  With so much value and economic strength, along with an encouraging financial outlook for amazing future growth, there is certainly reason for Oklahoma’s Native Nations to be concerned by Governor Stitt’s most recent announcement.

In a column published in the Tulsa World on Sunday July 7, 2019 (Governor Kevin Stitt: New Gaming Compacts…), Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announces the Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compacts will not continue in their current form. The Oklahoma Tribal Gaming Compact have an expiration of January 1st, 2020, unless allowed to continue as is.  In Tribal Gaming Compacts, it is the Governor of Oklahoma who makes the decision to continue or to terminate the compact as it is a government to government agreement between sovereign states. Governor Stitt makes his case for a renegotiation in his column and states “The agreements between the state and the tribes giving them exclusivity to the gaming industry are, however, terminating as of Jan. 1, 2020, and it is imperative that we come to terms on new compacts prior to the end of the year.”

While Oklahoma’s Governor takes note that the current Tribal Gaming Compact is 15 years old, his contrast of the percentage of revenue paid to the state is provided only in percentages as compared to other states and their Tribal Gaming Compacts. In this fashion, Governor Stitt is able to sweep away the true value that Oklahoma’s Native Nations have provided the State of Oklahoma. Governor Stitt makes a point to mention Arkansas as an example, who recently voted in four new casinos and whose exclusivity fees will start at 13% and max out at 20%. While on the surface such a comparison to Oklahoma exclusivity fees (4% and max at 6% – table games are paid at a set 10%) may seem very different it is what Governor Stitt is not saying that is the most important. Oklahoma Tribal Gaming revenue is the largest per capita in the entire United States because of the current level of fees.

American Gaming Association’s 2017 study – Tribal Gaming Jobs Across United States

While it is true that California has larger direct and tax tribal gaming payments made to the state, when such a contribution is examined in context of overall population, it is the State of Oklahoma who receives greater direct payments on a per capita basis. In September of 2017, the American Gaming Association commissioned a study of the economic benefits of tribal gaming. In the study, a state by state comparison was made using 2014 data. The State of California had the largest direct payments made by Tribal Nations, with $3.01 billion paid. The second largest state was the State of Oklahoma whose Tribal Governments paid $2.18 billion. On a per capita basis, Tribal Gaming payments to the state represented a contribution of $77.98 per person in California compared to Oklahoma’s contribution of $562.15 per person. Oklahoma Tribal Gaming’s tax and direct payment benefit to the State of Oklahoma was more than seven times greater than California’s.

Oklahoma’s top position in the country in Tribal Gaming economic contribution is even more drastic when the output, or the money that gets put back into the State, is properly viewed in perspective of the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measurement of an economy. Using the American Gaming Association data set mentioned above and looking at the top five states in order of Tribal Gaming Tax and Direct payments, there is: California ($3.01 billion), Oklahoma ($2.18 billion), Washington ($1.19 billion), Florida ($1.09 billion), and Connecticut ( $0.83 billion). When the output and benefit of each of these state’s economies is taken into consideration, the Tribal Gaming contribution within Oklahoma is nearly 5% of Oklahoma’s GDP. California is by far the lowest with their Tribal Gaming contribution being less than 1% (a mere 0.64% of the California GDP) and the other states not much more (Florida – 0.68%, Washington – 1.2%, Connecticut – 1.61%).

While Governor Stitt takes time to recognize the importance of Tribal Gaming to Oklahoma’s economy, his comparison to Arkansas makes it seem like Oklahoma is somehow far behind other states when it comes to receiving revenue directly or indirectly, and as is noted above this most certainly is not the case. It is worth noting that a state such as Arkansas isn’t even on the list when it comes to such comparisons. Other states regionally such as Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, and even New Mexico are but small fractions compared to the revenue generation and direct payments of Oklahoma’s Tribal Gaming. This should be an important consideration for the State of Oklahoma and the Governor when reviewing how an industry that provides more than $8.72 billion dollars back into the state’s economy and provides Oklahomans with 65,000 jobs might be impacted by potentially significant changes.

When Oklahoma’s Tribal Gaming Compacts already produce a greater economic benefit to the State of Oklahoma than any Tribal Gaming Compacts do for any other state in the country, allowing such success to simply expire seems like it could be extremely short sighted.

If you are concerned with Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s proposal, you can let him know of your concern  HERE.

Native America Action will continue to watch the developments of this situation closely.

Spotlight On Speakers – Native America Action

May 2019 has Native America Action active in two of the US’s highest Native American populated states, California and Oklahoma.

Last week, NAA’s LaRenda Morgan spoke at California’s Tribal Gaming Protection Network’s 3rd annual Women’s Symposium at Morongo. LaRenda was invited to speak on women’s empowerment tools at this year’s symposium.

Pictured above at the Native Business Summit Golf Tournament, Darwin Williams – Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation; LaRenda Morgan – Outreach Director Native America Action; Linda Sacks – Executive Director Native America Action; and Chief Craig Harper – Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, OK, is host this week to the first annual Native Business Summit. Native America Action’s Executive Director, Linda Sacks, is speaking on an all Native women’s panel with the summit’s cofounder Carmen Davis. This panel will be recorded as a podcast to air at a later date.

LaRenda Morgan is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. Linda Sacks is a member of the Cherokee Nation. If you are interested in Native America Action speaking at your event, conference, or tribal meeting please email us at action@nativeamerica.info for scheduling.

Yakama Nation Wins Supreme Court Contest Over Sovereignty Rights With Pivotal Trump Nominee Support

As reported by NPR, the Supreme Court found in favor of the Yakama Nation in their case upholding their Treaty Rights to transport goods without taxation. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch, who previously served as a judge on the Federal Court of Appeals in Denver, has broad experience with Native American Tribal needs with his previous appointment overseeing six states and 76 federally recognized Native Nations. While being the fifth member of the court to side with the Yakama Nation, Justice Gorsuch wrote a separate opinion representing himself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

His opinion as NPR reports, ‘What the tribe got in exchange, he said, was a right it had had for centuries — not only the right to travel on public highways, but “the right to move goods freely to and from market using those highways,” without having to pay a tax or licensing fees on those goods. The only thing the U.S. government gave up, and that the Yakamas insisted on in 1855, was the U.S. government’s promise “not to impose a tax or toll on tribal members or their goods as they pass to and from market.”‘

For the Yakama Nation, their 1855 Treaty with the United States was made with the wisdom and knowledge of the US Government’s dealings with Native Nations in the decades before. With that inclusion into their treaty, this week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court solidifies the Yakama Nation’s Native Sovereignty as it was meant to be, acknowledged in 1855 and carrying forward beyond today.

In the NPR report, Justice Gorsuch’s statement rings true for the history behind the treaty in 1855 – ‘”It was a price the United States was more than willing to pay” and “by any measure it was a bargain-basement deal,”‘ – which is a statement that resonates across Native America.

Read more of the NPR article at:

https://www.npr.org/2019/03/20/704926048/gorsuch-provides-decisive-5th-vote-in-case-interpreting-treaty-with-indian-tribe

You can find the Yakama Nation at:

http://www.yakamanation-nsn.gov/index.php

Senate Legislation introduced to “Shutdown-Proof” Tribal Government services

An article posted by Native News Online today announced a new effort to protect Native Nations. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to protect Indian Health Services and BIA from future government shutdowns by Senator Tom Udall (D – NM), ranking member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

This effort is significant as federal services and funding are a requirement to uphold the treaties in place between the United States and Native Nations. This responsibility isn’t readily understood within Congress.

From the article, “I have been hearing heartbreaking stories about the impact of the shutdown has had on Indian Country, Indian Country is the hardest hit by the Trump shutdown,” said Sen. Udall.

The article further states, “Udall announced the introduction of his bill, the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA), to protect essential federal and Tribal programs from the detrimental impacts of future government shutdowns and short-term funding bills. The IPAAA would authorize advance funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Indian Health Service (IHS), and contract support cost programs for Tribes that opt to take over operation of IHS and BIA services.”

Read more of the full article at Native News Online here:

https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/sen-udall-announces-bill-to-protect-essential-tribal-programs-from-being-jeopardized-by-future-shutdowns/

Oklahoma Republican’s Markwayne Mullin and Tom Cole continue fight to restore Indian Health Services funding

Across the United States, the federal shutdown effects Native Americans who rely on Indian Health Services (IHS) for their basic daily medical needs.  Because IHS funding comes directly from the Department of Health and Human Services, it also is effectively shut down even though federally funded employees may be continuing to provide services without their own pay.

There are two Oklahoma Republican Congressmen who not only recognize that the services provided by IHS are required by U.S. treaties with Native Nations, they are also both Native American.  Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R – OK 2), Cherokee, has spearheaded this effort, in conjunction with Congressman Tom Cole (R – OK 4), Chickasaw. Their efforts are being made not just for Oklahoma Native Nations, but for Native Nations across the United States.  Unfortunately, so far, their efforts have not led to success.

While this certainly is frustrating to Native communities throughout the country, it is especially frustrating to these Native legislators.  Quoted in an article yesterday in the Tulsa World, Congressman Tom Cole said the federal government “will have a lot of lawsuits” because it is not fulfilling its treaty obligations to tribes during the shutdown.  As frustrating as this is for Congressman Cole, perhaps it is more so for Congressman Mullin, who is a member of the House Rules Committee.

In a Breitbart article describing his recent interview on Breitbart News Tonight, Congressman Mullin explained that his motivation isn’t just his personal connection as a Native American, “In our district, we have a very high Native American population. In fact, I represent more tribes than any other district in the country. I have 19 separate tribes, which is 19 separate governments, essentially, in my district alone.”  The Congressman goes on to explain that in addition to IHS, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is also shut down.  The BIA is under the Department of the Interior.

The services to Native Nations and Tribal Governments are not optional in Mullin’s eyes.  He continues to explain “The issue we have right now is that even though it’s a federal obligation because Indian Health Services came out of treaties that were signed with tribes, we essentially removed them from their traditional land. [We] said, ‘If you move to this part of the country, mainly Oklahoma, we’re going to take care of X, Y, and Z for you’ as part of a treaty.  Somehow that got caught up in this political crossfire, and in my opinion the federal government isn’t living up to their end of the bargain which is in breach of a trust, or the treaties to which it signed decades ago.”

Congressman Mullin’s amendment, the Pay Our Doctors Act, was shut down in the House Rules Committee on a party line vote with the Democrats on the committee voting against it.  The House may still be able to consider his legislation, which has several Democrat co-sponsors, but unfortunately Congressman Mullin’s latest attempt to help provide services for Tribal Governments and Native communities was not successful this time.

For residents of Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, Congressman Markwayne Mullin will be holding a Telephone Town Hall this coming week, according to an article in the Muskogee Phoenix.  Mullin said. “During the call, I’ll provide an update on what’s happening in Washington, provide information about the partial government shutdown, and get your feedback. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.”

Native Sovereignty compromise in Arizona – Trump Administration provides waiver to Medicaid work requirements

For the past year, a major threat against Native Sovereignty has cast a dark shadow across all Native Nations throughout the country. Today, an article in Politico indicates at least for Tribal Governments in the State of Arizona, some comfort was received, but only for those enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.

A year ago when the Trump Administration rolled out work requirements for States and Medicaid, an infringement on Native Sovereignty suddenly emerged, and when the White House sought to re-classify sovereign Tribal Governments instead as a racial group, it turned back the clock for Native Nations across the country. The article in Politico mentions GOP lawmakers in many rural states were alarmed at what was rolling back hundreds of years of protections by the Constitution and what has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Tribal Governments were taken by surprise.

Today the State of Arizona was granted a waiver, and Arizona’s Native American tribal members are exempt in the majority of situations. Because not everyone treated at IHS is an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe, those who are not enrolled are unfortunately not exempt from these work requirements.

Politico reports in their article (Trump Exempts Most Tribes From Medicaid Work Rules):

Under the Arizona waiver approved Friday, Medicaid enrollees between the ages of 19 and 49 who are not exempt will have to work at least 80 hours per month — or participate in other activities like job training or community service — to maintain their health coverage. The administration and state officials had been negotiating for months over the plan.

This is recognized as not being a perfect solution for Arizona, but it is a compromise which does restore services to enrolled members, and re-establish the Sovereignty of their Tribal Governments.

This may also open the door for other States to follow suit, and if so would bring some level of comfort that this threat to Native Sovereignty has, for now, been abated.

Our Racist President

We’re going to say it.  We had hoped for better, but its just not there.

There is something wrong with our President of the United States.  He continues to make racist and disparaging remarks towards Native America.  This certainly isn’t the first time you’ve seen the latest story, and definitely this is not the first concern raised about it. Still, there is something very important to consider here.  First, the unfortunate situation:

On Monday, the President said:  

“If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!” – President of the United States, Donald Trump, January 13, 2019.

This article isn’t about a Republican or a Democrat issue. This article is about a Native issue.  Politics, whether dirty or clean don’t seem to play a part in the actions and comments being made here. Instead, what is happening is just plain racist. …and targeting Native Americans.

Worse is the timing, which cannot simply be coincidental. While still just days after its anniversary, the horrendous shadow of the Wounded Knee massacre remains cast over Native America as it passes mostly unnoticed by the rest of the Nation. The anniversary of the Wounded Knee incident in 1973 approaches in what can be measured now in days, and so there is more than a moment of shock to see and hear the comments of the President of the United States using Wounded Knee as the punchline for his extremely racist joke.

The Washington Post’s article actually does a great job explaining why this is so offensive to Native Americans (Trump invokes one of the worst Native American massacres to mock Elizabeth Warren). …and it is seen as being offensive by both Republicans and Democrats as well, which is why this has little to do with politics itself. It’s even happened before. One of the early times President Trump chose to evoke a racist expression was when he was honoring Native American veterans at the White House. You may remember at the time, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz), spoke out against President Trump’s remarks.  Today, other Republicans have as well.

According to The Hill’s article yesterday (GOP Senators rebuke Trump for using Wounded Knee as a punchline), Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) provided perhaps the strongest and most clear statement.  “The Wounded Knee Massacre was one of the darkest moments in our history. It should never be used as a punchline,” the Senator said.  Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) complained about Trump’s fetish for tweeting stating he wished the President would not tweet so much, and would stay away from the most sensitive part of his state’s history.

So there is a reality that needs to be faced when the President of the United States continually exhibits racist behavior towards Native Nations and Native communities – this President is not a friend of Native America.  This wasn’t simply a joke.  It is a behavior, and one that did not start with his Presidency.  This should not be any kind of surprise but perhaps not everyone is aware – Donald Trump has opposed Native Nations and Tribal Governments years before he took the oath of office… and some of that is on video (see below).

These racist tendencies are a flaw of his character.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) summed up the character flaws of this President in his Op Ed for the Washington Post earlier this very month (The President shapes the public character of the Nation.  Trump’s character falls short).  Speaking of President Trump “…his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.” Romney points out.  He goes on further to state, “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

Please keep in mind, it was really just a short time ago that Mitt Romney represented the entire GOP as a Presidential candidate.  Now, he warns the country about the current President’s lack of character.

The above mentioned Republican Senators have spoken out against President Trump’s racism as it has happened today but no one is speaking that this behavior targeting Native Americans existed many many years before he became President. With two years into his administration, this President has certainly not chosen these moments to change.  That brings us to the most important consideration.

Can Native America have trust in this type of President?

There is no defense for this kind of hatred and divisiveness, so the answer to our question is no.  Trust, as they say, must be earned.  This President has done nothing to earn Native Americans trust.  This is something we must remember.

This is why the Native voice matters.  This is why it doesn’t matter whether we are Republican, Democrat, Independent or third party – what matters is we are Native First, and that we have the Native vote – which is our Native voice.

For Native America Action, and the Native America Super PAC, we will not forget this President’s words and actions in regards to all of Native America.

If you feel like adding your voice to ours, please consider donating to the Native America Super PAC.

Native America Action attends the Oklahoma Governor’s Ball

Native America Action Directors Linda Sacks and LaRenda Morgan were in attendance at the Oklahoma Governor’s Ball in celebration of Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt. For Native America Action, this Oklahoma Governor term is a high priority, with Tribal Gaming Compacts coming up for renewal in 2020. As such, it was important to have Native representation at the gala.

Also at the Oklahoma Governor’s Ball were Tribal Government representatives and individual members from the Cheyenne & Arapaho Nation, the Osage Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, and the Cherokee Nation. In addition to Native America Action, the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma was also in attendance.

Picture above: Christy Red Eagle, AICCO Board Member; Linda Sacks, NAA Director; LaRenda Morgan, NAA Director – attending the Oklahoma Governor’s Ball

Native America Action’s focus for 2019 remains on the State of Oklahoma. Voter registration levels amongst Natives in Oklahoma continue to be lower than average, and by encouraging the Native vote, Native America Action hopes to help accomplish better registrations and larger Native votes especially in those areas of need for Native communities. Why Oklahoma? Oklahoma has the second largest population of Native Americans in the United States. Across the state, there are significant percentages of Native voters in numerous counties. In some counties, there are more Native Americans present than there are voters who participate in elections.

Native America Action is non-partisan and encourages Native voters to get involved and to especially vote for Native First issues, whether Republican, Democrat, Independent or other. That is why we are Stronger Together. Native America Action is an outreach organization affiliated with the Native America Super PAC.

While the Governor’s Ball was a great political networking activity, it was important to attend to establish the presence of Native America Action. Still, the focus of the event wasn’t the attendees, but the inauguration of the new Governor, Kevin Stitt. Governor Stitt is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. In celebrating the 2019 Inauguration of Governor Stitt, music was provided by Oklahoma’s own Toby Keith.

Below are other pictures of the gala.