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Anti-Indian groups put Indian in leadership positions

Posted on Friday - Feb 15, 2002
by: Montana Human Rights Network News

Roland Morris, a resident of the Flathead Indian Reservation and a member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, is on the leadership fast track in the anti-Indian movement. In June he was elected to the board of a national group called the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA). In August he became chairman of All Citizens Equal (ACE) a Ronan-based group.

Anti-Indian activists strongly deny that they or their groups are racist in any way. They portray themselves as citizens who are concerned about legal and political issues which surround tribal sovereignty. Human rights advocates point out that the organized attempt to abrogate the legally established right of tribes to govern the affairs of their members and their resources is inherently racist.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric of these opposing arguments is not the whole story. If it were, the focus of debate would be on tribal government and tribal members. More often racism enters the debate around tribal sovereignty as the focus changes from tribal government to Indian vs. non-Indian. In that environment, overt racism often enters the discussion. In a study published in 1992, the World Center For Indigenous Studies found recurrent and troubling connections between the anti-Indian groups and white supremacist organizations.

In Montana the most vocal anti-Indian groups have been ACE and its precursor Montanans Opposed to Discrimination headquartered on the Flathead Indian Reservation. These groups have opposed tribal government at virtually every turn. From tribal hunting permits to the management of the National Bison Range, ACE has yet to see a tribal effort of which it approved. ACE activists and board members have associated themselves with hard core racist groups in the past. For example, a former vice president of ACE distributed anti-Semitic literature in the community. In addition, a group formed by racist activists Frank Ellena and Keith Roberts, called the Freedom Fellowship Forum, claimed several ACE activists as supporters.

The Wise Use Connection

The anti-Indian movement is also an integral part of the Wise Use movement, a compendium of groups that focus on natural resource development and property rights issues from an anti-environmental perspective. Indian tribes control numerous natural resources ranging from timber to minerals. In addition, the legal concept of tribal sovereignty puts tribal governments squarely in the middle of the debate about the property rights of individuals living within the borders of reservations (see related article).

CERA is the most visible and politically active anti-Indian group at the national level. Its June meeting in Washington, D.C., was held in conjunction with the "Fly-In for Freedom" sponsored by the Alliance for America. According to Outside Magazine, the Alliance is "[a] coalition of 600 Wise Use and property rights groups claiming to represent eight million people in the East and West."

CERA's connection to the Alliance is not surprising. In 1995 the Alliance held a meeting in Ronan with speakers including Montana Republican House Speaker John Mercer and unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate Allan Mikkelson. The national president of the group at the time was Montana's own Bruce Vincent, founder of Citizens for a Great Northwest.

So Much Denial

Despite the gains of the far right in recent years, racism remains politically unpopular. Although current political issues like immigration reform and affirmative action seek to play the "race card" in a way that builds a stronger political base for "conservatives," radical right wing groups like the Liberty Lobby still deny that they are racist or anti-Semitic in any way. ACE is no different.

ACE materials often include non-discrimination statements and disclaimers. ACE's bylaws proclaim that it does not tolerate racism in any form. Newsletters and other publications are full of the terminology of civil rights. On its web page ACE says it "is dedicated to the civil rights and equal protection" under the Constitution. It goes on to proclaim, "Persons of Native heritage should not be subject to law based on racial heritage." Ads in the local paper announce that ACE is now a "multiracial group."

But despite all of these efforts, ACE remains widely regarded as a fundamentally anti-Indian organization. As an example, the Great Falls Tribune coverage of Morris' election as the chairman of ACE was given a headline which read, "ACE hopes to overcome racist, anti-Indian image on Flathead."

The fact that Roland Morris is Native American does little to demonstrate that ACE is not an anti-Indian group. The Christian Right will find a "rabbi" to make its case, the militia will find a black "patriot," and now, the anti-Indian movement has found its Indian spokesperson. The issue is the behavior of the group, the positions it takes, and how it deals with racist attitudes within its own membership. . . not the ethnic heritage of its leader.

You can help stop the hatred by contacting the key US officials to initiate an immediate investigation into anti-Indian hate groups. Please contact the following people and ask them to investigate the UCE and CERA. And be sure to tell them that Maisie, Diane, Joanne and Doug don't speak for you!

The following is a list of important contacts, including newspapers and on-line agencies who would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Letters to the Editors to:

Albany Times Union News Plaza
Box 15000
Albany, NY 12212
The Buffalo News
One News Plaza
Buffalo, NY 14240
Indian Time Mohawk Nation Territory
PO Box 868
Hogansburg, NY 13655 Please include full name, address, and a phone number so that we may contact you. Editorials, press releases, and other information may be faxed to (202) 234.7869 or (402) 878.8771 Please include a cover sheet.
Native America Calling
PO Box 40164
Albuquerque, NM 87196 (505) 277-5102
News from Indian Country
7831 N. Grindstone Ave.
Hayward, WI 54843
New York Post
210 South Street
New York, NY 10002-7889
New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 20046-3959
Oneida Daily Dispatch
130 Broad Street
Oneida, NY 13421
Observer Dispatch
221 Oriskany Plaza
Utica, NY 13501
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
55 Exchange Boulevard
Rochester, NY 14614-2075
Syracuse Post Standard
PO Box 4818
Syracuse, NY 13221-4818