Dear President-Elect Trump & Transition Team: Rethink Zinke

As President of the Mission Valley Republican Women’s Club (MVRWC, Ronan, Montana), I write on behalf of our organization regarding conflicting concerns about the appointment of Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke as Secretary of Interior.

As strong Republicans, we surely want to support this appointment. However, as described in the information we offer below, and the article linked here, we must express serious apprehension regarding Congressman Zinke’s support of Indian tribes and his definition of tribal sovereignty, often placing alleged “tribal sovereignty” as superior to the federal, state and citizen sovereignty defined in the U.S. Constitution.

Congressman Zinke was elected to serve 100% of Montana’s population; however, his decisions strongly favor less than 5% of Montana residents, and expand tribal jurisdiction over non-tribal Montana citizens’ protections, property and civil rights. This has created significant job-loss, economic harm to local counties, towns, and school districts that host Indian reservations, and serious confiscation of state waters and natural resources for the direct benefit to Indian tribes, and direct loss to the State of Montana, its farmers, cattlemen, business and industry.

Mr. President-Elect, there are 577 federally recognized tribes, with 400 listed tribes also waiting for future federal recognition (GAO Report 2014). The American taxpayer has been subsidizing tribal governments for over a century. We wonder about the following:

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  1. How long must the American taxpayer, as indentured servants to the Indian policies of Washington, D.C., annually subsidize governments that are rapidly removing property rights and protections of taxpayers across the country?
  2. How do we put “America First” with the escalating presence of 567 “First Nations?”
  3. The generous heart of Americans, and deep respect for American Indian history and culture, has created a never-audited annual burden (among 29 federal agency budgets) upon Americans that likely rivals the annual Defense Budget. Promoted guilt for historical decisions of the past must not penalize Americans in perpetuity. Annual operating budgets of tribes range from the 7-to-10 digit figures that dramatically and financially overwhelm co-located counties and towns across the country.
  4. All Native Americans alive today are full U.S. citizens, fully assimilated, inclusive of the use of America’s modern technologies such as cell phones, vehicles, television, internet, gaming machines, etc. With enrollment in a tribe, however, these tribal members lose their civil rights, Bill of Rights and parental rights. Despite enormous federal funding and gaming dollars, the quality of life among tribal members on reservations continues to show minimum improvements, even over decades of wealthy tribal operating budgets.
  5. No other culture or ethnicity requires perpetual federal funding to preserve its heritage. The Amish follow all American law and preserve their culture because they choose to. American citizens of all persuasions preserve their cultural customs and traditions out of respect and desire. They ask no federal funds to keep their cultures thriving in the future.

Nothing within the four corners of the U.S. Constitution includes tribal governance, tribal sovereignty or any aspect of federal Indian policy. Congress has power over Indian commerce, not Indian tribes. Justice Clarence Thomas put a powerful challenge out to his colleagues on the Bench, and to Congress. Here are his clear words:

“Congress purported [alleged] Plenary Power [all-encompassing] over Indian tribes rest on even shakier foundations. No enumerated power—not Congress’ power to “regulate Commerce. . . with Indian Tribes,” not the Senate’s role in approving treaties, nor anything else—gives Congress such sweeping authority…And, until the Court rejects the fiction that Congress possesses plenary power over Indian affairs, our precedents will continue to be based on the paternalistic theory that Congress must assume all-encompassing control over the “remnants of a race” for its own good. [Emphasis added]

— Justice Clarence Thomas, U.S. v. Bryant, No. 15-420, U.S. Supreme Court, 06-13-2016

Terms like—aboriginal rights and time immemorial—are political propaganda. Anything pre-constitutional or extra-constitutional is unconstitutional…or we have no Constitution. The Constitutional priority tree of sovereignty goes like this:

  1. Citizen (Popular Sovereignty, Inalienable rights).
  2. State sovereignty (remember the States created the federal government).
  3. Federal sovereignty (enumerated (limited) powers).

Why is the Constitution turned on its head, and why are federal, state and local elected officials, including Congressman Zinke, so persuaded that tribal sovereignty is now superior to all other sovereignty in this country? Follow the money and follow political correctness. No elected official wants to be called “racist.” No elected official wants to be taken out of office by a tribally funded challenger.

Across the Western States our federal senators, state legislators, county commissioners—too many behave as though their primary allegiance is to tribal governments. The federal “trust” relationship with Indian tribes created by the Supreme Court (1823-1830) may never supplant the trust relationship that every elected official takes to the U.S. Constitution, including specifically the first eleven Amendments forged to protect every American citizen.

As stated at the beginning of this letter, we surely want to support Congressman Zinke, but as he continues to expand tribal authorities over state natural resources, lands, waters, private property, the economic losses to States is an additional burden shifted to the taxpayers. Tribal governments receive a triple-tax advantage: 1) annual tax-funded subsidies; 2) tax-exempt lands; and 3) tax-exempt gaming and tribal businesses. As this serious advantage annually erodes state jurisdiction and economies, the citizens of the States must replace the losses. There is nothing fair or just within this burgeoning erosion of state economies, based merely on the marketing of historical guilt, and the insatiable demands of an entire “Indian industry” financially funding America’s elected officials, and leaning hard on the American taxpayer.

Thank you for listening to our concerns.

Wendy L. Davis, President
Mission Valley Republican Women’s Club
Ronan, Montana

Phone: 509-949-8057

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