Remember how surprised we all were to learn about ALEC? Well, the leading anti-Indian group in this country flies even further under the radar than ALEC did. A Google search for it turns up some of Aji's Native American News diaries; search under Google news, and nothing. Search the Southern Poverty Law center site, nothing. Search the New York Times back to 1851, nothing found. Let me introduce you to the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance and the Citizens Equal Rights Foundation, or CERA/CERF. Most recently, they filed a brief in the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl case on the side of the plaintiffs.
Before we delve into a very confusing (and I think intentionally so) website let's see what writers who are opposed to its aims have to say. Here's Chuck Tanner, about whom I could find nothing, writing for the Institute For Research and Education on Human Rights on a meeting CERA/CERF held in Bellingham, Washington in April 2013:
Speakers echoed a recurring strategic theme: anti-Indian activists should mine federal laws and court cases for anti-tribal language that can be used to seek termination in the courts and “educate” local and state officials. CERA’s “legal theory,” in the end, combines anti-tribal ideas drawn from federal Indian law and false claims that tribes have no political sovereignty or treaty rights.Further, on the amicus brief for Adoptive Couple v Baby Girl,
The second case involves the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 law intended to address the alarming number of Indian children removed from tribal homes by private and public agencies. This law allows tribes to intervene in adoption proceedings on behalf of Native children and prioritizes tribal adoptions. For CERA’s lead attorney, Lana Marcussen, the ICWA is “one of the most horrific laws regarding Indians on the book.”IREHR continues:
In sum, CERA and CERF have joined a legal campaign intended to undermine Congressional acts that recognize the political character of tribes and strip federal power to address racial inequality through affirmative action. This is “civil rights” in CERA-speak.It's a LONG article detailing ALL of CERA's sins, and it ends with a call for CERA/CERF to keep its brand of racism out of Washington State and out of the country.
Even more recently, we have Tanner writing for lastrealindians.com in May. Bellingham was one of the stops on a five-state tour. As Tanner writes:
The organized anti-Indian movement is the hard edge of modern U.S. settler colonialism – a throwback to periods when whites illegally moved into Indian Country, then sought military support for “manifest destiny” and the theft of tribal lands and resources. Today, anti-Indian groups wave a banner of “equal rights” and seek to impose state and local jurisdiction on tribal communities – ultimately hoping to erase treaty rights and tribal sovereignty from the landscape.
So to the CERA/CERF website. This is one of those cases where the website has SO much on it that it's difficult to figure out what's important and what isn't. It's also very very duplicitious. Right at the top of the front page it says:
CERF/CERA does not tolerate racial prejudice of any kind. We don't knowingly associate with anyone who discriminates against people based on race. CERF/CERA supports and defends the constitutional rights of Indians and non-Indians. Our mission is to change federal Indian policies that restrict or threaten the individual rights of Indians and non-Indians living on or near Indian reservations.They really want to complete the process of termination that Richard Nixon stopped. Want proof? Here's the next paragraph:
Our position is critical of discriminatory federal policies and laws that deny Indian reservation residents their Constitutional rights. It is our intent to raise awareness and debate over these federal policies, regulations and the poorly understood body of "Indian Law". Our criticism of these federal policies and laws should not be construed as prejudice against Indian people or culture.And who exactly do you think those Indian reservation residents are? The Indians? Of course not. The white people who live on reservations. No, not prejudiced at all, just dismissive. That's the crux of their argument against sovereignty; as Aji noted in her review of this diary:
what they really mean is not "Indians" at all but "white people who aren't getting their fair share of rez pie.
How do they try to justify this? Obfuscation. They have a whole list of quotations about being American from people like Benjamin Rush and our current president, but you know what's up if you read my diary on the second wave of immigration. With no irony:
“You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American.” -- Woodrow Wilson; speech, May 10, 1915 ; Philadelphia , PennsylvaniaThey also quote Clarence Thomas on how sloppy Indian policy is. They juxtapose Mark Racicot with Justice Harlan's dissent in Plessy. You know, throw out a whole load of facts and links to articles so you'll think they're reasonable but they aren't. Their page on sovereignty has a ton of links too, after it tries to define it in the most neutral terms possible, when what they REALLY mean is that Indian sovereignty shuts tham out of stuff and they don't like it. Major issues? Another link farm. But let's follow one of the links under "Federal Indian Policy." It's Cal Thomas, writing on multiculturalism for townhall.org. What that has to do with Federal Indian policy escapes me. This is actually unusual, because most of the site's articles are written by the same six or seven people.
They reveal themselves when they list local groups, of course with this disclaimer:
This section provides information about state organizations, issues, contacts and web links pertaining to state and national efforts to change current federal Indian policy. If you would like to see your group included in our listing, fill out the form below. Caution: Unless specifically stated, the posting of this information is not an endorsement by CERF or CERA.Well, of course not. Seven groups in California, each devoted to limiting the growth and curtailing the operation of Indian casinos. Like these concerned citizens in the Santa Ynez Valley whose mission statement is
What we have in common is a belief that because we all share the beautiful land of the Santa Ynez Valley, we should all play by the same rules. What we don't support is the fully self-sufficient tribe's [the Santa Ynez band of Mission Indians] continued manipulation of the federal fee-to-trust process to annex land and remove it from local and state tax rolls. Furthermore, we oppose private, non-tribal developers teaming up with tribes to circumvent long-established land use and environmental laws.This is typical. All the same rules because our white privilege says we shouldn't be shut out of anything. EVER. Against casino advancement in Connecticut. Against any sort of reparations for Native Hawaiians. The group in Idaho explains that it isn't anti-Indian, but
This is a jurisdictional dispute between governments. Our purpose is not to eliminate the tribal government, tribal culture or heritage, but to insure that area residents are not subject to the jurisdiction, regulation or control of this tribal government in which representation, due process of law and civil rights are nonexistent or extremely limited.Yeah, right. South Dakota? Dakotans for Equal Rights, because four counties in North and South Dakota are completely within the Standing Rock reservation and
The Federal government's delegation of regulatory authority to Indian tribes without accountability to all citizens is unconstitutional. The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed granting of regulatory primacy over all lands within the reservations outer boundaries to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, would have resulted in private lands being subjected to tribal regulations and enforcement.Again, sure. There's that "where's my share of the rez pie" thing again. And about private property. Let's remember that it was instituted in this country to get people to move to disease-ridden Virginia in 1618. Another page details the horror of tribes like the Utes (how dare they!) hiring lobbyists.
Seriously, under the radar. SCOTUSblog doesn't even have a copy of the CERA amicus brief linked. What they DO have is the brief filed by the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare, to which CERA/CERF's website has a link which is broken. In the preface, their brief said
Alliance . . . believes that an Indian child's best interests are not inherently served through a forced political relationship with the child's tribe and forced familial relationships with members of the tribe.For the rest of the brief, they just keep repeating and repeating this in one form or another, and side with a dissenting judge in the South Carolina Supreme Court who concluded Baby Girl should stay with her adoptive parents. Accordingly,
ICWA [the Indian Child Welfare Act] does not apply when an Indian child is not being removed from an Indian cultural setting<, the biological parents have no substantive ties to a tribe, and neither biological parent resided or plans to reside within a reservation.So back to the website for CERA's position on the ICWA. A letter to Congress. Undated, of course. Worth looking at:
Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) supports attempts to revise the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Federal Indian Policy often gives power to tribal governments at the expense of personal rights. It's difficult to find a more poignant example of the bankruptcy of this policy than the inappropriately named Indian Child Welfare Act. This Act allows the interests of tribal governments to completely preempt any consideration of the needs of the children or wishes of the parents. Three-quarters of those classifying themselves as Indians have chosen to live off reservations. Many children can be enrolled in tribes with only a very small amount of Indian blood. If these children are in court, the ICWA allows the demands of tribal governments to usurp any other consideration for their welfare.Reservations are bad. Most Indians don't live on them, so how do we address an act that prioritizes the Indian cultural setting? We say end the reservations and get rid of the law. Chutzpah, anyone?
I'll leave you with this, which leaves little doubt about their real political stance, from Chuck Tanner:
CERA has also built ties with local radio personalities at the Bellingham-based KGMI radio station. KGMI’s conservative format features Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. KGMI talk show hosts Kris Halterman and Dick Donahue both attended the conference. Elaine Willman hailed Halterman as “one of the most courageous media outlets I’ve come across,” while Donahue stood to the applause of attendees. Halterman provides the most visible CERA/CERF link to Tea Party activism. Halterman sports her own page on the Tea Party Nation website and appears in a directory of “People Following Whatcom County” on the FreedomConnector of the Tea Party faction Freedom Works. Halterman has also been affiliated with the Bellingham Tea Party. While the local Tea Party promoted the [CERA] event [in Bellingham] on a Facebook page, the group was not specially recognized or thanked from the podium by event leaders or speakers.Tea Party activists may well be fellow travelers, but CERA/CERF organizers drove this event.The saying is that politics makes strange bedfellows, but there's nothing strange about an alliance of groups that support bigotry, is there. Let's keep shining a light on this organization. Big h/t (and a hug) to Aji for helping me make this diary better.