Hands off reservation revenues

Intratribal revenue sharing for American Indians is not the answer.

by Phil Brodeen

The April 21 column âÄúSupreme Court folds on gamblingâÄù stated that the Supreme CourtâÄôs denial of a writ of certiorari in Wolfchild et al. v. United States added another sad chapter in the relationship between the government and American Indian tribes. The petitioners in Wolfchild originally made an honest claim against the federal government for past trust mismanagement. The moment that revenue sharing got involved, the suit changed. The current revenue-sharing program is a ploy used by one group of American Indians to capitalize on others. As a Native American who grew up on a Minnesota reservation, I think the denial of cert in this case is beneficial to Native Americans because of latent flaws in intratribal revenue sharing vis-à-vis Wolfchild. The column said, âÄúover the past 30 years, American Indians have been granted unprecedented sovereignty.âÄù The columnist then goes on to suggest ways he thinks tribal funds should be relegated: i.e., intratribal revenue distribution. This is exactly the paternalistic attitude that has plagued Native Americans since colonization. A key component of sovereignty is the ability to choose how revenues are spent. The proposed intratribal revenue model would hinder sovereignty by taking the ability to relegate revenues out of the hands of tribal governments and into the hands of non-Indian governments or courts. Ultimately, why should one tribal community benefit off the success of another? The honest claims presented in the original Wolfchild suit have been hindered by greed and have caused further infighting between Sioux communities. The Shakopee Mdewakanton SiouxâÄôs success is an inspiration to other communities, not a revenue source or money pot. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux have been extremely generous to Minnesota tribes, which can be seen in the numerous public buildings my tribe has been able to construct due to funding from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux. ItâÄôs insincere for a self-proclaimed âÄúuninterested passerbyâÄù to opine on a topic in which heâÄôs not properly educated. Phil Brodeen, University law student