The forty-fifth president of the United States hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office, placed prominently behind the president’s desk. The President has named Jackson as a model executive he hopes to emulate.
The 45th President has been absolutely clear about several policy goals that, if fully implemented, will lead Indian tribes to a Jacksonian-style existential crisis for tribal interests. The President’s first relevant policy goal is to support the oil and gas, coal, and mineral extraction industries completely, and to remove any and all laws and regulations restricting those industries in any way. The President’s second relevant policy goal, certainly related to the first, is to shrink national government by drastically cutting federal budgets and federal duties, which most definitely means limiting or perhaps eliminating the federal-tribal trust relationship. The President’s third relevant policy goal is to eliminate and drastically reduce programs and policies supporting minority and low-income Americans.
The 45th President’s actions and methods in the first year of his presidency also have the potential to create existential threats to Indian tribes. While most high profile initiatives of the Administration have been failures, lower profile efforts have been more successful.
The following working list is inspired by Amy Suskind’s “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.”
Substantive Policy and Legal Moves and Statements
Fee to Trust
- Department of the Interior announces proposal to change fee to trust acquisitions regulations.
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announces policy restricting off-reservation fee to trust acquisitions. High Country News profile.
“Off-Ramping” the Trust Responsibility
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommends Indian tribes to consider abandoning the federal-tribal trust relationship, to think about an “off-ramp” and possibly privatize their reservation and trust lands.
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke suggests tribes corporatize and “leav[e] Indian trust lands”
- The American Indian Empowerment Act bill would authorize Indian tribes to convert federal trust lands to tribal restricted fee lands.
- The hearing memorandum notes that “the federal ‘trust responsibility’ has ill-served Native people. . . .”
- The Department of the Interior representative testified, “If a tribe is going to take on complete decision-making control of land and resources, we believe liability on behalf of the federal government should be nonexistent.”
- 45th President’s transition team openly discusses termination of Indian tribes through the privatization of Indian lands. Markwayne Mullin. Financial trade blog.
Muscogee Reservation Boundaries Litigation
- The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief arguing that the Muskogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation has been disestablished, ostensibly in support of the natural resource extraction industry.
- Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommends that the Bears Ears National Monument be shrunk. Tribal leaders’ response.
- The 45th Presidential Administration proposes to cut Indian affairs budget by more than $300M. More here.
- The budget proposal would disproportionately harm Indian children.
- The budget proposal would gut federal money needed to implement Indian treaty rights.
Energy Tribes vs. All Other Tribes
- The 45th Presidential Administration favors energy tribes over others.
- The 45th President and Secretary of Energy Secretary Rick Perry appear at forum to support tribal energy tribes.
- The President allegedly instructs leaders of energy tribes to “just do it,” to expand oil, gas, and coal exploration and development without regard to federal laws and regulations.
- Economic outlook for coal tribes not good.
- Tribes fought coal and mining interests in Wisconsin and prevailed.
Scope of IRA
- Various 45th Presidential Administration officials argue that the Indian Reorganization Act’s protections should only apply to tribes affected by 19th century allotment.
Dakota Access Pipeline
Obamacare repeal effort.
Office of Indian Energy appointee.
- The 45th President’s appointee to the Office of Indian Energy resigns after it is revealed he lied about trolling Obama online. WaPo commentary.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs appointee.
The 45th President’s appointee for Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs was investigated by Office of Inspector General and Human Rights Watch for improprieties at Lower Brule Sioux. OIG report. HRW report. WaPo.
Chomorro Land Trust
- The 45th Presidential Administration attacks the Chomorro Land Trust for Indigenous peoples in Guam.
Cultural and Political Statements
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke moves senior Interior Department staff around in shake up based on ideology.