Activism

Trump Seeks To Dismantle Native American Tribal Authority By “Paper Genocide”

Funding corporate tax breaks are leveraged on the backs of the already bruised. From cuts in child healthcare benefits to Meals on Wheels being put at risk, the list goes on and on. And now it includes an effort to both strip away Native American’s rights to Medicaid by a measure that also threatens tribal autonomy.

Because tucked away in the fine print of that measure to cut Medicaid benefits for Native Americans is to lump together those various tribal nations by classifying them as a “race.”

And the potential damage of this effort is stunning far beyond what is on the surface of its callousness

Truth Out’s Courtney Parker explains the insidious nature of the administrations plan to undermine the tribal authority and strip away their benefits:

Native Americans have long existed in a legal and cultural limbo, surviving the devastating impacts of a trail of broken treaties by the US government with staunch determination to maintain their unique cultures and legal federally recognized tribal sovereignty.

In further defiance of the nearly 600 treaties that the US government signed with tribal nations, the Trump administration now appears to be on the move to bring an end to that centuries-old struggle, by committing a “paper genocide.”

Ms. Parker explains the nefarious use of “paper genocide” thusly:

The phrase “paper genocide” is used when a culture is wiped from mass consciousness and visible autonomy through tactics such as removing their ethnic designations from a national census — or in this case, having their sovereignty dismantled by the notion that Native America is a “race” and not a diverse sum of distinct cultures and subcultures of sovereign Nations, tribes, and Peoples.

And that is precisely the tactic Trump utilizes to take away basic human rights. Only in this instance, it targets the sovereignty of independent tribal authority. By taking away that authority it opens up Native Americans to be held to the standards of the individual healthcare mandate.

Native Americans lose their autonomy and are forced to comply with the federal government’s health care mandates by being lumped together as a “race”

And it doesn’t stop there.

Trump’s efforts specifically seek to undermine critical resources that benefit the most vulnerable Native American populations. So a program like the Community Health Representative — a branch of the Indian Health Service is jeopardized.

By forcing work mandates on benefits the Trump administration ignores the realities of life on tribal lands where jobs can be scarce. The loss of benefits could easily result in the loss of life.

So Who is fighting back?

When Politico first broke this story back in April they reported:

The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” said Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?

The lack of ambiguity in Mary Smith’s statement is compelling. Truth Out provides a ray of hope:

Senator Tom Udall — a Democrat representative of New Mexico — is currently leading a pushback against these efforts in Congress; and, a group of Senators (including a Republican — Lisa Murkowski — from Alaska) signed a recent letter to the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar. Their collectively endorsed statement issues an accusation that the Trump administration has failed, “…to recognize the unique legal status of Indian tribes and their members under federal law, the US Constitution, treaties, and the federal trust relationship.”

There is little doubt on which side righteousness lies in this fight.

Featured Image: Pixabay, CC —AdinaVoicu

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