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At the recent Washington State Republican Party convention it was “resolved that the executive and legislative branches of the federal government immediately take whatever steps necessary to terminate all such non-republican forms of government on Indian reservations, and compensate those citizens who have wrongly suffered loss due to denial of their constitutionally guaranteed rights to be governed by a republican form of government.”

This resolution was introduced to the platform committee by Skagit County Delegate, John Fleming, a non-native resident of the Swinomish Reservation. He was apparently upset because non-Indian reservation residents can't vote in tribal elections. According to Kelly Hinton, Executive Director of the WSRP, Fleming took just three minutes to present his resolution, which was one of 29 being considered in a 90-minute session. It was one of only seven given a “do pass” recommendation by the committee and then adopted by the convention in a rushed end-of-the-day motion to allow all the resolutions that had been given a do pass recommendation. It is a sad commentary on the republican process, the lack of which they were so quick to criticize on the reservations, when one determined individual could ram through such a hurtful resolution.

When the media got hold of the story, they were outraged and went for the provocative headlines. Inflammatory comments by Fleming added fuel to the fire, and, as Hinton said, “the story grew legs and took on a life of its own.” Paying the price for their incredible insensitivity and ineptitude, the State Republican Party quickly came up with a new official resolution which states that “the WSRP is extremely disappointed in the lack of accuracy on the part of the media, … truly regret any anxiety…caused by this resolution and …recognize and reaffirm our continuing and ongoing support for Native American sovereignty as well as their ability and right to self-govern as determined by legal treaties signed with the United States of America.”

The sad fact is that this apology and ‘clarification’ would surely not have been forthcoming without the same media “misrepresentation” they decried. The good news is that the apology was published and the resolution was, in any event, not adopted by the national convention.

One would hope that there is nothing more sinister behind the original resolution. We, unfortunately have a sad history of greed when it comes to Native American sovereignty, and the tribal lands in Washington happen to abut on the cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, which are bursting at the seams and hungry for land. We are our brothers’ keeper, so let us all continue to watch for injustice in the making, shine the light of awareness and act with honor.