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Resolution Adopted by the CCAR
Native Americans and Equal Opportunity
Adopted by the CCAR at the 90th Annual Convention of
In the years since the landing of the first white settlers on the shores of the North
American Continent, the Native Americans, who freely inhabited the land for thousands
of years, have been reduced to the status of a captive population occupying less
than three percent of the land.
the Central Conference of American Rabbis
Phoenix, Arizona, March 26-29, 1979
Native Americans generally share a basic respect for the land and all living things: all creatures possessing a spirit; all land shared by all members of the tribe.
European colonists, in their zeal to conquer territory and claim it for their mother countries, dispossessed the native peoples of their lands, and disrupted their traditional ways of life, Indians were regarded as primitive, inferior. savages.
Although the United States government's Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared that "The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians. Their lands and property shall never be taken away from them without their consent " actual government practice was forcibly to remove eastern tribes from their traditional lands to ''Indian Territory." west of the Mississippi.
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 provided for the forced removal of all the eastern tribes and succeeded in the dispossessing of most of the tribes of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, Ohio River and Great Lakes regions.
As American settlers pushed westward, the Indian tribes were relentlessly pursued, assaulted and forced to cede most of their lands by treaty. Wars, European diseases, malnutrition and the hopelessness of confinement to "reservations" reduced the Indian population from as many as four million in 1492 to two hundred and fifty thousand by 1890.
In return for ceding of land, Indians were guaranteed that the Federal Government would act as trustee for Indian interests, including the provision of services.
'"The Federal Trust responsibility emanates from the unique relationship between the United States and Indians in which the Federal Government undertook the obligation to insure the survival of Indian tribes. It has its genesis in international law, colonial and United States treaties, agreements, federal statutes and federal judicial decisions. It is a 'duty of protection' which arose because of the 'weakness and helplessness' of Indian tribes 'so largely due to the course of dealings of the federal government with them and the treaties in which it has been promised.' Its broad purpose is to protect and enhance the people, the property and the self-government of the tribes." (American Indian Policy Review Commission. Final Report, submitted to Congress May 17, 1977.)
Despite these promises, we note with anguish that Indian unemployment is triple the national average; that Indians suffer with the lowest individual and family incomes in our country; that one in three Indian families lives in poverty; that Indian health standards are substandard, housing inadequate and life expectancies almost seven years lower than non-lndians; that boarding schools are used in the educational process to the detriment of Indian culture and family structure; that Indian women have been routinely sterilized without informed consent.
Furthermore, trust relations with almost one hundred tribes have been unjustly terminated by the Federal Government during the 1950's. while one hundred and thirty tribes have never been recognized by the Federal Government, in callous disregard for obligations accepted by the United States Government in exchange for tribal lands.
We Resolve, therefore, that the CCAR opposes all legislation such as H.R. 9054 (95th Congress) "Native American Equal Opportunity Act." which would force assimilation of Native Americans. abrogate all treaties and take away their culture, close hospitals, schools and housing projects, end hunting and fishing rights, steal land and water rights, terminate reservations, and the sovereign relationship between Indian Nations and the Federal Government.
We oppose all attempts to divest the tribes of the remains of their once vast lands and resources to make them available for private or public exploitation.
Therefore, we call upon the President and the Congress of the United States to live up to the moral and ethical responsibility of the people of the United States to honor the promises of the treaties and agreements entered into with the native peoples of this country.
We call upon the President and Congress to develop a Cabinet level Department of Indian Affairs to administer functions now performed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Services and agencies within the departments of Justice and the Interior. Such a department would be dedicated to the principles of Indian self-determination and would recognize Indian tribes as sovereign political bodies, taking renewed steps to alleviate nutritional deficiencies and improve health and educational delivery systems. It would foster Indian economic development, self-sufficiency and cultural survival. Through an Office of Trust Rights Protection it would carry out the federal government's responsibility for protecting, enforcing and enhancing Indian trust rights and reducing the conflict of interests within the executive agencies.
We call upon our own Conference to join with responsible organizations and individuals to assist the Indian people in their struggle for justice in the face of renewed threats to their sovereignty, land, resources and culture.
We further call upon our representatives to the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and Union of American Hebrew Congregations to develop widespread awareness of the issues pertaining to Native Americans through development and dissemination of educational materials.