by Elaine Devary Willman and Kamie Christensen Biehl
Book Review by Michael R. Fox, Ph.D.
August 15, 2007
Going to Pieces: The Dismantling of the United States of America is a frightening book which details the large and growing menace of the Native American problems in the US, which at this point is unknown to most Americans. We must first recognize that Ms. Willman is herself a Native American, a Cherokee descendant. She lives in Eastern Washington in a small town surrounded by the Yakama Indian Reservation.
The book is organized almost as a diary of her 6000 mile trek across the US crossing 17 Indian reservations in 16 States. Willman visited many of these tribal members and reservations, as well as with members of the surrounding communities impacted by tribal activities. Her partner on the trip was an excellent videographer, Kamie Christiansen Biehl, who is herself of Piute descent. We all should be grateful for this massive investigative effort and the warning that this book provides.
Trouble for the United States is definitely coming. It originates within the 562 existing tribal governments that now control massive regions of land in the US and impact the lives of nearly 200 million Americans. If Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye have their way, most, if not all of the state of Hawaii will succumb to some version of tribal governance. The people of Hawaii, and the rest of the US for that matter, don’t recognize the implications and the threats of this form of governance. When given the chance more than 80 percent of Native Americans choose not to live on the reservations. The remaining 20 percent who remain on the reservations actually do so primarily for just two purposes; to maintain head count for federal subsidies, and second, to help the tribes qualify for casinos, Sadly, not much more.
Willman points out the large subsidies already made to the tribes. The American public with their taxes and policies have been very benevolent to Native Americans including:
- Providing their own tribal governments
- Separate Indian health services
- Separate Indian Educational Programs
- Separate Indian Housing Programs
- Separate gambling monopolies
- Separate “sacred” grave Protection Resources
- Separate tax benefits and tax exemptions
Willman also discusses more trouble that is coming. Our Congress and federal agencies, still enamored with these divisive and totalitarian policies, are now considering abdicating existing wildlife refuges and national parks to a very small segment of our society. Why would the US Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) consider hijacking major national parks, wildlife refuges and public resources already enjoyed by millions of Americans? Why would the US government limit public access and employment by way of an executed Annual Funding Agreement (AFA) with a single private, tribal government that strictly enforces the racist policy of Indian-preference hiring? This is not simply talk.
The precedent has already been established in Montana, where the USFWS handed over to the Salish and Kootenai tribes half of the budget and half of the staff positions at the National Bison Range (NBR). As of March 15, 2005 only 3 of the staff jobs had been filled. Yet our government continues to pay the salaries of all ten, while allowing the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) to keep all of the money for themselves. The volunteers at the NBR are leaving since they are not protected under federal tort laws. The US Civil servants employed at the NBR are leaving rather than be employed by the CSKT.
The reason for this evacuation of the reservations is that when treated as members of another nation, as all tribal governments are, the members do not have all of the Constitutional rights of non-Indian Americans. Technically they are American citizens, but when enrolled as Native Americans on the reservations, they lose many constitutional rights. The reservations are run by the tribal councils and not by the more familiar democratic processes off the reservations.
The tribes have their own law enforcement and their own legal processes and judicial processes that reflect more of the will of the council leaders than the laws of the US. History shows that tribal governments on the mainland are much like little totalitarian states within our nation. Many tribal councils also have contempt for the US, going back to the Revolutionary War when several eastern tribes fought with the British. They do not pay taxes, and the huge untaxed revenues from casinos are not passed down to the rank and file tribal members. Since they don’t pay taxes, all businesses on the reservations are able to undercut those local businesses who do. They suck the economic life out of surrounding communities forcing many to close and leave.
Willman states “Indian gambling revenue, endless federal appropriations and subsidies, and gullible, naive, or otherwise misled philanthropic non-profits throw tons of money at the “poor Indians” because some of your ancestor stole their land. The problem is that the tons of federal, gambling and nonprofit dollars seldom reach a single tribal member’s family to actually improve quality of life.” Where does it go? It is redirected into land grabs of huge proportions, corrupt gambling operators, tribal leaders, and political lobbying.
The casino revenues are staggering and the basis of major problems now and in the future. In 2003 the tribes collected more than $18.5 billion dollars in revenues, nearly all of which is tax exempt. Most of this does not go toward building infrastructure or even many Native Americans. Most of it goes to the tribal leaders and their new friends. This attracts a lot of attention, not all of which is savory. Tribal leaders, gambling developers, and the legal and partisan political industry are the fat cats feasting on these billion dollar goodies. Little of this is supportive or consistent with a nation founded on the rights of individuals. In fact it’s totalitarian in many aspects.
Hawaiians need to pay close attention to the major problems with Indian tribal governments now taking place on the mainland. These adversely affect the Native Americans themselves as well as the non-Native Americans, which explains why 80 percent of them have moved off the reservations.
The entire Chapter 18 is devoted to the Hawaiian scene as related to the so-called Akaka Bill (Senate Bill 147). This bill, which would establish a similar government in the Hawaiian Islands, has many of the features that are currently creating havoc in tribal conflicts on the mainland. If this were to happen most, if not all of the State of Hawaii will also succumb.
Senator Daniel Akaka is not alone, of course, in promoting such a tragedy. Senator Daniel Inouye was one of only nine senators to vote against the Homeland Security Act (HSA) in February, 2003. At the winter Conference of the National Congress of Native American Indians (NCAI) Senator Inouye urged tribal leaders to capitalize on the war on terrorism in order to press their claims for tribal sovereignty”.
The Senate Bill 147 would have balkanized the United States by creating literally hundreds of separate, sovereign, “Tribal Homelands”, apart and separate from America’s national homeland. With the change of political power now in Congress the likelihood of the Akaka bill passing in the next 2 years is frighteningly possible. Willman’s Chapter 18 is devoted to the Hawaiian separatist movement, which is very strong in the islands, to the related Akaka Bill, and its implications for the future of Hawaii, and the Hawaiian and the non-Hawaiian populations there.
One of the leaders of the Hawaiian separatist movement is Haunani-Kay Trask, a professor at the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. An extraordinary article by Ryan O’Donnell in the June 25, 2003 Frontpagemag.com was illuminating about Professor Trask. It includes this quote by Professor Trask: “We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America and everyone who supports it.” As Willman found there is a lot of such hatred for the US in this movement, even though they are American citizens.
This book is sadly out of print, but is still easily available used. Find a copy and buy it soon to help you and your nation end this menace in our midst.
Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., a science and energy reporter for Hawaii Reporter and a science analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and now lives in Eastern Washington. He has nearly 40 years experience in the energy field. He has also taught chemistry and energy at the University level.