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sheilas-letters
Protect democracy and Lummi tribal traditions

Published in the Bellingham Herald of 22 September, 2000

Lummi tribal sovereignty (Bellingham Herald, July 5) has become an election issue. The Supreme Court has ruled that "Indian tribes are domesstic dependent nations, which exercise inherent sovereign authority over their members and territories." It is the tribal authority to tax and regulate nonmembers (including Indians of other tribes) that is in dispute.

The Constitution does not apply to tribal authority and only Congress can change an Indian treaty. The 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act imposed most of the requirements of the Bill of Rights on tribal governments. These rights apply to Indians and non-Indians.

The Lummi Tribal Council is allowed to exercise its authority, including taxation, over all residents within its borders. Members of the Lummi tribe are allowed to vote, while non-members are not.

The intent of Congress and the courts is the preservation of the Lummi culture and heritage. If nonmembers were allowed to vote in tribal elections then this objective would be seriously undermined. However, allowing non-members to vote in matters that do not involve tribal culture or heritage would not threaten congressional intent.

The right to vote is the most basic civil right in a democracy because it is the primary means by which all other rights can be safeguarded (the rights of Indians and tribes).

Congress chould change the denial of voting rights to nonmembersm, who are legal residents of a reservation, in such a manner as to ensure the preservation of the Lummi culture and heritage.

Sheila L Richardson

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