Native Business Executive Editor Carmen Davis (Makah/Chippewa-Cree/Yakama) reflects on what’s happening across Indian Country and why it matters in our weekly “From the Editor.”
Protection is ingrained in our ancestral DNA. We have always known and, through circumstance learned, how to defend what is sacred — our people and our land.
Particularly in modern times, we have all grown accustomed — as citizens or as leaders of Native Nations, and defenders of sovereignty and self-sufficiency through business and entrepreneurship — to a lifestyle that requires we protect what is rightfully ours. And, of course, much of what we fight for today is merely a fraction of what is inherently and originally and always ours.
What we are fighting for today is legal rights. Federal recognition of Tribal rights to our land, as well as our ownership of the spectrum broadband that invisibly crosses and permeates our lands.
Stand With Mashpee
For years, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has been whiplashed back and forth in a legal storm, ironically over whether or not the Tribe — whose ancestors welcomed the first settlers to Plymouth Rock in 1620 — merits a landbase at all.
While the Mashpee people, like the rest of the world, were protecting themselves against the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump Administration moved on March 27th to revoke the Tribe’s reservation status in Massachusetts. As Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell so beautifully articulated, “a Tribal land base is critical for the exercise of Tribal sovereignty, and for the protection and continuation of Tribal culture, and represents the foundation for Tribal economic development.”
On June 5th, a federal judge remanded the case to Interior to reexamine its previous decision that disestablished the Tribe’s 321 acres of trust lands granted by the Obama Administration.
Fortunately this week, legislators took action to protect Mashpee lands, and the House approved the bill, which would impose a one-year moratorium on the U.S. Department of Interior expending any money to take Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal land out of trust.
READ MORE: House Passes Bill to Protect Mashpee Lands
“This amendment will limit the Trump Administration’s constant efforts to undermine the Tribe’s rights,” said Congressman William R. Keating (D-Massachusetts), who co-introduced the bill with a Massachusetts congressional delegation, and with Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico).
Rights to Spectrum on Tribal Lands
Congresswoman Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, announced another historic bill this week, with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The DIGITAL Reservations bill would affirm Tribal Nations’ and Native Hawaiian organizations’ ownership of broadband spectrum over their lands to deploy wireless internet services.
It would honor Tribal sovereignty to spectrum rights for the first time in United States history, paving the way for Tribal lands to fulfill true self-governance and self-management of modern natural resources on their lands.
Spectrum licenses are geographical and often intersect the 56.2 million acres of Tribal land in the United States. Yet those licenses are generally sold or granted to non-Native corporations. It’s time the FCC recognizes the rights of Tribes to the spectrum, a modern-day natural resource, on and over our lands.
Also in alignment with sovereignty and self-sufficiency is entrepreneurship, a topic we at Native Business serve to elevate and advance.
Part and parcel to entrepreneurship is risk and failing onward and upward. Life and business will absolutely knock you down at some point in time on your journey.
Will you get back up? If you do, you’re resilient. That’s a trademark of an entrepreneur. It’s also proven to be a trademark of Indigenous people in general.
Hardship, and standing back up again, is something Christopher Ian Gladue, a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation, who spent his teens living on the streets of Alberta, Canada, knows intimately. Today he is the founder, President & CEO of Native Delights Inc., and Pânsâwân Traditional Dry Meat, employing some 30 to 40 people, and distributing his traditional-smoked, dried buffalo meat worldwide.
Gladue’s commitment and resolve inspire me, and I believe his grit reflects the innate power of all Native people.
As I like to say, growth is not comfortable… but it is so worth it.
Push yourself, expect better and you will eventually DO better.
And while we remain vigilant in protecting Tribal sovereignty, don’t forget to also fight like hell everyday for your self-sovereignty.