Nov 142005
Authors: Caroline Welch

The stereotype is that Native Americans don't exist anymore, that they are just part of history and their issues aren't relevant today.

However, as part of Native American Awareness Month, students packed a Lory Student Center room Monday to learn about sovereignty, taxes and the current issues Native Americans face in an attempt to dispel this stereotype.

"Some people don't know that Native Americans still exist," said Seraphina Wall, programming coordinator for Native American Student Services. "We want to continue to educate people."

Ronald Hall , director of Tribal Technical Assistance Program for the College of Business, and social work and ethnic studies professor Roe Bubar explained some of the current laws affecting Native Americans.

"One thing we find is that law touches Native American lives more personally than the typical American," Hall said. "People are intimately involved in this."

These laws, Hall said, affect the way Native Americans get water, medicine and education.

"It touches every part of their daily existence," Hall said.

In two Cherokee cases decided in March, the court upheld that Indian self-determination arguments are "legally binding."

On a practical level, this decision means that if tribes can provide their own services, like police, education and health care, they can use government money for their own services instead of government services.

"Most people aren't aware that tribes are under-funded to the extent of a human rights crisis," Bubar said. "Criminals in jail have better health care. That is significant, and it should be troubling."

In a pending case, Richards v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, the court will rule on taxes charged at a casino and business enterprise. At a gas station, the tribe was charging a tribal tax in place of state tax.

"All indications are that, unless they do some real gymnastics, they will rule the tax invalid," Hall said.

In raising awareness, Wall , said law is an important issue that affects everyone.

"It's a huge issue," Wall said. "A lot of people will be affected by it. A lot of people think law is scary, but it's interesting to see how government is working with tribes."

Wall said that, even if students aren't going into politics or law, these issues are important to know.

"College students are going out in to the real world," Wall said. "There are benefits to knowing what is going on."

One student said she came for a class and learned a lot.

"What I really honed in on was that sovereign nations are supposed to be able to keep land no matter what," Amanda Igaki, senior international studies major said. "But in some cases they don't get to keep it because they don't act fast enough."



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