American Indian section of the Report of the Comm. on Security & Cooperation in Europe, "Fulfilling Our Promises: The U.S. and the Helsinki Final Act"
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                        AMERICAN INDIANS (21) 

          American Indians have much in common with other U.S. 
     minority groups. However, it would be extremely misleading 
     to view the rights of American Indians solely in terms of 
     their status as a racially distinct minority group, while 
     neglecting their tribal rights. The Indian tribes are 
     sovereign, domestic dependent nations that have entered into 
     a trust relationship with the U.S. Government. Their unique 
     status as distinct political entities within the U.S. 
     federal system is acknowledged by the U.S. Government in 
     treaties, statutes, court decisions and executive orders, 
     and recognized in the U.S. Constitution. This nationhood 
     status and trust relationship has led American Indian tribes 
     and organizations, and the U.S. Government to conclude that 
     Indian rights issues fall under both Principle VII of the 
     Helsinki Final Act, where the rights of national minorities 
     are addressed, and under Principle VIII, which addresses 
     equal rights and the self-determination of peoples. 

     21. Unless otherwise indicated, background information in 
         this section has been provided by the Office of the 
         Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs of the U.S. 
         Department of the Interior.                        

          The U.S. commitment to Indian self-determination is 
     articulated in the Indian Self-Determination and Education 
     Assistance Act that became public law in early 1975. The 
     policy of the U.S. Government, articulated in this law, is 
     designed to put Indians, in the exercise of self-government, 
     into a decision-making position with respect to their own 
     lives. The United States has recognized that it has not 
     always lived up to its obligations in its protection of the 
     rights of Native Americans to a continuing political 
     existence, to land and natural resources and to cultural 
     distinctness. The U.S. Government, however, is improving its 
     performance ant attempting to close the gap between policy 
     and practice. 

          At the CSCE hearings in April of 1979 on U.S. domestic 
     compliance with the Helsinki accords, criticism was directed 
     toward U.S. treatment of Indians -- both as citizens of 
     Indian nations and tribes, and as individual minority group 
     members. Other criticisms have been brought to the 
     Commission's attention by the U.S. Commission on Civil 
     Rights, which has solicited opinions from such sources as 
     tribal organizations and Indian interest law firms. In 
     addition, the Commission has noted criticism from other 
     signatory states. The allegations and criticisms concerning 
     Indian rights cover a broad spectrum: administrative and 
     institutional conflict of interest; coordination and funding 
     problems at the federal level; insufficient opportunity for 
     effective Indian involvement in the federal decision-making 
     process; inadequate protection of tribal rights by the 
     Federal Government; discrimination against Indians as a 
     minority; the poor socio-economic profile of Indians; 
     purported sterilization of Indian women against their 
     wishes; Indian prisoners of conscience and accusations of 
     police misconduct; forcible assimilation of Indians into 
     white society and removal of Indian children from their home 
     or tribal environment; and insensitivity to Indian cultural 
     needs. The remainder of this section of the report addresses 
     these criticisms and will attempt to assess Indian rights 
     within the context of the Helsinki Final Act. 


          The Federal Government's trust responsibilities and 
     special relationship extends to Indian nations, tribes and 
     individuals. The major federal departments with programs 
     relating to Indians are Interior; Health, Education and 
     Welfare; Agriculture; Housing and Urban Development; and 
     Commerce. The Departments of Labor, Transportation, 
     Treasury, State and Defense also have programs important to 
     Indians. The Department of Justice handles most of the legal 
     problems affecting Indian rights. Other agencies such as the 
     U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment 
     Opportunity Commission have functions of consequence to 

          The Interior Department is the agency which has the 
     greatest impact on Indian affairs. Interior is explicitly 
     charged with the task of protecting Indian lands and 
     resources and has specific statutory responsibility for 
     ensuring the continued well-being of Indian tribes and 
     people. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the main 
     agency within the Interior Department that deals with Indian 

          The dual role of the BIA as an advocate of Indian 
     interests and principle agent of the trustee (the United 
     States) has given rise to a large measure of Indian 
     mistrust. The BIA has been accused of paternalism and 
     mismanagement in the past. The present BIA administration 
     has acknowledged past problems and has taken steps to 
     resolve them, recognizing that it has often implemented 
     negative policies too vigorously, while positive policies 
     have been carried out less vigorously. The BIA is now 
     improving its management structure and system, and it is 
     moving to facilitate greater coordination and cooperation 
     with the other agencies on program and policy matters. 


          While Indians in off-reservation areas may seek 
     protection as members of a national minority under the civil 
     rights laws, Indians on and near reservations are entitled 
     to additional protection through specialized statutes 
     delineating tribal rights. 

          Indians constitute less than one-half of one percent of 
     the U.S. population and are widely disbursed throughout the 
     country. Hence, they are not a particularly effective 
     political force. Therefore, historically Indians have 
     depended greatly on their unique legal status to protect 
     them from the erosion of their rights by non-Indian private 
     interests and state and local government. 

          It is paradoxical that classic civil rights arguments 
     on equal protection are often invoked by non-Indians in this 
     country as a means of limiting the implementation of Indian 
     rights. Some non-Indians maintain that the accordance of 
     tribal rights by the Federal Government is tantamount to 
     racial discrimination against non-Indians. Actually, the 
     U.S. Government entered into a trust relationship with the 
     separate tribes in acknowledgement NOT of their racial 
     distinctness, but of their political status as sovereign 


          The Department of Justice has the responsibility to 
     litigate Indian interests in the courts. Two sections of the 
     Justice Department fulfill these functions: the Office of 
     Indian Rights of the Civil Rights Division and the Indian 
     Resources Section of the Lands Division. 

          The Office of Indian Rights was established in 1974 to 
     enforce all federal civil rights provisions as they apply to 
     Native Americans as well as the provisions of the Indian 
     Civil Rights Act of 1968. This office was created as a 
     result of a study of the Civil Rights Division which found 
     that racial discrimination was a significant contributing 
     factor to the social and economic problems faced by American 
     Indians. Since its establishment, the Office of Indian 
     Rights has engaged in litigation involving voting rights 
     cases, discrimination-cases concerning access to state and 
     local services, and improvement of conditions in detention 
     facilities with predominantly Indian inmates. 

          The Indian Resources Section of the Lands Division is 
     responsible for Indian-related, non-civil rights litigation 
     such as lands, natural resources, tribal government and 
     treaty rights issues. 

                      TRIBAL INTEREST LAW FIRMS 

          To help defend their rights, Indians themselves have 
     established tribal interest law firms, such as the Native 
     American Rights Fund (NARF) founded in 1970. These 
     organizations supplement the work of the Justice Department, 
     which Indians assert has inadequately enforced and protected 
     their rights. Furthermore, Indians assert that conflicts of 
     interest arise within various departments with divergent 
     agencies' perspectives on Indian interests. For example, 
     disputes over land and resources in Indian country sometimes 
     bring into play the BIA, the Bureau of Land Management, and 
     the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Interior Department. 
     Moreover, in cases where there are no direct conflicts of 
     interest, Indians assert that political factors and the 
     personal biases of Justice Department functionaries against 
     taking the Indian side in disputes hinder the enforcement of 
     Indian rights. 


          Four law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction on 
     Indian reservations: the FBI investigates, and the U.S. 
     Attorney prosecutes, violations of federal law that are 
     designated to be Major Crimes. (murder, kidnapping, rape and 
     11 other serious crimes); BIA police and tribal police are 
     responsible for policing, investigating minor crimes, and 
     maintaining law and order on a day-to-day basis; and, state 
     police have authority in situations when both the offender 
     and the victim are non-Indians. 

          The degree of confidence Indians have in the criminal 
     justice system varies from reservation to reservation and 
     from state to state. Indians complain that some U.S. 
     Attorneys have not established effective prosecutorial 
     guidelines for Major Crimes offenses, causing delays in 
     processing cases. BIA police, tribal police and federal 
     investigators often duplicate investigative work. On some 
     reservations, law enforcement and court facilities are 
     inadequate and tribal police and tribal judges are 
     insufficiently trained. Some of the non-Indian law 
     enforcement and prosecutorial personnel that operate on 
     reservations are not sensitive to Indian customs and needs. 
     The U.S. Government is aware that these factors tend to 
     shake Indian confidence in the criminal justice system, and 
     is working to increase the effectiveness of police and 
     prosecutors in Indian country. Much work remains to be done, 


          Over the years, mutual resentments have built up 
     between Indians and various governmental authorities. As 
     Indian people have become more assertive, and sometimes 
     militant, in demanding their rights, these resentments have 
     increased. Racist statements and actions of some authorities 
     have cause many Indian people to allege that they cannot 
     receive fair trials and that certain Indian activists are 
     now in prison not because of the crimes they have committed 
     but because of their political activism. 

          Domestic groups have charged -- and some CSCE 
     signatories, the USSR in particular, have echoed these 
     charges -- that law enforcement officials have engaged in 
     systematic harassment, surveillance and other extra-legal 
     activity against Indian activists. These critics further 
     assert that leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), 
     such as Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Leonard Peltier, are 
     examples of activists who have ended up as political 
     prisoners. (Further information on Means and certain other 
     activists is contained in the section on Alleged Political 
     Prisoners). Critics charge that police and prosecutors 
     increased their alleged harassment of AIM leaders and other 
     activist Indians following the widely-publicized 1973 armed 
     takeover of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, by Indian militants. 
     The occupation of Wounded Knee produced a complicated 
     situation involving several law enforcement agencies, 
     including tribal police from Pine Ridge Reservation. When 
     such controversial confrontations occur, the potential for 
     conflict and misunderstanding is considerably heightened. 

              JUDICIAL DECISIONS AND TRENDS, 1975-1979 

          Trends in the courts must be reviewed within the 
     context of the three judicial systems that apply. The 
     federal courts, Indian courts and state courts are distinct 
     systems, deriving their powers from separate authority and 
     retaining their own peculiar jurisdictions to try to punish 
     crimes by or against Indians and to determine the nature and 
     extent of Indian treaty and other federally reserved rights. 

          The trend in the decisions of these systems is an 
     effort to clarify which court system has jurisdiction over a 
     cause of action under the circumstances. Particularly in 
     this decade, these court systems, with the federal courts in 
     the lead, are defining where, when and over whom Indian 
     tribes or states have jurisdiction, and which governmental 
     system has jurisdiction to act with respect to Indian 
     boundaries, Indian resources, tribal members and non-
     members, and with respect to who can control the exercise of 
     tribal rights off-reservation. 

          The present activity of the federal courts and their 
     increasing deference to tribal courts and tribal authorities 
     tend to support the view that the Indian policy of the 
     United States is designed to give wide latitude to Indian 
     tribes in the exercise of self-government. This appears to 
     be particularly true when the principal tribal activities 
     are in the areas of controlling their citizenry on the 
     reservation and asserting governmental taxing and regulatory 
     control over Indians and Indian property. There seems to be 
     a tendency by the courts to avoid strong statements of 
     Indian self-government only where the property or the 
     reservation is largely out of Indian control. The courts 
     also receive policy guidance from Congress and from the 
     executive branch in these areas, as they interpret the law 
     and review the actions of the Congress and the Executive 
     Branch to assure compliance with the U.S. Constitution. 

          A telling measure of the real successes Indians have 
     scored in the courts in defense of their rights was seen, 
     oddly enough, in the proliferation of "backlash" bills that 
     were put before the 95th Congress. By means of these bills, 
     anti-Indian political interests hoped to weaken the solid 
     legal basis upon which Indian rights cases were being 
     successfully won in the courts. These lobbying groups pushed 
     Congress to terminate the trust responsibility altogether, 
     abolish the reservations, institute state regulation of 
     hunting and fishing on Indian lands and deny due process 
     rights of tribes pressing claims in court. This attempt so 
     alarmed Indian people that many undertook an arduous 
     journey, "The Longest Walk," from California to Washington, 
     D.C. in the summer of 1978 to voice their concern to the 

          For a variety of reasons, none of the "backlash" bills 
     was ever heard of or referred out of committee, expiring 
     with the adjournment of the 95th Congress. However, bills of 
     a similar nature are pending before the present Congress and 
     are still the focus of much concern for Indian people. 
     Should these bills be enacted into law, the cause of Indian 
     rights in the U.S. would suffer a serious setback. 

                        POWER OF THE CONGRESS 

          Federal courts have consistently ruled that Congress 
     has the plenary authority to fix the terms of the U.S. 
     Government's trust relationship with the Indians. Indians 
     assert, given the historical precedent, that the breadth of 
     this Congressional plenary power to legislate in their 
     regard carries with it the potential danger that such power 
     will be misused to deprive Indians of their rights, since 
     Indians are not as strong in numbers as the non-Indian 
     voting public in the states. 

          It is not the existence of the power that should be the 
     focus of the discussion but how and when it is exercised. 
     More than one hundred measures expressly affecting American 
     Indian and other Native peoples have been enacted since 
     1975. The 95th Congress alone created 79 new laws pertaining 
     to Native Americans. While some of these laws affect only 
     one or a few tribes or individual Indians, many 
     Congressional acts during the past four years represent 
     policy statements of major significance affecting Native 
     governments and people in the U.S. Two of these acts -- one 
     establishing the American Indian Policy Review Commission 
     and the other setting forth an Indian self-determination 
     operating policy -- were passed in the first days of 1975 
     (22). Subsequently, the Congress passed important 
     legislation addressing basic human rights and needs of 
     Indian people in the areas of health, education, child 
     welfare, religious freedom, economic development, land and 
     natural resources and tribal recognition and restoration. 
     Legislation enacted during this period follows a consistent 
     policy line repudiating terminationist and assimilationist 
     policies of the 1950's, removing barriers to Indian self-
     determination and local level control and enhancing the 
     basic quality of life of Native American peoples. 

     22. The Congress created the American Indian Policy Review 
         Commission in 1975 and mandated it to conduct a 
         "comprehensive review of the historical and legal 
         developments underlying the Indians' unique relationship 
         with the Federal Government in order to determine the 
         nature and scope of necessary revisions in the 
         formulation of policies and programs for the benefit of 
         Indians." The Commission reported its findings and 
         recommendations to Congress on May 17, 1977 and expired 
         on June 30, 1977.      

          Balanced against this progress, the House Interior 
     Committee, in January of 1979, voted to abolish its Indian 
     Affairs Subcommittee, which can be credited with drafting 
     and reporting legislation affecting Indian interests in 
     recent Congresses. As a result, Indian legislation will now 
     be one of the many contending areas of legislative 
     responsibility of the full Interior Committee, increasing 
     the likelihood that fewer Members of Congress will be well 
     versed in Indian matters. The Select Committee on Indian 
     Affairs of the Senate, established in the 95th Congress 
     primarily to consider over 200 progressive legislative 
     recommendations made by the American Indian Policy Review 
     Commission, will continue to function in the 96th Congress. 
     These recommendations, however, remain to be considered 
     within this Committee, and the Committee's existence in the 
     97th Congress is uncertain. 

                       SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROFILE 

          Under Principle VII, the U.S. has pledged to promote 
     and encourage the economic and social rights of its people. 
     Often, the U.S. has been called to task by Indians, Indian 
     advocates, and other CSCE countries for failing to act to 
     improve the socio-economic situation of Indians. 

          Native Americans, on the average, have the lowest per 
     capita income, the highest unemployment rate, the lowest 
     level of educational attainment, the shortest lives, the 
     worst health and housing conditions and the highest suicide 
     rate in the United States. The poverty among Indian families 
     is nearly three times greater than the rate for non-Indian 
     families, and Native people collectively rank at the bottom 
     of virtually every social and economic statistical 

          When the federal government negotiated treaties with 
     various tribes, it promised them that the Indian people 
     would be provided a permanent and economically viable and 
     self-sustaining homeland, that the reservations would be 
     made to bloom, that the Federal Government would assist the 
     tribes in transforming their way of life. 

          The U.S. has acknowledged that it has not yet lived up 
     to this promise. However, over the past five years important 
     steps have been taken to improve the situation of American 


          An overall strategy is just developing to deal with the 
     problem of Indian poverty, the basis of many other problems. 

          Native people are citizens of both their tribes and the 
     United States. As U.S. citizens they are entitled to federal 
     assistance available to the general public, and, like other 
     U.S. citizens, Indians may turn to the courts for redress if 
     they believe they have been denied access to such federal 

          At the level of local service delivery systems, the 
     Federal Government has extended recognition to tribal 
     governments, and the Congress has repeatedly included tribes 
     PER SE in such programs of general application as General 
     Revenue Sharing, the Comprehensive Employment and Training 
     Act and the Joint Funding Simplification Act. Yet, tribal 
     eligibility for participation in federal domestic assistance 
     programs to state and local governments is not uniform. In 
     some instances, program eligibility is defined, in an 
     apparent oversight, as intended for "state and state 
     subdivisions," a formulation which seems to exclude tribes. 
     In other instances, where eligibility provisions do not 
     specify "state and state subdivisions" only, the provisions 
     have been incorrectly interpreted by some administrators to 
     exclude tribal governments. 

          Congress has created a number of programs which are 
     intended specifically for Indians, both as tribes and 
     individuals. These programs generally are in fulfillment of 
     the Federal Government's trust responsibility and many of 
     them are derived from specific treaty obligations of the 


          The past policy of terminating Federal-tribal status 
     was intended by the Congress to assist Indian people into 
     the mainstream by severing all federal ties and ending 
     federal services in one cash payment. The consequences of 
     terminations have proven tragic for the Indian people and 
     against the national interest. Congress repudiated this 
     practice when it examined the case of the Menominee Tribe of 
     Wisconsin and restored their political relationship with the 
     United States in 1973. Since 1975, the Congress has 
     recognized or restored to recognized status six tribes, 
     making members eligible to benefit from special federal 
     programs that are designed to assist Indian tribes. 


          The Federal Acknowledgement Project was undertaken 
     because there may be Indian tribal groups which should but 
     do not receive the benefit of the special federal-Indian 
     relationship. In September of 1978, the Secretary of the 
     Interior published final rules setting criteria for 
     determining whether such groups qualify for this special 
     relationship with the U.S. Government. These criteria were 
     developed after extensive consultation with Indian groups 
     and became effective October 2, 1978. 

          At the present time, there are nearly 500 governmental 
     entities, including Indian tribes, pueblos, bands, 
     rancherias, communities and Alaska Native villages and 
     corporations which are recognized as eligible for BIA trust 
     services. Thus far, more than 50 other Indian groups have 
     petitioned the Secretary for acknowledgement of their status 
     as Indian tribes. 


          The Indian Health Service (IHS) of the Department of 
     Health, Education, and Welfare is the primary federal health 
     resource for approximately 760,000 Indians and Alaska Native 
     people living on or near Federal Indian reservations or in 
     traditional Indian country such as Oklahoma and Alaska. It 
     provides a comprehensive program of preventive, curative, 
     rehabilitative and environmental services. The Service also 
     provides limited assistance to approximately 274,000 of the 
     507,000 urban Indians to enable them to gain access to those 
     community health resources available to them in areas where 
     they reside. 

     23. The information found in this portion of the American 
         Indian section has been provided by the Indian Health 
         Service of the Department of Health, Education and 

          Indian health advisory boards have played an important 
     role in developing IHS policy and allocating resources. 
     Tribes also have been actively involved in program 
     implementation. As a result of new laws enacted in the last 
     five years, the number of tribes managing health services 
     has increased. The scope of tribally managed activities is 
     broad, ranging from the provision of outreach services in 
     the community to the planning, construction, staffing and 
     operation of health care facilities. 

          The Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which 
     authorizes higher resource levels for a seven-year period, 
     beginning in Fiscal Year 1978, seeks to increase the number 
     of Indian health professionals for Indian communities. It 
     also authorizes IHS to set up programs with Indian urban 
     organizations to improve Indians' access to health services. 

                     INDIAN HEALTH DEVELOPMENTS 

          The health of Indian people has improved significantly. 
     This gain is due, in part, to the overall expansion of 
     health service and the construction of better health care 
     and sanitation facilities. Since 1955, hospital admissions 
     have more than doubled; outpatient visits increased seven-
     fold and dental services six times. Partly as a result of 
     the increased use of hospitals, the infant mortality rate 
     has been reduced by 74 percent and the maternal death rate 
     by 91 percent. During the same period, the death rate for 
     influenza and pneumonia dropped 65 percent; certain diseases 
     of early infancy, 72 percent. Tuberculosis, once the great 
     scourge of the Indians, in 1955 struck eight out of every 
     1,000; now it strikes fewer than one. An Indian child born 
     today has a life expectancy of 65.1 years, an increase of 
     5.1 years over a child born in 1950. Progress and 
     improvements do not mean that the U.S. has succeeded in 
     raising the health status of Indians to the high level that 
     it seeks. Further efforts will be required. 


          An allegation persistently raised by some American 
     Indians and echoed by several CSCE states is that the U.S. 
     Government, under IHS auspices, is coercing large numbers of 
     Indian women to be sterilized. This alleged governmental 
     sterilization policy is perceived as a manifestation of a 
     far more monstrous governmental policy -- that of genocide. 
     Those who make this very serious allegation often cite 
     statistics from a 1976 U.S. Government Accounting Office 
     (GAO) report regarding the IHS. 

          IHS attributes these allegations to misinterpretations 
     of the GAO report, and says there are no suggestions in the 
     report that the IHS has undertaken any activities to 
     sterilize Indians without their consent. IHS states that is 
     has yet to receive a single documented case of coerced 
     sterilization or failure to obtain informed consent for 
     performance of a procedure that could result in 
     sterilization. However, IHS acknowledges that the GAO study 
     cites procedural deficiencies in obtaining informed consent. 
     After these deficiencies were detected by GAO, IHS initiated 
     several actions to correct them. Furthermore, HEW drew up 
     new sterilization regulations and improved sterilization 
     reporting and monitoring requirements, which are now being 
     carried out by IHS and other health services. IHS 
     categorically denies that its aim is to control population 
     size in any way, and insists that its goal is to enhance and 
     expand the life of the Indian and Alaska Native. Statistics 
     show that the Indian population served by IHS has twice the 
     birth rate and over three times the population growth rate 
     of the U.S. population as a whole. 


          Many reservation lands are rich in natural resources, 
     which can be used by the tribes to lift themselves out of 
     poverty. Some tribes are actively pursuing economic self-
     reliance through the development of their oil, gas, coal, 
     uranium and other energy resources. Other tribes have not 
     made final decisions regarding development of their 
     resources and still others have decided against development 
     at this time. If there is to be development, it is a 
     function of the Federal Government to assure that the best 
     and most economically and environmentally sound arrangements 
     are made. In addition, the government is to provide 
     technical and financial assistance to ensure that the tribal 
     decisions will be based on an expert and experienced 
     evaluation of the technical and factual data. 

          Help has been provided from the White House or federal 
     agencies when tribes have requested it. In 1977, five 
     federal agencies gave the member-tribes of the Council of 
     Energy Resource Tribes more than two million dollars for 
     this endeavor. Two agencies, the Community Services 
     Administration and the Administration for Native Americans, 
     have ear-marked their funding for a human needs assessment 
     of the impact of energy development on the affected Indian 
     people. And, the Department of the Interior has an ongoing 
     responsibility to assert the Indian interest in resource 
     protection and development of related policies.                   
                         LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS        

          During 1977 and 1978, Congress passed about 50 bills 
     which expressly benefit tribes and individual Indians. The 
     most hotly debated Indian issues in the Congress during 1977 
     and 1978 were Indian water rights in the Southwest, Indian 
     fishing rights in the Northwest and Indian land rights in 
     the East. Despite controversy, the 95th Congress passed 
     mutual-consent agreements achieving settlement of a water 
     rights case in Arizona and the first of the Eastern Indian 
     land claims cases in Rhode Island. By an Act of July of 
     1978, the Ak-Chin Indian Community's longstanding water 
     claims were settled, enabling the tribe to continue their 
     profitable tribal agriculture programs, thus avoiding years 
     of economic hardship in litigation. 

          Similarly, the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement 
     Act of September of 1978, sponsored and vigorously supported 
     by CSCE Commission Co-chairman Claiborne Pell, ratified a 
     negotiated settlement of to the case brought by the 
     Narragansett Indians under the Indian Non-Intercourse Act of 
     1790. The Act cleared title to acreage in the state 
     authorizing federal funds to reimburse the tribe for lands 
     lost and to purchase lands. On August 20, 1979, the 
     Administration and the Cayuga Nation of New York arrived at 
     a land claim settlement that will involve the establishment 
     of a trust-development fund for the tribe. The settlement 
     will soon be sent to Congress for ratification. 



          Recognizing that the futures of Indian tribal 
     governments and tribal economies are largely dependent on a 
     sufficient land base to support their populations, it is a 
     continuing United States policy to assist tribes with land 
     acquisitions and land consolidation programs. During the 
     years from 1975 to 1978, Congressional legislation has 
     authorized acquisition by tribal groups of about 400,000 
     additional acres of land, assisting some 30 tribes to expand 
     their land base. 

                         EASTERN LAND CLAIMS 

          The issue of land claims brought by Indians against 
     states, municipalities and private landowners in federal 
     courts in the eastern U.S. has received national attention. 
     The claims are against states, cities and individuals, 
     rather than against the Federal Government; they are based 
     on the allegation that the Federal Government did not 
     approve transfer of these lands by Indians to non-Indians, 
     which is required by a statute first enacted in 1790 as the 
     Indian Trade and Intercourse Act. Following the ratification 
     of a mutual consent agreement by the 95th Congress, the 
     first Indian land claims court settlement was reached 
     between the state of Rhode Island and the Narragansett 
     tribe. In May of 1979, the state returned 1,800 acres to the 
     tribe. A similar approach will facilitate the settlement of 
     the claims of some 3,000 Indians comprising the 
     Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes in Maine to a land in 
     that state. 

          Now that the Narragansett/Rhode Island settlement is 
     concluded (and a major step toward resolution of the Maine 
     case has been taken) other Indian land claims may be 
     examined in an atmosphere conducive to fruitful negotiation. 

                            WATER POLICY 

          Conflicts over water rights in the Southwest constitute 
     some of the most intense disputes between the states and 
     Indians. Many are the subject of ongoing litigation in both 
     state and federal court. For years, the states pursued a 
     policy of homesteading on arid western lands, while the 
     Federal Government was designing and constructing water 
     projects with little regard to the needs of Indian 
     communities or to the potential negative impact such 
     projects could have on the ecological condition of 
     reservation lands. The U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged 
     Indian water rights early in this century in a decision 
     known as the WINTERS DOCTRINE. 

          In his water policy message on June 17, 1978, President 
     Carter announced a new water policy. Implementation of the 
     policy is to be conducted in consultation with the Indian 
     tribes. The Presidential directive calls for negotiations 
     whenever possible to resolve conflicting water claims. 
     Should negotiations fail, litigation in federal, as opposed 
     to state, courts is favored. 

                          FISHING DISPUTES 

          Over the past five years, Indian fishing has been the 
     subject of serious public and political controversy. The 
     Federal Government -- despite tremendous opposition from 
     non-Indian communities -- has used its authority to assert 
     the full range of fishing rights reserved to the tribes when 
     the reservations were created. The government also 
     recognizes the need to protect the resource. The government 
     recognizes the right of these tribes to fish for commercial, 
     as well as for ceremonial and subsistence purposes. 

          The United States Government has actively sought to 
     protect Indian fisheries from environmental degradation, 
     from the potential negative consequences of non-Indian 
     diversion of waterways for agricultural and industrial 
     purposes, from excessive non-Indian commercial and sport 
     fishing, and from other dangers to the resource. For 
     example, in the State of California, the government is 
     addressing these problems as it attempts to put the Hoopa 
     and Yurok tribes' fishery resource in good order for their 
     future use and self-management. As yet, the United States 
     has avoided going to court to determine the extent of the 
     tribal fishery right. The California Department of Natural 
     Resources is taking a similarly positive approach, working 
     with the federal agencies and the Indians to improve the 
     fish stock and to lay a basis for coordinated 
     tribal/state/federal management of the resource in the 

          However, when litigation cannot be avoided, the Federal 
     Government often assumes trustee responsibility for the 
     defense of Indian treaty rights in the courts. The Federal 
     Government's commitment to protect Indian rights -- even if 
     this would mean confrontation with a state -- is exemplified 
     by an emotionally charged fishing rights dispute in 
     Washington State. 

          In 1974, a landmark court decision (U.S. v. Washington) 
     was announced, affirming the treaty fishing rights of 19 
     Northwest Indian tribes. The decision declared these tribes 
     entitled to catch up to half the harvestable fish and to 
     participate jointly with the State of Washington in the 
     management of their fishery resources. State officials, 
     institutions, courts and non-Indian fishers refused to 
     accept and abide by the decision and court orders. 

          Finally, in the middle of the 1977 fishing season, the 
     federal courts, at the recommendation of the Administration, 
     were forced to take over management of the fishery. Rising 
     to the challenge in the face of massive illegal fishing by 
     non-Indians, strong public emotion and legal obstacles in 
     the State, the federal agencies pooled their resources to 
     aid the federal court in managing the fishery. On July 2, 
     1979, the Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes in the 
     Northwest are entitled by treaty to half the harvestable 
     catch, warning State authorities to comply. 

                        CULTURE AND EDUCATION 

          Until a few years ago, many policy makers viewed 
     education as a key to Indian assimilation and often regarded 
     Indian culture and history as impediments to the full 
     participation of Indians in American life. The excesses of 
     this period resulted in great damage to Indian people, 
     producing statistics of low educational achievement and a 
     host of related problems, including the disruption of Indian 
     families and cultural and tribal life styles. 

          The older policies were phased out in the early 1970's 
     and were replaced with the more enlightened policy of today. 
     Under the current policy, assimilation is a choice for the 
     individual Indian to make. Indian history and culture are 
     viewed as positive assets, rather than negative impediments 
     to Indian adjustment to contemporary American life, and the 
     control of Indian education is in the hands of the people 
     most directly affected by the education being provided, the 
     Indian tribes and Indian people. 

          The intent of this policy is not only to increase 
     Indian participation and involvement in the educational 
     process but also to improve the quality of Indian education 
     through the development of programs designed to meet the 
     unique educational needs of Indian tribes and communities. 

                    THE INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT 

          In response to valid criticism that it has not 
     adequately been protecting the integrity of the Indian 
     family and community over the years, Congress passed the 
     Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The U.S. has recognized 
     that Indian children lost ties with their extended families 
     and cultural heritage through adoption into non-Indian 
     families or placement in non-Indian foster homes and 

          The Indian Child Welfare Act eliminates unwarranted 
     Indian parent-child separation; it ends discrimination that 
     has prevented Indian parents from qualifying as foster or 
     adoptive families; and it provides Indian communities with 
     comprehensive child-welfare and family service programs. 


          The religious practices of American Indians are an 
     integral part of their culture, tradition and heritage and 
     form the basis of Indian identity and value systems. To 
     guarantee Indian rights in this regard, the American Indian 
     Religious Freedom Act was signed into law in August of 1978. 
     The Act proclaims that it is the policy of the U.S. to 
     protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent 
     right of freedom to believe, express and exercise their 
     traditional religions, including, but not limited to, access 
     to sites, use and possession of sacred objects and the 
     freedom to worship through ceremonies and traditional rites. 


          A review of U.S. policies and practices with respect to 
     Native Americans shows that they are neither as deplorable 
     as sometimes alleged, nor as successful as one might hope. 
     In some areas, federal policies and programs have failed to 
     achieve permanent solutions to the serious problems facing 
     tribes and their citizenry. In other areas, appropriate 
     remedies have achieved notable progress in meeting the 
     unique needs of Native American governments and individuals. 
     The efforts to find solutions to Indian problems is made 
     more difficult by the highly complex governmental, economic, 
     social and political context surrounding Indian life. The 
     important consideration, especially in terms of U.S. 
     obligations under the Helsinki Final Act, is that serious 
     efforts are being made. 

          The funding for Indian programs has risen dramatically 
     in the past 20 years, and the educational, social and 
     economic conditions are improving. In line with the 
     government policy of putting Indian people into determinate 
     roles, Indians are managing their own resources, controlling 
     their own assets and administering their own programs to a 
     greater degree than in the past. 

          Resolution of problems in the future will require 
     continued and intensified cooperation between concerned 
     government agencies and the Native peoples themselves. More 
     opportunities should be provided for Indians to share in the 
     formulation of federal policy and the development of federal 
     programs that will significantly affect their interests. 

          The growing cooperation between the Federal Government 
     and Indians in defense of their civil rights and tribal 
     rights to land, resources and self-government is sometimes 
     perceived as a threat by some segments of the American 
     population, who argue that the unique legal status of 
     American Indians constitutes special, preferential treatment 
     of them by the U.S. Government. However, in general, public 
     reaction to the new policies of greater equity toward 
     Indians has been favorable. The BIA has established programs 
     to assist the tribes and Native peoples to better present 
     their diverse histories, cultures and goals to other 
     Americans through the media, school curricula, and other 
     channels of communication. In addition, various citizens 
     groups comprised of Indians and non-Indians alike, such as 
     the American Friends Service Committee, are helping to 
     educate the public about the respective rights of Indians 
     and their non-Indian neighbors. 

          To further fulfill U.S. obligations under the Helsinki 
     accords regarding the rights of American Indians, the 
     Commission believes the U.S. Government should energetically 
     pursue the more equitable policy lines established in recent 
     years and should continue to help increase public awareness 
     of the unique nature of American Indian rights. 

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