Monday, September 22, 2008


We don’t need government to make our choices (look what's going on in Wall Street and the Feds now - economic collapse)

Joe Martin • published September 18, 2008 12:15 am

Tribal government needs to abandon the practice of paternalism.

Tribal members, not tribal government, are the best ones to make certain decisions that affect them individually, but that’s a concept tribal government continuously fails to grasp.

We saw a proposal from Wolfetown Rep. Susan Toineeta which would make serving alcohol illegal (currently only the sale of alcohol is banned on tribal land). That didn’t work during Prohibition, and it won’t work now. Most recently Principal Chief Michell Hicks vetoed a referendum to allow the sale of alcohol in the casino, based upon his own personal disapproval of alcohol use.

Where does it end?

To these elected officials: Why stop there? How many children are born out of wedlock? How many tribal members have diabetes complicated by poor diet and lifestyles? How many tribal members smoke, dip or chew? How many of them have gotten cancer because of tobacco use or poor lifestyle choices? How many blow their per capita on frivolous items?

It’s a given that when some people get to make their own choices, they’ll make bad choices. However, when people make bad decisions, they also endure the consequences of those decisions. For most it’s a valuable learning experience.

Look at some of the decisions of tribal government over the last few years that have had negative consequences. There was the decision to remove education funding from tribal levy in order to put more in Marketing & Promotions. The result was a number of higher education students that year didn’t get funded by roughly the same amount they would’ve gotten from tribal levy. There was the decision to pursue Wal-Mart with promises of higher levy, but unanswered questions of how much it will cost the tribe in lost revenue from small businesses put out of business. Then there was the golf course, putting the tribe in debt and leaving tribal members with an uneasy feeling given the tribe’s past with running anything.

Some of us just don’t trust tribal government to make decisions that individual tribal members should be making on their own. So if some tribal members want to have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer during Monday Night Football, it’s none of tribal government’s business. Let the people make their own decisions. It’s what democracy is all about, and the paternalistic mentality exhibited by tribal government is the very mentality the tribe’s ancestors fought for centuries.

Joe Martin won third place for Individual Best Editorial Writing at the 2004 Native Media Awards from the Native American Journalists Association at the 2004 UNITY Journalists of Color convention in Washington. He lives on tribal trust lands in the Cherokee County community.