Tribal Sovereignty Expansion Initiative
From United Property Owners

United Property Owners (UPO) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, Public Educational Umbrella Organization, representing approximately 78,000 people across thirty eight states. Our membership consists of individual citizens, families, trade associations, local governments, elected officials, approximately 265 property owner groups and hundreds of businesses, large and small, who have joined together in a mutual effort to defend our constitutionally guaranteed Property Rights, Free Enterprise System, and our Civil Liberties. We work to achieve these goals by lobbying on legislation on the state and federal level, conducting public education campaigns, promoting citizen involvement in government decision-making, and engaging in litigation and legal advocacy when necessary. We seek to resolve conflicts between tribes, their non-tribal neighbor citizens, landowners, and local businesses.

For Immediate Distribution: November 4, 2002

Congress is facing a crisis over fundamental constitutional rights. According to articles in the October 16, 2002 Indian Country Today newspaper, several national tribal organizations are proposing federal legislation to REVERSE unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as Atkinson v. Shirley and Nevada v. Hicks. The cultural integrity of Indian tribes was not harmed by these recent Supreme Court decisions, which reasonably LIMITED tribal jurisdiction over non-tribal citizens and our lands. Tribal organizations are now asking Congress to pass a law to OVERTURN these high court rulings, by making tribal governments and courts superior to state governments and courts and, thereby, dramatically INCREASING tribal sovereign jurisdictional authority.

Under their “Tribal Governance and Economic Enhancement Initiative,” tribal governments would have primary jurisdiction over the rights of not only their own members, but also over ANYONE else they define as being within Indian County. Thus, Congress will be forced to choose between protecting the constitutional rights of ALL Americans or allowing a single racial group to assume territorial jurisdiction over individual rights, over private lands and resources, and over non-tribal businesses.

Congress should tell Tex Hall, John Echohawk, Kelsey Begaye, and Susan Williams, the authors of this unfair and unconstitutional proposal, that reversing multiple U.S. Supreme Court decisions is unworthy of debate. These questions are settled law. Tribes should RESPECT the “Law of the Land” as handed down by our nation’s highest court and instead work collaboratively with their non-Indian neighbors, respecting OUR sovereign governments’ rights and OUR individual constitutional/civil rights protections.

Contact Information:
Barb Lindsay, Executive Director of UPO
Tel. (206) 660-3085