Following the election of Donald Trump, many groups are looking at how they may be affected by the new administration. KGNU’s Julia Caulfield recently attended an event addressing the ways Native Nations may interact with the current government.
Earlier this month CU Boulder Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies hosted a symposium in coordination with the law school looking at the way Indigenous storytelling intersects with law in the United States. The two day conference concluded with a panel discussion by attorneys and activists addressing potential affects the Trump Administration could have on Native issues.
Throughout the discussion, a common thread was the importance of education.
Heather Whiteman Runs Him is the Staff Attorney for the Native American Rights Fund. She says communication between the United States government and Native groups is imperative, and adds that having federal and state agencies educated about Native Nations and issues is necessary in order to effectively engage with Native groups.
“I think one of the things that was really highlighted during this discussion was the importance of any administration, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise to engage with Native peoples, and to consult with them, and to talk with them about what they’re viewpoints are on whatever given issue it is, and there are federal laws that mandate that, the problem is that the federal laws are being applied unevenly, and that the court systems have often failed to insure that those laws are implemented and followed by different federal administrations.”
Jim Anaya, the Dean of Law School at CU Boulder, adds that while legal and political channels are important to utilize, grassroots protests–like those at Standing Rock–can also serve as a way to educate and move the conversation beyond the legal matters to look at the moral and humanitarian issues.
“What we’ve seen from the Standing Rock protests, it wasn’t simply a legal matter in the narrow sense of what the Courts may or may not do, yeah, it was partly that, but that wasn’t entirely or fundamentally what it was about, and that’s what the protest did, and the panel highlighted that that kind of education that occurred through the protest is very important, so I think that you’re going to continue to see that kind of action; whether it’s protest, whether it’s education through other means, through art forms, through sit ins, through people just coming together and talking about these issues, through social media–that youth are particularly adept at using–this is where I think we’re going to see movement in the political culture and in the attitudes of those in power.”
While several panelists say they remain hopeful for the future in regard to Native issues, that future is also uncertain as there has been little engagement so far from the current White House in regard to Native issues.