October 30, 2000

Ministry for Information,
American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council

WaBun-Inini, aka, Vernon Bellecourt,
White Earth Anishinabe Ojibwa Nation
Phone: 612-721-3914   Fax: 612-721-7826



Dear Winona,

I write this letter to you as an elder, counselor, and citizen of the sovereign Ga-wa-ba-be-ka-neekag Anishinabe Ojibwa En-da-na-kee-wad (White Earth Peoples Ojibwa Nation) in northern Minnesota, which we both are member citizens first and foremost. Secondly, we are also citizens of these United States, a citizenship, which was imposed on the nations of Indian peoples arbitrarily and unilaterally with the passage of the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act by the United States Congress.

The passage of the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act created for Indian people special rights and responsibilities, and a unique relationship with federal and state government in that we have dual citizenship. We are able to vote in both our Indian government elections, and run for office, as well are able to vote in federal and state government elections and run for office.

As a fellow citizen of the White Earth Anishinabe Ojibwa Nation, and one of your many elders, I want to have a frank discussion with you as to the dangers that exist for our Indian people across America due to your involvement with the Green Party. Specifically, your campaign for Vice-President of the United States as running mate to Ralph Nader.

First of all, I have always believed that the two-party system dominated by the Democrats and Republicans is one and the same beast with the head of an elephant on one end, and the head of a donkey on the other. The consequences of this reality is that this beast has a gluttonous appetite historically, and to the present, that continues to consume Indian lands, water, petroleum, timber, and other resources which makes the two-party system totally constipated for Indian people, and all others who are people without power or rights.

Second, I have always been a strong advocate for the development of an alternative third political party. In 1983, I, along with Ned Anderson, who was then the President of the San Carlos Apache Nation were founding members of the Rainbow Coalition, which was formed that year in Washington, D.C. Later both Mr. Anderson and I, as well as many other Indian people were present at the Washington D.C. Convention Center when Ned Anderson and I endorsed Jesse Jackson for the Presidency of the United States. President Ned Anderson coined the phrase, which became the call to action for the campaign, "Run Jesse, Run." This phrase was first popularized for the great Olympic star, Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics. I am convinced that had Jesse Jackson stayed the course, the Rainbow Coalition with Jesse Jackson as candidate for the Presidency would be a serious threat to the two-party system in this 2000 election. However, when Jesse Jackson took the Rainbow Coalition into the center of the Democratic Party many progressives including myself bolted from the coalition.

In 1988, I supported Dr. Lenora Fulani who was on the ballot in all 50 states, and she had asked me to be her vice-president running mate. While I declined the offer, I worked nationwide for her candidacy as she was raising important issues affecting Indian people, as well as other Americans. I was strongly criticized by many of the progressives and liberals across the county for supporting her.

Winona, while I completely support the Nader/LaDuke 2000 Green Party Native American platform which supports tribal sovereignty and government to government relations; the right and responsible exercise of retained treaty rights; return of public landholdings to Indian property owners, settlement of claims; restitution and reconciliation for loss of billions of dollars by Democrat and Republican administrations of Indian money trust accounts; the breaching of dams in order to save the salmon; clemency for Leonard Peltier; the protection of native intellectual and other property rights to name a few of the many issues facing Native people in your platform, unfortunately your message is not being heard. You should be on all media outlets, television, radio, print media, and all news and talk shows nationwide along with Ralph Nader. The fact is, we see more of the vice-presidential candidate of fringe candidate Pat Buchanan.

George W. Bush does not and will not support tribal sovereignty, or the positions of the Green Party Platform. In 1999 George W. Bush made a statement to the effect that he was opposed to Indian nations returning land to trust status, contrary to the provisions of the American Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, he was opposed to Indian casinos, and stated further that Indian affairs were best left to individual states. He also said, "Now is the time not to defend outdated treaties, but to defend the American people." The question we have to ask ourselves is, does this mean treaties made between Indian nations and the United States? We have seen the United States walk on their own words each and every time before the ink was even dry on the paper.

On the other hand, on August 29, 2000 Vice-President Al Gore received the endorsement of the All-Indian Pueblo Council when he pledged to support vital concerns such as sovereignty, economic development, clean water, law enforcement, health care, school construction, and improving the education of Indian youth. He went on to say he would support the right of Indian nations to acquire lands that would be put back into trust status, and would oppose any efforts to prevent it.

Winona, recently Reverend Jerry Falwell, an avid supporter of George W. Bush, when asked on a national television program what the makeup of the Supreme Court would look like should Bush win the election, responded by saying he wished that there were nine Clarence Thomas's on the Supreme Court. We have to ask the same question, what would a Bush Supreme Court mean to Indian nations? In regards to the 1837 Treaty case affecting all the Ojibwa Nations of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, treaties which protect our spiritual, cultural, and property rights, the present Supreme Court with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor voted five to four with the majority upholding the treaty. Clarence Thomas wrote a second opinion supporting Chief Justice Rehnquist in opposition to Indian people.

The Supreme Court previously ruled against Indian nations in Montana vs. Crow Tribe; Oliphant vs. Suquamish Tribe just to name two of many cases having to do with the sovereignty and jurisdictional authority of Indian nations to enforce their laws against non-Indians committing crimes on Indian lands.

What would a Bush Supreme Court mean for Roe vs. Wade, a women's right to choose? What would a Bush Presidency and Supreme Court mean to the environment, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and what little remains of our sacred lands and resources?

These are just a few of the questions that both you and Ralph Nader have to ask yourselves. Winona, I know that you are sincere in your efforts, and want to serve the best interest of Indian people as well other Americans who support the campaign of the Green Party. I hope you are successful in obtaining 5% of the vote, which would qualify the Green Party to receive the $12 million in matching funds in the year 2004. But I also believe that in the battleground states of California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Mexico that have large Indian populations, and are also close races, the Nader/LaDuke ticket could bring about a defeat for Gore/Lieberman, and victory for Bush/Chaney, in which case the Green Party wins 5% of the vote, and we all end up losers.

Perhaps you have consulted with your elders on this matter. If you have not, it may be too late. However, you should know that all the tribal leadership in Minnesota including the seven Ojibwa Nation leaders, which includes the White Earth Ojibwa Nation of which you are a member support the Gore/Lieberman ticket. In addition to the All-Indian Pueblo Council of New Mexico, other tribes nationwide who understand the critical aspects of this election are on record supporting the Gore/Lieberman ticket.

Maybe Ralph and all others of the Green Party supporters can afford to play Nader Roulette, and risk having a Bush/Chaney Presidency for four years, and a Bush Supreme Court for the next 50 years. We Indian people, and many other Americans cannot take that chance. The risks are too high!

What can you do at this late hour? The choice is yours. You may consider releasing your supporters to vote their conscience. In doing so, they may make the correct choice when they enter the polling booth. I recommend that all Indian nations in the key states and nationwide follow the example of the California tribes who spared no expense or efforts to defeat Republican Governor, Pete Wilson's anti-Indian/anti-gaming Proposition 5 and Proposition 1-A.

I urge all Indian nations to get the vote out for Gore/Lieberman. It is that important. For myself, let me suggest that a Gore in hand is worth two in the Bush.

WaBun-Inini, Indiz-ni-kaz
Member and Elder of the White Earth Anishinabe Ojibwa Nation
Aka, Vernon Bellecourt, National Representative,
American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council,
and President, National Coalition of Racism in Sports and Media

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