In Australia, they are called Aborigines, in Canada, First Nations, and in the United States, they are called Native Americans. All these people have one thing in common. They are indigenous to the country they live in. That means they were here first. Not that it matters much today…obviously. It’s just that you’d think in this age of multicultural awareness and political correctness, when we are trying so hard to be sensitive to and accepting of the differences among people, we would pay more attention to the culture within our own culture. But it still gets mostly ignored. That is until something like what happened this month in Wyoming occurs.
It started with the EPA. Well, technically it started when two tribes petitioned the EPA for “air quality monitoring” over a certain portion of the state of Wyoming. In order to allow it, the EPA, in its “wisdom”, ended up expanding the lands within the Indian reservation by over 1 million acres. For those of you who don’t get it, that means that the state loses control over those 1 million acres. Now, granted, Wyoming is a very big state, but 1 million acres is a lot of acres, and it included a town of 10,000 people who suddenly find themselves under Tribal rule. The State officials have no jurisdiction on Tribal land. That can be very unsettling for folks.
As you can imagine, the state of Wyoming immediately began getting together a challenge to the ruling and they have until February 18th to file. What struck me as I read more about it was their reasoning. Let me show you a portion of what was said.
- “Dozens of tribal members jailed for crimes committed in the disputed area potentially could challenge their convictions.
- Previously issued environmental permits could be invalid.
- Food processing facilities could be able to operate without regulation.
- The Wyoming Highway Patrol would be unable to enforce criminal laws in the area.”1
It makes it sound as if the EPA would be turning the land over to…dare I say it…a far less “civilized” group of people. Lawless comes to mind. But, this attitude is nothing new. Way back in 1830 President Andrew Jackson had this to say as he launched the Indian Removal Act that was to end in the infamous Trail of Tears:
“It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites: enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the government and through the influences of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.” Speech on Indian removal, 1830
I don’t live there and I realize until you are in a situation, it’s hard to fully understand it. I also realize that there are other factors that are unique to the co-existence of an Indian reservation within a state that contribute to the problems faced in Wyoming. But I go back to my original thought and am saddened that it takes conflict in order for the rest of us to spend any time and energy on getting to know the culture that deserves our sensitivity and highest regard.
And as for President Jackson’s words, Jesus had this to say about that:
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matt. 7:1-5 The Message bible)
1 “Wyoming officials prepare for court fight…” Judsen berger, Feb. 12, 2014, Fox News.com