Steve Cadue, Tribal Council Member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas
United States Senator John McCain's book “Faith of My Fathers” opens with a quote from a survivor of Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms-to choose one's own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
This is the dignity and power of self-determination our Indian people are fighting to achieve. Senator McCain needs to look away from the holocaust of Auschwitz and look within America and sincerely review the plight of our Native American people. Yes, Indian people were subjected to Auschwitz-like conditions in America; in fact, genocide of Indian people was policy. Today, the suicide rate of Indian people is three times the national average, according to federal government studies.
Why must Senator McCain review the circumstances of the American Indian people? Senator McCain is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the most powerful congressional office in the nation affecting American Indian people. In a quote from an interview, Senator McCain said, “I can't go back and change history. I'd like to go back and right all those wrongs. But all I can do is try to right the wrongs that are before us now.” This is not good enough, not when he claims to understand the human suffering of Auschwitz and relies upon that suffering for his survival and guidance in elected service to the American people.
Indians are not relics or history to be ignored. We have persevered over third world conditions in the richest nation on earth, land that we once owned from border to border, ocean to ocean. Indian people believed in the faith of our mothers and fathers. It is our history that Senator McCain must also recognize and respect in order to right the wrongs before us now.
The “Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act,” enacted by the Congress in 1975, gave Indian people hope for meaningful self-determination. However, we soon learned that the Act was highly dependent upon availability of federal funds and Indian appropriations started experiencing budget cuts. Self-determination was a misnomer in the Act.
It should not be disputed that Senator McCain has a strong will for perseverance and has demonstrated a quest for self-determination. He is a warrior and in our way, the sacred eagle staff is raised in his honor. We know sacrifice. It is also our Indian people's attitude to choose our own way. We began to see clearer an ability to make our own way via our Indian Treaty and sovereign powers in the establishing of commercially marketed tribal gaming. It was then in l988 that the Congress enacted the “Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.” Indian gaming works! The capitalism principle of IGRA legislation to develop Indian tribal economies generated nearly $20 billion last year. Financial wherewithal is the underpinning necessary for genuine self-determination. We welcome the Senate Indian Affairs Committee review of Indian gaming because the nation needs to know the intricacies of Indian gaming, and all it has to offer.
We hope Senator McCain will visit Indian Country. Indian Country stands ready to meet his muster. We would like Senator McCain to provide Indian people with a fair and comprehensive hearing of the State of Indian Affairs.
Steve Cadue is an elected Tribal Council Member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas. He can be reached by calling (785) 842-7821 or email email@example.com