How does Indian Country survive the Donald Trump era? The new administration is only a few days old and already the chaos of the times have upset business as usual. And possibly the very structure of federal-Indian law.
This is Trahant Reports.
Don’t count out the bureaucracy. I first started covering federal Indian policy during the late 1970s. I was in DC and was interviewing someone about a reform project at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a plan that I thought made a lot of sense. But my source smiled and responded, “I have seen them come. I have seen them go.” There are ways to tie up initiatives — even good ones — through the process of government.
President Donald J. Trump’s memoranda might fit into this category. Usually an executive order or a memorandum has a legal framework as part of the document, including citing the statutory authority for the presidential action. On Dakota Access and Keystone that reference has been replaced by the logic of “because I said so.”
We shall see.
Tribes should work closer with cities, states, private companies, and any global government that’s open to help. The federal government is going to be close to useless for the next four years (unless the Trump infrastructure program happens, and includes Indian Country, but there is no evidence of that yet.) The modern city state, think a Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis or a Phoenix, are the real engines of growth in this country. What’s the best way for tribes to become partners?
Indian Country’s greatest advantage right now is our young people, more than 40 percent of our total population (compared to about a third for country as a whole.) We have numbers working in our favor and we should look for more ways to leverage that advantage.
Don’t count out Republican versus Republican. Right now Republicans in Congress are giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt. But as decisions get harder, the act of governing gets more complex.
There is already evidence of this in the debate about repealing the Affordable Care Act. The idea of getting rid of Obamacare was a unifying force. But there is no consensus about a replacement law. Republican governors fear that their state budgets will collapse if Medicaid becomes a block grant with less money. And many Republicans in Congress cling to the idea that health care should be left up to families and government should not be involved or fund it. And finally Republicans who want to win the next election know that stripping heath insurance from millions of people is not a winning hand.
There are many ways for tribes to survive the Trump era. Only … it’s time to think differently. I am Mark Trahant.