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LETTER: Corruption on reservations needs Obama’s attention

HILLSBORO, N.D. — Concerning Friday’s event that will feature President Barack Obama and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., at the Standing Rock Reservation:

North Dakotans are a gracious and forgiving people and politely will welcome the president to our state.

But before he gives his speech concerning the wonderful “nation to nation” relationship he has with tribal leaders and announces what further moneys and authorities he will bestow upon them, he needs to learn facts from those whom his edicts directly affect.

n According to the two most recent U.S. censuses, 75 percent of tribal members do not live in Indian Country — and many deliberately have taken their children and left in order to protect their families from the rampant crime and corruption.

n The abuses at the Spirit Lake Tribe reservation here in North Dakota are well known, but it’s also known that Spirit Lake is just a microcosm of what’s happening on reservations across the country.

n These abuses are rampant on many reservations because the U.S. government has set up a system that lets extensive abuse occur unchecked and without repercussion.

n Many, many times more children leave the reservation system in the company of their parents (who have mass exited) than do children who have been taken into foster care or found a home in adoption.

But tribal leaders can’t admit that parents deliberately are taking their children out of Indian Country in attempts to get them away from the reservation system and corrupt leaders. It makes a better sound bite to blame it on evil social services.

Mr. President, please listen to those who do not have a vested financial interest in increasing tribal government power and learn about the physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse of tribal members by other tribal members and even many tribal leaders.

Stop supporting corrupt tribal leaders and corrupt systems and pretending all is OK in Indian Country.

Every time power to tribal leaders is increased, tribal members — U.S. citizens — are robbed of civil freedoms under the U.S. Constitution.

More power given to tribal leaders means less freedom, safety and constitutional rights for tribal members.

Elizabeth Sharon Morris

Morris is chairwoman of the Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare.