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© 2001 Indian Country Tomorrow
Bush Terminates Testy Texas Tribes

george w bush
"With this order, I'm batting these tribes out of the country," said President Bush as BIA Head Richard Blumenthal watches. Photo © Reuters.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Bypassing Congress and ignoring the outcries of tribal leaders throughout Indian Country, President George W. Bush on Friday signed an executive order terminating three Texas tribes who have been his legal and political foes since his days as the state's Governor.

With controversial Bureau of Indian Affairs Chief Richard Blumenthal at his side, Bush officially ended his six-year battle with the Ysleta del Sur Tigua Tribe, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, and the Kickapoo Tribe. It was the first time since the 1960s that a federally recognized tribe was terminated by the government.

"These unlawful tribes have refused to abide by federal court orders requiring them to shut down their illegal gaming facilities," said Bush. "Termination was the only way to make them pay."

Added Blumenthal: "This sends a clear message to other tribes that insolence will not be tolerated."

But the leaders of the Tigua Tribe were not worried. Much to the chagrin of Bush who has enjoyed friendly relations with Mexico, Tigua Governor Manuel "Speedy" Trujillo secured a deal several months ago with Mexican President Vicente Fox to relocate his entire tribe -- casino and all -- to a 50,000-acre reservation just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

"Our Mexican brothers and sisters have eagerly welcomed us into their family of indigenous nations," said Trujillo at a press conference on the US-Mexican border.

The tribe's reservation is only the second the Mexican government has created. It joins the Xichimectlapotetepatl Nahuatl Nation, located in the southern state of Chiapas and home to three Aztec tribes and a Mayan band expelled from neighboring Guatemala during that nation's bloody civil war.

george w bush
Mexican President Vicente Fox. Photo © Reuters.
The move doesn't come without a price. In a deal criticized by many of Fox's fellow National Action Party (PAN) members, the Tigua Tribe has agreed to fork over 50 percent of their slot machine revenues to the Mexican government.

With slot revenues expected from the tribe's newly christened Įguila del Discurso (Speaking Eagle) to run as high as $2.1 billion in the second quarter alone, the Mexican government stands to gain heavily from the deal. Trujillo defended the agreement as a "win for everyone involved" and Fox said it would help spur economic development.

The two other terminated tribes haven't yet finalized their plans. The Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma has vowed to accept their Texas cousins into their tribe but the fate of the Alabama-Coushatta is still unknown.

"This action is just another in a long line of inequities committed against our people by the government," Chairman Ricky "Rick" Barton told Indian Country Tomorrow. "We survived relocation, we won a landmark land claims lawsuit, but we may not be able to live through this ordeal."

Since termination has ended all federal funding to the tribe, its plush, nationally-recognized elder care treatment facility is at risk, said Barton.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), and former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover have been pressuring Secretary of Interior Gale Norton to step in and prevent Bush and Blumenthal from taking action against the tribes. But Norton said it wasn't her place to dictate Indian policy.

Norton has been in Alaska drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this week and was unavailable for comment.

© 2001 Indian Country Tomorrow