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GOP Leader: Tribal sovereignty is no longer useful

Ed. Note: John Dendahl is the former chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party. He writes a column for The Albuquerque Journal [Link] that has criticized the actions of tribes in the state. The following is a reprint of one of those columns.

"A Sept. 1, 2005, Associated Press article included this statement: "[My] people have lived through natural and human-created disasters, and now with a stroke of a pen the future of a people is at risk."

No, this isn't about political leaders and Hurricane Katrina. It is Pueblo of Tesuque governor Mark Mitchell's description of a U.S. Forest Service decision to permit a new chairlift in a ski area that commenced operations 57 years ago. Mitchell's tribal government has sued to have the Forest Service decision on the proposed Ski Santa Fe lift reversed.

The issue is "sacred sites," without access to which Mitchell claims his tribe's culture and way of life would fade. Never mind that Ski Santa Fe operators permit access on the mountain to anyone, anywhere, except for skier safety closures. And never mind that Mitchell's tribe has apparently been able to adjust its culture and way of life to operating a decidedly nontraditional casino, not miles away up in the mountains but right on the pueblo grounds.

Why do Indians have any standing whatsoever to deny on religious grounds others' use of public lands when public practice of religion by the rest of us is thoroughly circumscribed?"

Get the Story:
John Dendahl: Indian Sovereignty Has Outlived Its Usefulness (The Hawaii Reporter 1/26)