Gabe Galanda: Indian Nations need to 'Buy Indian' too
"This year we “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the Buy Indian Act. Under that federal law, the Department of Interior and its agencies “shall” employ Indian labor and purchase “the products of Indian industry.” Over the last 100 years, however, the United States’ record of buying Indian has been less than stellar.

It took the BIA until 1976 to adopt the procurement policy that “all [BIA] purchases or contracts be made or entered into with qualified Indian contractors to the maximum practicable extent.” In 1980, the Supreme Court put a dent in the act’s Indian labor provision in Andrus v. Glover. Congress partially repaired that dent in 1982, when it affirmed the buy Indian labor mandate with regard to federal road construction projects. Still, by the early 1990s, it was reported to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that Interior agencies were overwhelmingly awarding construction contracts to non-Indian businesses. Thanks in part to President Bush Sr., Congress twice failed to pass amendments to strengthen the act.

Today, while there is mixed opinion as to whether Interior employs Indian labor whenever practicable, tribal entrepreneurs report that the United States’ record of purchasing the products of Indian industry remains abysmal. After 100 years of Buy Indian nonfeasance within every federal government branch, we must acknowledge that the act is ineffectual. The act will never be fully honored federally. Buy Indian must be realized tribally.

In the spirit of Indian self-determination, it is time for Indian country to buy Indian. In fact, as self-determination remains our watchword, do we really need the U.S. to finally buy Indian? Certainly we want federal purchasing power devoted to tribal businesses but we wield $26 billion of our own purchasing power thanks to Indian gaming. We can now do it – Buy Indian – ourselves."

Get the Story:
Gabriel S. Galanda: Buy Indian. What are we waiting for? (Indian Country Today 3/2)