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MT Org Says Anti-Native American Groups Deserve Hate Designation

Tribes such as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai in Montana have faced backlashes for asserting their legal sovereignty. (U.S. Department of Education/Flickr)
Tribes such as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai in Montana have faced backlashes for asserting their legal sovereignty. (U.S. Department of Education/Flickr)
July 26, 2018

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Human Rights Network says groups opposed to Native American rights should to be labeled as hate groups. In a follow-up to its 2000 study "Drumming Up Resentment: the Anti-Indian Movement in Montana," the network released a report saying such groups deserve the designation “from national organizations, the media and the American public.”

Travis McAdam, research director with the network, said organizations may be evading designation as hate groups because the movement typically is localized, and many states do not have a strong tribal nations presence; thus the groups stay out of the national spotlight. And he said in Montana, anti-Native American groups tend to mobilize when tribes take action to assert their legal sovereignty.

"Then, a lot of times you see this organized backlash where you start to see both established anti-Indian groups and then sometimes more kind of local-based opposition pop up,” McAdam said.

He said Montana groups such as the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance fit the Southern Poverty Law Center's definition of a hate group by attacking or maligning a class of people. The Alliance says it isn't a hate group and its goal is to defend the constitutional rights of both native and non-native people.

McAdam said a lack of understanding about treaty rights and tribal sovereignty can make it easier for anti-Native American groups to organize. He said for many Native Americans, treaties offer legal precedence for communities to stand up for their sovereignty, lands and culture.

"The tribes are saying, 'Yes, treaty rights are real and they continue to carry legitimate legal weight,’” he said. “And the anti-Indian movement is saying, 'Well, you know, that's kind of inconvenient for us.'"

McAdam said this movement often paints Native Americans as existing only in the past, obscuring the reality of tribes as they exist today and making it harder to discuss some of the modern challenges American Indian communities face.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT