I’m channeling my inner Aretha today after listening again to the State of Tribal Nations address to the Legislature, made earlier this year by James Steele Jr., chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. (Listen to the audio, or watch a video, here.)
And the connection between the Queen of Soul and the Chairman of the Tribes?
We’ll get to that. But first, a word about sovereignty, the subject of a University of Montana conference last week. (See story here.)
In his address, Steele reminds the lawmakers, “we are not racial groups who happen to live in a particular land base and want what other interest groups want. ….The United States does not sign treaties with interest groups; they sign treaties with governments.”
That’s a good thing to keep in mind. Here’s another: Steele talked a lot in his address about mutual respect. (Cue Aretha, who sings ““I get tired,” of having to demand all of that R-E-S-P-E-C-T.)
Steele probably gets tired of having to give primers on sovereignty. And he should be able to assume respect. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in some of the comments here over the last several days, respect for tribes seems to be lacking.
But Steele had a answer to that, too. Moving from the idealistic to the pragmatic in his address, he adds that Montana’s seven reservations, as well as the Little Shell Band of the Chippewa Tribe, contribute $1 billion annually to Montana’s economy.
Call me cynical, but I’d say that’s one billion quick reasons for a little respect. Sock it to ‘em.