link sent by Mary M..thanks!
Indian lawyer talks on sovereignty
BY KEVIN ABOUREZK Lincoln Journal Star  

While others protested and partied, John Echohawk spent the '60s studying the law and 
learning ways to fight for American Indian rights.

"We learned from the civil rights movement that we could fight back through the 
courts," Echohawk said.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico law school in 1967, Echohawk went 
to work for the Native American Rights Fund.

Echohawk, now executive director of the organization, spoke Tuesday to about 60 people 
in the Nebraska Union on legal issues in the American Indian community. Recognized as 
one of the nation's 100 most influential lawyers by the National Law Journal, Echohawk 
discussed tribal sovereignty and the upcoming presidential election.

American Indians' most important right is the sovereign status of their tribal 
governments, Echohawk said. Educating the public about that sovereign status has 
become one of his main endeavors.

"It's just a never-ending educational process that we need to go through, and it needs 
to be fixed," Echohawk said.

He said treaties signed in the late 1800s between the federal government and American 
Indian tribes secured the right for tribes to govern themselves. The U.S. Constitution 
also recognizes that sovereignty. However, a mostly conservative Supreme Court has 
eroded tribal rule by continuously voting against American Indian rights.

"This conservative Supreme Court is now hostile to Native American and other 
minorities' interests," Echohawk said. "That's quite a change in the way it was in the 
'60s, '70s and' 80s." Echohawk said the 2000 presidential election will be important 
for American Indians. Al Gore and Bill Bradley have proven themselves supportive of 
American Indian rights, he said, but he worries George W. Bush might not be so 

During a recent fund-raiser for his Republican presidential campaign in Syracuse, 
N.Y., Bush was quoted in the Syracuse Post-Standard as saying state law should control 
American Indian policy. Echohawk said that directly opposes tribal sovereignty.

"If George W. Bush has that as an Indian policy, that's basically war on the tribes, 
and the tribes will begin to make war on him in the upcoming presidential battle," he 
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           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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