When James Anaya, United Nations special rapporteur for the rights of indigenous people, visited Oklahoma last month to take testimony from American Indian tribal officials, we questioned the point of the whole exercise.
Anaya was supposedly interested in how the United States aligns with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But as we noted at the time, there are few places where tribal citizens are more embedded in the broader culture than Oklahoma.
Now, it appears we have an answer. During a recent appearance in Catoosa, American Indian activist and legal scholar Walter Echo-Hawk declared the U.N. declaration “would restore the rights of indigenous people taken away by colonialism.” Echo-Hawk went so far as to claim the U.N. declaration may “change the course of history” and would have to be implemented through “advocacy, litigation, legislation and changes in social policy.”
Those statements bring to mind the debate over “reparations” for slavery. In both cases, you have people who never personally experienced a particular historical injustice demanding that other people who never personally committed the injustice pony up cash even though neither one was an actual victim or perpetrator.
Given that most American Indian tribes were moved to Oklahoma by force, it would seem Echo-Hawk's interpretation of the U.N. declaration could require a reverse Trail of Tears uprooting countless Oklahomans to reclaim the land of their ancestors' birth — at least if you take his argument to its extreme.
What an unnecessary and useless waste of time. As we've noted, American Indians today are proud Oklahomans with a strong love of country and their native heritage. We should never forget the past, but nothing good can come of pitting neighbor against neighbor in frivolous litigation over centuries-old grievances.