I remember when I went to Montana for a conference. The tribes from the East Coast – I was having a good time. The tribes from the plains came in and told us we have to all go inside. Like why, it’s 7 o’clock. “Well it’s close down time.” The police come around and told all the Indians you have to go inside and stay in your room. No Indians are allowed on the street after 7 o’clock. We looked at each other and said we’re from the East Coast. We don’t know anything about your curfews. This was in 1985. 1985, can you believe this? I thought the Civil Rights Movement had come and gone and all of us had moved on up, but not as far as natives are concerned.
Each President comes in and tells us that they’re going to work with the tribes and treat you as sovereign nations, as soon as they get into office it’s like they forgot we were even there. President Clinton came in – and we had worked with Mrs. Clinton for many years on different programs – when President Clinton came in, he had a Listening Conference. The heads of every department in the United States government had to meet us in Albuquerque, New Mexico and listen to what the leaders of all the tribes had to say. I’ll never forget it. Janet Reno came in, stood up, introduced herself, and started talking. Wendell Chino, Chief of the Mescalero Apache, stood up and asked her if she could read English. She said, “Of course I can.” He said, “Turn around. It says Listening Conference. You listen, we talk.” She said, “How dare you.” He said, “No, how dare you. You came to listen to what we had to say. We did not come to listen to what you were going to do to us again.” And for a whole week they were amazed – in fact some of them were very afraid that they were in a town with that many American Indians because they had heard some horrible things of what we could possibly do to them once we got them out into Albuquerque. Guess what? We were more civilized than they were. They were amazed to find out how much was going on in the communities and I stood up and said, “And if we did all of this with your pennies and nickels, guess what a dollar would buy. Just imagine if you really gave us some money to survive, what we could do.
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