Thursday, January 27, 2005

First Amendment? We're the federal government son, we don't traffic in hippie crap.

Good afternoon youngsters, todays sermon is about the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The Act was passed in 1978, and guarantess indigenous people the right to hold and practice traditional beliefs.

No doubt you're saying to yourself "Self, I thought that Indians were American citizens."

This is true, Congress unilaterally imposed US citizenship on Indians in 1924. Your next thought is probably "Self, how come there isn't a Baptist Religious Freedom Act? Aren't the religious beliefs and practices of US citizens protected by the First Amendment?"

You would think so.

In 1921 the CIA (that's Commissioner of Indian Affairs, not the spooks) Charles Burke issued what was know as Circular 1665, a directive to Indian agents in which he stated "'The sundance and all other similar dances and so called religious ceremonies are considered 'Indian Offenses' under existing regulations and corrective penalties are provided." In 1923 supplemental instructions were issued requesting ""That a careful propaganda be undertaken to educate public opinion against the (Indian religious) dance."

This was followed by an open letter to Indians declaring "'I could issue an order against these useless and harmful performances (he already had...ed), but I would rather have you give them up of your own free will, and, therefore, I ask you in this letter to do so. If at the end of one year the reports which I receive show that you are doing as requested, I shall be glad, for I shall know that you are making progress -- but if the reports show that you reject this plea, then some other course will have to be taken."

The suppression of Indian religions thus became official federal policy, enforced at the sole discretion of agents on reservations, who could arrest and prosecute those participating as being "in violation of regulations." This policy remained until AIRFA was passed.