Kavanaugh’s record poses threat to Native People’s rights and lifeways

Kavanaugh’s record poses threat to Native People’s rights and lifeways

Judge Kavanaugh’s views on voting rights and racial justice in America are extremely troubling – in light of the fact that right now Native voters in North Dakota are fighting for their voting rights in Brakebill v. Jaeger, which is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Native women leaders of North Dakota who understand fully the decisions we make today will not only affect us, but seven generations ahead of us, we urge Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven to closely examine Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record regarding Native peoples. We believe that as both a lawyer and as a judge, Judge Kavanaugh has failed consistently to acknowledge the sovereignty, natural resources, and unique history and heritage of Native People.

His actions and writings reveal a lack of understanding about the rights of Native People. Additionally, it is unlikely he will support access to affordable health care through the provisions of the Affordable Care Act or advocate for the health care rights of women.

In 2012, Judge Kavanaugh ruled against the Obama Justice Department’s challenge to a South Carolina voter ID law that claimed significant racial disparities in the law’s photo ID requirement [South Carolina v. United States, 898 F.Supp.2d 30 (D.C. Cir. 2012)]. In writing the opinion for the three-judge panel, Kavanaugh refused to acknowledge the importance of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which provides the review process for new voting laws – and without which the South Carolina law would have been even more restrictive.

We agree with the concerns expressed by the National Congress of American Indians over Judge Kavanaugh’s tribal sovereignty views, particularly as they relate to voting rights and health care.

“Voting rights are first-generation rights along with freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion. Yet American Indian and Alaska Native voters continue to encounter language barriers, enormous distances to polling places, arbitrary changes in voter identification laws, purged voter rolls, and intimidation and animosity in reservation border towns that disenfranchise Native voters. Equal access to voting is not only a matter of fairness, but it is a fundamental civil right afforded to all citizens, including American Indians and Alaska Natives.” – NCAI Executive Director, Jacqueline Pata

In 1999, Kavanaugh co-wrote an amicus brief, as an attorney, (on behalf of a group that opposes minority rights and affirmative action) he argued that a Hawaii law allowing only Native Hawaiians to vote for trustees of a state office, an original treaty between the US and Native Hawaiians to compensate Native Hawaiians for land that had been taken from their ancestors, was unconstitutional [Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495 (D.C. Cir. 2000)].

He said in an interview that the case “is one more step along the way in what I see as an inevitable conclusion within the next 10 to 20 years when the court says we are all one race in the eyes of government” (The Christian Science Monitor, 1999). Kavanaugh’s misleading use of language and law, such as utilizing the veneer of “equality” to obliterate treaty obligations, is a deeply troubling indication he is opposed to critical civil rights protections and to equal opportunity programs that are designed to advance diversity and remedy past discrimination.

Our concerns are grounded in human and Native rights, not partisan politics. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, another appointee of President Trump, has a good record with regard to Native People, we supported him, and he has sided with Tribes in two of three cases since he joined the court.

We have no such confidence in Judge Kavanaugh, and we encourage Senators Heitkamp and Hoeven to vet him thoroughly and to vote NO for his selection to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Finally, as mothers, daughters and grandmothers, we believe Judge Kavanaugh is a significant threat to the ACA and its important protection for pre-existing conditions, as well as to women’s reproductive and health care rights.

Native People deserve better. We all do.

Respectfully, Twyla Baker, MHA Nation; Sandra Bercier, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Melissa Brady, Spirit Lake Nation; Ruth Buffalo, MHA Nation; Anita Charging, MHA Nation; Danielle Finn, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Cedar Gillette, MHA Nation and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Lillian Jones, MHA Nation; Cheryl Kary, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Hillary Kempenich, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Denise Lajimodiere, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Sheridan Seaboy-McNeil, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Mary Baker, MHA Nation; Tawny Cale, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Sunshine Carlow, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Kelly Charging. MHA Nation and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Stephanie DeCoteau, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Andrea Denault, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Lisa DeVille, MHA Nation; Nicole Donaghy, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Alayna Eagle Shield, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Amber Finley, MHA Nation; Bill Jo Gravseth, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Natasha Gourd, Spirit Lake Nation; Ashly Hall, MHA Nation; Tammy Hammer, MHA Nation; Tonya Hertel, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Margaret Landin, MHA Nation; Amanda Myrhe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Joyce Shining One Side, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Jodi Spotted Bear, Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance; Wendi R. Wells, MHA Nation; Kandi White, MHA Nation; Angel Young, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; LaDonna Allard, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; Glenda Rush, MHA Nation.