West Michigan Legislator wants to Renege on Obligations to Native Americans

West Michigan area representative Dave Agema of Grandville has made the news again, this time stating that he believes that the state of Michigan should no longer give Native Americans free tuition. In an article in The Kalamazoo Gazette, Agema says “Casinos are making billions of dollars for Indian tribes. But we are paying for their kids to go to college” and recommends that the state stop paying for Native Americans to attend public universities and community colleges in the state. Agema introduced a bill seeking to abolish the Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver, but it has not been moved out of committee despite his protests. He says that:

“The college tuition waiver isn’t necessary anymore since casinos and their revenue sharing with tribal members are thriving despite Michigan’s economic malaise. In fact, the tribes likely have more reserve funds than the state of Michigan.”

He further argues that the waiver program violates the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 passed in 2004 that makes it so no public university or community college can give preferential treatment on the basis of race. Agema says that “I’m not against Native Americans, but you’re picking out one particular group and giving them something for free when no one else can get it.”

However, Agema is apparently quite ignorant of the fact that these tuition payments exist in part as a means–however limited–of compensating Native Americans for the fact that white European-Americans like himself stole their land and continue to act from a colonial mentality in dealing with Native Americans. The Kalamazoo Gazette article points out that the tuition payment requirement is included in treaties–with legally sovereign nations–signed in the 1890s and the 1900s. However, as is par for the course with the government’s treaty obligations, Michigan failed to formalize the agreement until 1976.

Unfortunately, this level of ignorance is no surprise coming from Agema. In the past, he has held hearings promoting anti-immigration views, has said that he wants to make Michigan “a more difficult place for illegals to survive,” has advocated bombing mosques, and has called for public school teachers to be armed.

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Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org