After reading Reagan’s water bill veto, I was kind of surprised; it was clear the tribe had put a lot of work into the bill and greatly needed the water. I think Reagan’s reasons for vetoing the bill weren’t outrageous—it’s true that the US government was not really involved in the process but was expected to pay most of the costs & that’s not exactly fair. However, the veto set back the tribe significantly; the bill had taken years of work to complete, and for Reagan to reject it outright seemed a bit harsh. I wondered about his administration’s relationship with Native Americans and whether this was part of a larger trend and was surprised at what I found in my research.
Looking through all of his vetoes alone, I was surprised to see such a high number relating to Native Americans & resulting in reduced funding for tribes, or refusal to recognize groups as sovereign, among other things. Furthermore, I came across a 1988 article in the Chicago Tribune that talked about some fairly controversial things Reagan said about Native Americans while in Russia that drew a lot of backlash from Indian leaders. Reagan is quoted as saying, “Maybe we made a mistake. . . Maybe we should not have humored them in that, wanting to stay in that kind of primitive lifestyle. Maybe we should have said, `No, come join us. Be citizens along with the rest of us.'” I think the sentiments strongly reflected a lot of the decisions he made while in office & his own personal beliefs, and I’m curious now as to how other—more recent—presidents have viewed & treated Native American groups.