The outrage began after the President announced on December 16 that the U.S. would reverse course and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The Declaration was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2007, but the U.S., under President Bush, opposed it.
"The aspirations it affirms -- including the respect for the institutions and rich cultures of Native peoples -- are ones we must always seek to fulfill," the President said of the Declaration at White House Tribal Nations Conference where he announced the reversal. He went on to describe efforts to improve health care, education, and unemployment rates in tribal areas.
"While the declaration is not legally binding, it carries considerable moral and political force," the State Department wrote of the Declaration, "and complements the President's ongoing efforts to address historical inequities faced by indigenous communities in the United States."
Despite this, the right has seized onto some of the language to attack the President -- including Article 26, which says:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.
Obama was adopted as an honorary member of the Crow tribe during the 2008 campaign, and was even given the name "One who helps people throughout the land." Most of the outrage lobbed at the President in the wake of the announcement, naturally, references that fact.
Last week, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the Christian conservative American Family Association, Brian Fischer, wrote a blog post claiming that "President Obama wants to give the entire land mass of the United States of America back to the Indians. He wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords."
"Perhaps he figures that, as an adopted Crow Indian, he will be the new chief over this revived Indian empire," Fischer wrote. "But for the other 312 million of us, I think we'll settle for our constitutional 'We the people' form of government, thank you very much."
Yesterday, the right-wing blog World Net Daily took it a step further in a post called "Obama to give Manhattan back to Native Americans? President believes nation can spare some sovereignty." The article describes how "President Obama is voicing support for a U.N. resolution that could accomplish something as radical as relinquishing some U.S. sovereignty and opening a path for the return of ancient tribal lands to American Indians, including even parts of Manhattan."
The article continues: "Obama's interest is personal. He noted during the 2008 presidential campaign he was officially adopted by the Crow Nation, an Indian tribe in Montana, and he was given an Indian name."
Joseph Farah, the founder and editor of WND, followed up on the article today with a facetious column called "I'll Take Manhattan." He writes: "Truth be told, I have a fair amount of Indian heritage on my mother's side. So this proposed redistribution of wealth is welcome news for me. Where do I apply? I want to return wampum for Manhattan."
"Anyway, what do we have to lose?" he writes. "The U.S. economy is in shambles. What harm could it do to redistribute lands based on nothing more than the racial and ethnic heritage of Americans?"
"I suspect Obama himself plans to cash in on this action," he wrote.
Former Ambassador John Bolton was more concerned that the resolution would result in new legal claims. "It's a kind of feel-good document that has so many unclear phrases in it that nobody's really sure what it means when you agree to it," he told FoxNews.com. "It's wrong and potentially dangerous to sign onto a document that you don't fully understand the implications of."
"Hopefully most judges will say it's not binding," Bolton added. "But there are enough judges who couldn't care less about strictly applying the law."