Proposed Tribal Recognition Changes Hold Promise, Pitfalls

By Tom Banse, NW News Network


The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs wants to rewrite the rules for when a native tribe is officially a tribe in the eyes of the federal government. This again raises hopes for status and federal benefits among some unrecognized tribes in the West, but they still face a bumpy road.

The proposal to streamline and simplify the process of tribal recognition encourages leaders of native groups and bands currently frozen out of federal programs. But they have to contend with existing tribes who fear having to share territory, resources or casino customers.

That’s where Sam Robinson, the acting chairman of the Chinook tribal council, sees a potential pitfall. He pointed to part of the proposal that would allow previously denied tribes like his to re-petition for recognition only with consent of affected third parties.

“To appease another tribe would be very difficult for many,” Robinson said. “On top of that, why should one tribe be able to tell you whether you are Indian or not?”

Robinson’s ancestors welcomed Lewis & Clark to the mouth of the Columbia River and later signed a treaty, which however was not ratified by Congress.

Other tribal groups that might get another shot at official status include the Snohomish and Duwamish in Western Washington and several small bands near the Oregon-California border.

The Chinook Indian Nation and the Duwamish tribe were accorded federal recognition in 2001 in the last days of the Clinton Administration. But it didn’t last very long. The subsequent Bush Administration repealed the recognitions based on perceived irregularities in the review process.

The BIA is holding public hearings and tribal consultations around the country this month, including sessions in Portland on July 15. There are currently 566 federally-recognized tribes in the U.S.

Indian Country Anxious to See Federal Government Reopen

Shutdown Deal is Struck in Senate

BY Levi Rickert, Native News Network

WASHINGTON – The US Senate announced just after noon today, the sides have reached a deal that will lift the debt ceiling and reopen the federal government which was shutdown on October 1.

The measure still needs the approval of the US House of Representatives and then sent to the White House for approval by President Barack Obama.

With the federal government shutdown lasting over 15 days, the impact on Indian country has been devastating to American Indian tribes and is at crisis state for many impacted because of the lack of federal assistance.

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the Oglala Sioux Tribe is based, some 340 of the 850 employees – or 40 percent – have been directly impacted by the federal government shutdown. While most have had hours reduced, some 87 tribal employees have been laid off.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe at this time employs 850 people. Of this number, 340 will be directly affected.

Most seriously affected will be 87 tribal employees who are being laid off from their jobs.

Meanwhile, the Chippewa Cree Tribe, located in central Montana, declared a financial disaster yesterday because of lack of federal dollars during the shutdown. Many programs will be stopped completely if the federal government is not reopened by tomorrow, according to tribal spokesperson Wade Colliflower.

Congresswoman McCollum issued the following statement:

“I intend to vote today for the bipartisan Senate plan that puts federal employees back to work, protects American families from the catastrophic economic consequences of a default, and keeps ObamaCare intact. The end of this manufactured crisis, that has hurt so many people, is a victory for common-sense Democrats and Republicans who are willing to put our country ahead of political party. I commend President Obama, Senator Reid, and Leader Pelosi for their steadfast resolve and determination to carry out their constitutional responsibilities in the face of unprecedented congressional recklessness.”

Congresswoman Betty McCollum is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and serves as the Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

At press time, there still has not been a reaction from the US House.