Oregon coast tribe seeks federal recognition

By: Associated Press

 

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – An Oregon congresswoman wants federal recognition for the Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes on the northern Oregon coast.

A bill by Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici would restore federal benefits to the Indian tribe, but not fishing or hunting rights. Recognition wouldn’t require a reservation, but allows members to live in Tillamook and Clatsop counties.

The tribe has been seeking federal recognition for several decades.

More than a century ago, the tribe signed treaties with the U.S. government that were never ratified and left the tribe in legal limbo. The Indians were forced from their lands by white settlers and in 1954 Congress – “terminated” their recognition.

Bonamici introduced the bill in the U.S. House on July 28.

Benefits for federally recognized tribes include medical and dental care, education grants and housing programs.

Tribes support changing feds’ recognition process

By PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press

MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) – American Indians attending a Tuesday hearing at the Mashpee Wampanoag community center on Cape Cod said they support the federal government’s plan to make it easier for tribes to gain federal recognition.

But the tribal representatives, from New Jersey, Virginia, Missouri, New England and elsewhere, urged the U.S. Department of the Interior to go further.

They called for setting a time limit on the review process, which can sometimes take decades.

“There’s something wrong when a process takes more than a generation to complete,” said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the tribal council for the Mashpee Wampanoags, which won federal recognition in 2007 after a 30-year quest.

Federal recognition brings tribes increased government benefits and special privileges, including seeking commercial ventures like building casinos and gambling facilities on sovereign lands.

Tribal leaders also strongly objected to a proposal they said effectively gives “veto power” to certain “third parties” when a tribe seeks to re-apply for recognition.

Dennis Jenkins, chairman of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, said the provision would allow states, municipalities and other organizations that oppose tribal recognition to stand in the way of the federal decision-making process.

“It would be next to impossible for us to re-apply if this proposal goes through,” he said.

One attendee, meanwhile, suggested the proposed changes would “devalue” federal tribal recognition by setting the bar too low.

“The current process was not intended to create a tribal existence where none had existed,” said Michelle Littlefield, Taunton resident who has been an outspoken opponent of the Mashpee Wampanoags’ plan to build a $500 million resort casino in that city. “It is meant to protect the integrity of the historical Native American tribes that have an honored place in our nation’s history.”

The hearing was the last in a series of nationwide meetings on the proposal, and the only one held on the East Coast.

Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said the department believes it can make the tribal recognition process less costly and burdensome to tribes and more predictable and transparent without “sacrificing rigorousness.”

The Mashpee, who hosted the meeting, are among only 17 tribes that have been recognized by the Interior Department since the process was established 35 years ago.

The majority of the 566 federally-recognized tribes in the U.S. earned that status through an act of Congress.

The Interior Department proposes, among other things, lowering the threshold for tribes to demonstrate community and political authority.

Rather than from “first sustained contact” with non-Indians, tribes would need only to provide evidence dating back to 1934, which was the year Congress accepted the existence of tribes as political entities.

Washburn said that proposal, in particular, could help “level the playing field” among tribes.

Eastern tribes, he said, would otherwise need to provide a much more exhaustive historical record – sometimes dating as far back as 1789 – than their western counterparts.

“We’ve heard over and over that the process is broken,” Washburn said. “We’re going to do something.”

Chancery Court acknowledges Choctaw tribe in Jackson County

Chancery Court acknowledges Choctaw tribe in Jackson CountyPhoto/ TIM ISBELL — SUN HERALD

Chancery Court acknowledges Choctaw tribe in Jackson County
Photo/ TIM ISBELL — SUN HERALD

 

By KAREN NELSON, SunHerald.com

PASCAGOULA — A group of hundreds of Choctaw descendants, most of them living in the Vancleave area, made a great leap toward federal help Wednesday when the Chancery Court in Jackson County recognized them as an official Native American tribe.

“This is a huge hurdle to get past,” said Dustin Thomas, attorney for a portion of the descendants. He said it should speed the process of getting recognition by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Chancery Judge D. Neil Harris made the ruling after two factions within the group healed their differences and agreed on a constitution and bylaws for the Vancleave Live Oak Choctaw tribe.

The court directed Thomas to file an application and documents with the Interior Department for federal recognition of the tribe.

“… this agreement is in the best interest of the parties and all minor children affiliated,” the court ruled.

The factions set up a provisional council to handle matters under the ruling.

Thomas said the biggest benefit to federal recognition may be health care.

“They really need this,” Thomas said of the tribe. “They are so poor.”

He said the group can trace its ancestry to four women and a French trader in the 1700s. The tribe numbers about 1,500, most living in South Mississippi.

The group also is associated with a school established in Vancleave in the early 1900s called the Indian Creole School.

“We’re just so proud today that a court recognizes them,” Thomas said. “These people are so happy.”

Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross said Wednesday the acknowledgement of this tribe likely would have no effect on the issue of casinos in Jackson County. Those who oppose casinos in the county long have expressed concerns one might be allowed on Indian land.

To do that would require going through the DOI, Ross said, and the governor would have “tremendous input.”

“The governor knows we’ve voted not to have casinos here,” Ross said Wednesday.

Read more here: http://www.sunherald.com/2014/07/09/5691046/chancery-court-acknowledges-choctaw.html?sp=/99/184/201/#storylink=cpy

Seeking justice: Chinook Tribe readies new federal recognition campaign

Damian MulinixA crowd of tribal members and spectators take to the beach below Fort Columbia to honor the arrival of a canoe that carries the first salmon during Friday’s ceremony.

Damian Mulinix
A crowd of tribal members and spectators take to the beach below Fort Columbia to honor the arrival of a canoe that carries the first salmon during Friday’s ceremony.

June 24, 2014 Chinook Observer

By Katie Wilson kwilson@chinookobserver.com | 0 comments

The Chinook Indian Tribe is fighting once again for federal recognition after the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed changes to rules governing the process in May.

Under the revisions, currently unrecognized tribes, like the Chinook and dozens of others across the nation, would only need to prove continued existence back to 1934. Before, they had to provide documentation back into the 1800s.

Following the First Salmon Ceremony and Annual Meeting in Chinook last week, the Chinook Tribal Council began to plan. The first public meeting on the proposed rule changes will be held in Louisiana on Tuesday, July 1. The next public meeting will occur July 15 in Portland. (For details, see tinyurl.com/oq253k2)

“We’re trying to figure out who the folks are that we’d like to invite,” said Sam Robinson, acting chairman of the Chinook Tribal Council. Longtime Chairman Ray Gardner has stepped down from an active role on the council due to poor health.

Former Congressman Brian Baird has long been an advocate for Chinook recognition and told the council recently that he will continue to fight for them.

“It could be a full house,” Robinson said.

Recognition

The overarching Chinook Nation traditionally includes five tribes: the Lower Chinook, Cathlamet, Clatsop, Willapa and Wahkaikum tribes. However, the Clatsops on the south side of the Columbia now have a separate tribal organization in partnership with the Nehalem Tribe of northern Tillamook County. The Clatsop-Nehalem are pursuing federal recognition on a track independent of that of the Chinook Tribe in Pacific County.

Since explorers and sailors first encountered the Pacific Northwest, they have written about the Chinook people and the Chinook show up in nearly every history book about the region. Federal recognition, however, has been more elusive. They made a treaty with the U.S. at Tansy Point, Ore., in 1851 but Congress didn’t ratify the treaty.

Today, the Chinook have no reservation lands and no federal benefits though many were allowed to enroll in the tribe of their historical enemies, the federally recognized Quinault Indian Nation.

But they want to be known as the Chinook people and have pushed for this recognition for the last 40 years.

The Chinook were briefly recognized as a tribe in the closing days of the Clinton administration in January 2001, but in 2002 this was rescinded by the Bush administration, which cited irregularities in the process.

New rules

The Chinook blame politics.

The recognition process is long and complicated, often taking decades — several reasons for the proposed revisions to the rule now, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“The current process has been criticized as ‘broken’ or in need of reform,” the bureau wrote in the document outlining the changes. “Specifically, the process has been criticized as too slow… expensive, burdensome, inefficient, intrusive, less than transparent and unpredictable.”

Over the years, recognized tribes have also challenged the proofs put forward by unrecognized tribes.

In 1997, the Quinault Indian Nation filed a lawsuit in Tacoma’s U.S. District Court against the Chinook and Cowlitz tribes, which were both seeking recognition at the time. The Quinault asked the judge to halt the proceedings until they could examine the documents and records federal agencies were using to determine tribal status. They argued that the process unfairly favored the two tribes.

Though the lawsuit was eventually shot down and the Cowlitz maintained the federal recognition granted in 2000, litigation further slowed the process for the Chinook. Robinson and others on the Chinook Tribal Council worry it could happen again.

The Chinook aren’t interested in opening a casino, he said. It is unlikely they would get much by way of fishing rights.

“We need to be able to take care of ourselves,” he said. “Take care of our elders. The youth in our community.”

“You want to be on equal playing grounds with other tribes,” he added.

“We don’t have the services that everybody else has,” said Tony Johnson, chair of the Chinook culture committee and newly elected to the tribal council, at the tribe’s First Salmon Ceremony June 20.

Meanwhile, he said, the tribe has inherited other things common to recognized tribes: displacement, loss of tradition, drug and other substance abuse issues.

“We’ve managed to stay here,” said Peggy Disney, tribal secretary, standing in the middle of a circle of tribal members June 20, salmon smoking on cedar racks behind her. “But we have paid a large price to do so.”

First Salmon

There is one thing the Chinook have gained by continuing to go unrecognized: With no official programs in place to commemorate or build on Chinook traditions, the tribal members have had to cling to their history, passing it on carefully to their children.

“We had to hang onto it,” Robinson said. “We don’t have to squabble over money, that’s for sure.”

Over the years, he and Johnson have seen a growing interest among young Chinook to know their history and traditions.

It gives them hope that no matter how long this next fight for recognition might last, the generation behind them is ready for the challenge.

At a First Salmon Ceremony June 20, an important annual ritual for many Columbia River tribes, the atmosphere was like a family reunion. Parents, grandparents, children and guests of the Chinook Tribe welcomed a canoe paddled by tribal members. They shared cooked pieces of the first salmon and drank from Dixie cups filled with water drawn from a spring flowing on their traditional lands. They raised their hands to each other and gathered in a circle to drum and sing.

© 2014 Chinook Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Native American interns raise DC’s awareness of tribal issues

By Stephanie Haven, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Chelsea Barnes, 20, is a Native American working on Capitol Hill this summer for a government that doesn’t recognize her heritage.

Barnes’ boss, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., was among those who voted against her tribe’s federal recognition. Ten years after the bill failed, Cole, a member of the federally recognized Chickasaw Nation, came face-to-face with his decision.

A member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Barnes began her summer job in Cole’s office on June 3 as part of the 2014 Native American Congressional Internship. Run by the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, the 10-week program is designed to teach indigenous students about the federal government.

“I just see it as an opportunity to represent my tribe in the office,” said Barnes, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Just being there helps.”

Cole is one of seven members of Congress with interns from Barnes’ program this summer.

Chelsea Barnes, 20, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and a senior at the University of North Carolina, studies Political Science and Communications and is interning with Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Tribe. ANDRE CHUNG — MCT

Chelsea Barnes, 20, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and a senior at the University of North Carolina, studies Political Science and Communications and is interning with Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Tribe. ANDRE CHUNG — MCT

Two out of the 12 students in this program are from a tribe seeking federal recognition. Both are Lumbee. Joined by Anthony “AC” Locklear, a first-year student at UNC School of Law, Barnes’ arrival on Capitol Hill falls weeks after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed a revision to the 35-year-old federal recognition process for tribes. It’s intended to make the process more transparent and efficient.

If the Lumbee Tribe were to receive federal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cole said, his opinion could be different. That’s “the best way to go,” he said. “If they went through that process and signed off on (federal recognition) I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Locklear, who is interning with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the revised system could be a step toward this status for his tribe, which has petitioned for federal recognition since 1987. The prospect instills in him a newfound sense of hope, he said.

“I feel like it’s good timing that Chelsea and I are here in D.C., ‘infiltrating the system,’” Locklear said with a chuckle.

Although both Locklear and Barnes said they do not plan to fight for federal recognition this summer, “just being a face helps a great deal,” he said.

Cole’s resistance to granting the Lumbee Tribe federal recognition through Congress is not unique. When legislation for the tribe’s federal recognition came before Congress in 1989, the measure failed to pass both chambers. Yet Cole’s opportunity to meet with a member of the tribe is distinct, Locklear said.

“A lot of (lawmakers) have never met Lumbees and if they have, it’s only in the political arena,” Locklear said. “Being able to put such an innocent face, in Chelsea, behind our tribe will hopefully help them not be so opposed when they see Lumbee students who are really doing work for the other tribes as well.”

Such interactions between indigenous students and politicians elucidate the purpose of the internship, said Jane Curlin, director of Education Programs for the Udall Foundation.

She said an intern from the program could be “the first American Indian” someone in Washington has ever met. “Raising the visibility of how wonderful these native students are _ how accomplished they are and how much they have to offer _ I think is really important in Washington, D.C.,” Curlin said.

Over the course the program, all 12 interns _ each of whom works in separate offices across the three branches of government _ will periodically come

Anthony Locklear, 22, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, is a 2nd year law student at the University of North Carolina and is interning this summer at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior Indian Affairs. ANDRE CHUNG — MCT

Anthony Locklear, 22, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, is a 2nd year law student at the University of North Carolina and is interning this summer at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior Indian Affairs. ANDRE CHUNG — MCT

together to meet with senators and tribal leaders. Cole, who took an intern from this program for the first time this year, said he hopes the experience will enrich the diversity on Capitol Hill.

“I think too many other tribes have not taken the opportunity to directly impact the federal government,” he said. “They need to be actively engaged. Hopefully a lot of them will think about running for office themselves. I’d like other tribes to have that kind of opportunity to understand they can, indeed, shape the process.”

The interns’ first so-called “enrichment program” was a June 4 meeting with Sens. Mark and Tom Udall, of Colorado and New Mexico, respectively. Both are sons of the namesakes of the Udall Foundation, a congressionally established group that promotes programs for the environment and about Native Americans.

Morris Udall, Mark Udall’s father, and Stewart Udall, Tom Udall’s father, were ardent environmentalists who both served in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stewart Udall also served as secretary of the interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Their sons have been proponents of various Native American communities while in Congress.

“It’s nice to see that we’re carrying on that legacy as well as they are,” Locklear said.

Little Shell optimistic on federal recognition

 

May 12 2014

Helena, MT – Leaders of an American Indian tribe in Montana awaiting federal recognition say they are closer than ever to that goal.

The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Council Chairman Gerald Gray spoke with Gov. Steve Bullock last week. Gray says recently proposed rule changes for recognizing American Indian tribes would put a nod from the U.S. government within their reach.

Federal officials say the proposed rule changes are in the midst of a months-long finalization process.

The landless tribe has been recognized by the state of Montana since 2000. With about 4,500 members loosely centered in Great Falls, federal recognition could bring the tribe land, along with housing and education assistance.

Gray, Bullock and others met as part of the annual Tribal Leaders Summit at the State Capitol in Helena.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monacan tribe one step closer to achieving federal recognition

A pageantry of color, drums, crafts and food unfolded at the 20th Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in 2012 near Elon.The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2013 recently was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to await a vote in the full U.S. Senate. If the legislation passes, it would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes, including the Monacan Indian Nation.

A pageantry of color, drums, crafts and food unfolded at the 20th Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in 2012 near Elon.
The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2013 recently was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to await a vote in the full U.S. Senate. If the legislation passes, it would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes, including the Monacan Indian Nation.

By Sherese Gore, NewEraProgress.com

The Monacan Indian Nation, Amherst County’s original inhabitants, now is one step closer to receiving federal recognition of its indigenous status.On April 2, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2013 was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to await a vote in the full U.S. Senate. If the legislation passes, it would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes, including the Monacan Indian Nation.The bill was introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.“The fact that they’ve never been recognized is a real injustice,” Kaine said.

The six tribes have a “long and well-known history but have been uniquely disadvantaged because they’ve never been federally recognized,” he said.

The 2013 bill follows many years of efforts by the Monacan Indian Nation to receive recognition from the federal government. Doing so would provide a host of benefits, including medical and educational services as well as tribal sovereignty.

The Monacans have resided in central Virginia for millennia, and today claim Bear Mountain in Amherst County as their cultural base.

In 1908, an Indian mission was formed at the base of the mountain, which provided a church and a school for the Monacan community.

Lee Luther JrFormer Monacan tribal council member Joseph Twohawks, shown here interacting with students at Rockfish River Elementary School in Nelson County, said gaining federal recognition can be a matter of pride. “For most people, you’ve called yourself something for all these many years, and now somebody with the powers that be agrees with it,” he said.

Lee Luther Jr
Former Monacan tribal council member Joseph Twohawks, shown here interacting with students at Rockfish River Elementary School in Nelson County, said gaining federal recognition can be a matter of pride. “For most people, you’ve called yourself something for all these many years, and now somebody with the powers that be agrees with it,” he said.

According to a former tribal council member Joseph Twohawks, federal recognition means different things to different people. To some, the recognition represents financial benefits. For others: pride.

Although the tribe has held state recognition since the 1980s, little has come from that aside from letters of apology and recognition; if you’re Native American with a tribal card, you can hunt and fish without a license, Twohawks said.

“For most people, you’ve called yourself something for all these many years, and now somebody with the powers that be agrees with it,” Twohawks said.

Gaining federal recognition is a “tough long process,” he said, that hasn’t been without its opponents.

According to Twohawks, the tribe first attempted to gain federal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the tribe only satisfied six of the BIA’s seven requirements that attempt to affirm historic and cultural tribal identity.

Establishing a historical identity is nearly impossible for Virginia Indians.

With the passage of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act in 1924, a person could be classified as either “white” or “colored,” and the marriage and birth records of tribal peoples were altered.

Striving for congressional status has been met with roadblocks, as some legislators in recent years have been leery of Virginia’s tribes gaining federal recognition because of the fear that the tribes would establish casinos on their lands.

The 2013 bill satisfies that issue, according to Kaine. According to the bill, the six tribes “may not conduct gaming activities as a matter of claimed inherent authority or under any Federal law.”

Another issue that has hindered Virginia Indians from being recognized by the federal government is that they made peace too soon, Kaine said.

While the status of many of the nation’s western tribes is established because those peoples formed treaties with the U.S. government, the Monacans signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation of 1677 with the British, nearly 100 years before the Declaration of Independence, he said.

“Because they made a treaty with the English and not the American government, it has worked against them,” Kaine said.

But while the bill awaits time on the Senate floor, an irony exists outside its doors, Kaine said.

Blocks from the U.S. Capitol and resting inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is a diorama that explores the story of Virginia’s indigenous peoples.

“But we will not recognize living and breathing members of those tribes,” Kaine said.

Federal Recognition Process: A Culture of Neglect

who_decides_youre_real_fixing_the_federal_recognition_process-1

Gale Courey Toensing, ICTMN

The Shinnecock Indian Nation was petitioner number 4 on the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ list of tribes seeking federal recognition in 1978 soon after the agency established the seven criteria for recognition.

Thirty-two years and $33 million later in June 2010, the BIA acknowledged the Shinnecock Nation as an American Indian tribe with a government-to-government relationship with the United States’ and whose members are eligible to receive health, education, housing and other services provided to federally recognized tribes – services the federal government is obligated to provide as a debt owed to the Indigenous Peoples in exchange for the loss of their lands.

Three or four days after receiving federal recognition, the tribe got another letter from the BIA, Lance Gumbs, former Shinnecock council chairman, said. “It was an internal memo from inside the Office of Federal Acknowledgement and this memo said the Shinnecock Tribe is indeed a tribe and they should be recognized expeditiously in this process,” Gumbs said. “And that letter was dated from 1979.”

The Shinnecock Nation’s experience in the BIA’s Federal Acknowledgement Process (FAP) is not unique; it’s typical of a process that’s been described as broken, long, expensive, burdensome, intrusive, unfair, arbitrary and capricious, less than transparent, unpredictable, and subject to undue political influence and manipulation. It reflects a culture of neglect on the part of the federal government, indigenous leaders and others involved in recognition efforts say.

Related: Federal Recognition: Can the BIA’s Acknowledgment Process Be Fixed?

On January 16 and 17 close to 200 tribal leaders and representatives of both federally recognized and “unrecognized” indigenous nations, attorneys and consultants specializing in the FAP, and federal officials gathered at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law for a unique conference called “Who Decides You’re Real? Fixing the Federal Recognition Process.”

“The recognition process is a broken system that needs to be reformed,” Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and newly elected president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), said in his opening remarks at the conference. Cladoosby said he told Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently to fix the broken process. “I said, ‘Take the 19th and 20th century rules and regulations that are paternalistic and fit them for the Natives that we have today,’” he said. The federal acknowledgment process is critically important, Cladoosby said. “Put simply, federal acknowledgment empowers tribes to govern and provide the services and stability their people need in order to preserve their culture. The failure to acknowledge a historical tribe is a failure of the trust responsibility and contributes to the destruction of tribal culture.”

The conference focused on the challenges faced by unrecognized tribes and covered all aspects of federal recognition, including its history, the administrative process, current issues, and proposed new rules and regulations that would reform the process – a discussion presented by the BIA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Larry Roberts. Several tribal leaders, like Gumbs, and tribal representatives told their tribes’ stories.

The BIA’s own numbers tell its story. Since 1978 when the FAP was established 356 “groups” have sought federal acknowledgment. Of that number, 269 have not submitted documented petitions. Of the 87 that have submitted documented petitions, the agency has resolved 55 and 19 have been resolved by Congress or other means.

“Resolved” doesn’t mean the groups were given federal acknowledgment. Of the 55 resolved, 17 were acknowledged and 34 were denied. The remaining four had their status “clarified” by other means.

Although the number of unrecognized tribes was not pinned down at the conference, the Government Accountability Office identified approximately 400 non-federally recognized tribes in a study it conducted in 2012 on federal funding for unrecognized tribes. The study found that 26 non-federally recognized tribes received funding from 24 federal programs during fiscal years 2007 through 2010. Most of the 26 non-federally recognized tribes were eligible to receive this funding either because of their status as nonprofit organizations or state-recognized tribes.

State recognition didn’t help two Connecticut tribes – the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) or the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nations (EPTN) – hold on to their status as federally recognized tribes. Ruth Torres, an STN citizen, described the campaign of political influence that ultimately resulted in the unprecedented reversal of both tribes’ federal acknowledgment. She talked about a cluster of events in May 2005 that worked in concert toward reversal of the tribe’s federal status: an appeal of the Final Determination by then Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (now a senator), the hostility toward the tribe expressed by residents at a town meeting in Kent where the tribe has a 400 acre reservation – all that remains of approximately 2,500 acres set aside for the tribe in 1736 – and a House Committee hearing called “Betting on Transparency: Toward Fairness and Integrity in the Interior Department’s Tribal Recognition Process” that featured some of the most zealous opponents to federal recognition, Indian gaming and Indian country in general in politics.

“Betting, it was called,” Torres pointed out. “Now tell me, what do you think was the motivation for the political influence exerted on the FAP?” Federal recognition gives tribes the right to conduct Class III gaming, but contrary to popular belief, STN, like the majority of other tribes, filed its petition years before the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was enacted in 1988, Torres said. The IGRA launched Indian gaming on the path to becoming the $27 billion industry that it is today, but along with its success came a backlash of political opposition that effectively put the brakes on federal recognition.

STN had been in the FAP process since 1981 and by the mid-1990s it became clear – just as it did to the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Torres said – that the tribe needed a financial backer and it entered into a casino deal with Fred DeLuca, owner of the Subway chain, and a group called Eastlanders. The investors spent around $22 million on the process, Torres said. Nonetheless, the political opponents were successful in overturning the tribe’s recognition and even in influencing a federal judge who denied the tribe’s appeal of the reversal in part because he said he believed federal decision makers who said they were not influenced by the frenzy of political pressure that was brought to bear upon them.

RELATED: Judge Denies Schaghticoke Appeal

The Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe’s story is one of the saddest tales of federal government neglect and bureaucratic rigidity.

In 2008, the Bush administration issued proposed negative findings to both the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe and the Biloxi, Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogees, Inc. (BCCM). Members of both tribes are descendants of the historical Biloxi, Chitimacha, Choctaw and other tribes and subgroups.

Pointe-au-Chien proved it had been identified as an American Indian “entity” since 1900, the Bush Interior Department said, but it hadn’t submitted a membership list or demonstrated that it was a distinct community or had political entity before 1830.

RELATED: Bush Administration Put the Wreck in Federal Recognition

Pointe-au-Chien is a traditional community whose members survive on sustenance fishing and hunting in their coastal Louisiana territory. But the tribe’s land has been washing away for decades in the erosion of thousands of square miles of coastal wetlands. The erosion is caused by salty water from the Gulf of Mexico flowing into the fresh water marshes because levees built for navigation along the Mississippi River since the beginning of the 20th century prevent mud and silt from cyclically rebuilding the marshes and coastal bottom. Add to that environmental disaster the devastation wreaked on the Louisiana coast by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

The tribe notified the Coast Guard that it’s sacred sites were in danger from the oil and needed protection, Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, a Pointe-au-Chien tribal member and director of the Indian Legal Clinic at Arizona State University, said. “At one point in the process, the federal government said, ‘We cannot consult with you because you’re not a federally recognized tribe,’” Ferguson-Bohnee said. Even when the remains of Pointe au Chien ancestors were found, the tribe could not access them for reburial because it lacks federal acknowledgment. The tribe also lacks the means to hire experts to bolster its petition for recognition. And without drastic wetlands restoration efforts by the federal government the tribe’s remaining lands continue to disappear.

For Gumbs, the federal recognition process “consumed all of my adult life – 32 years,” he said. “When we started this process [in 1978] it should have been a relatively fair and equitable process. Instead it turned into a test of strategy and will. We went from playing checkers to playing chess…We had to think of the next three moves, four moves that we were going to make in response to how they [the Office of Federal Acknowledgement] were treating us. They had a complete disregard for the criteria [for federal acknowledgment] as they were written and they would change the rules right in mid-stream.”

You can’t have tribes stuck in the process for 30 years, Cladoosby said. “That’s just unacceptable. No one should have to wait 30 years to be told that the federal government is going to recognize them. The process is broken. It needs to be fixed.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/23/federal-recognition-process-culture-neglect-153206

Feds hear about Indian tribe recognition proposal

Maura Sullivan, secretary for the Central Band of Chumash Nation, speaks about the proposed changes to federal acknowledgment regulations for Native American tribes Thursday in Solvang.

Maura Sullivan, secretary for the Central Band of Chumash Nation, speaks about the proposed changes to federal acknowledgment regulations for Native.American tribes Thursday in Solvang. Daniel Dreifuss/Staff

Federal officials heard testimony Thursday in Solvang on proposed changes to the process for Native American tribes to get recognized, a procedure speakers described as expensive, lengthy and burdensome.

July 26, 2013 LompocRecord.com
Julian J. Ramos/jramos@lompocrecord.com

In June, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released a draft of potential changes to its Part 83 process for acknowledging certain groups as American Indian tribes granted a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

At the moment, the U.S. has 566 federally recognized tribes, of which 17 have been recognized through Part 83. California has 109 federally recognized Indian tribes with between 70 and 80 seeking federal recognition.

The draft proposal, the subject of two sessions Thursday at Hotel Corque, is meant to give tribes and the public an early opportunity to provide input on potential changes to the Part 83 process.

Proposed revisions are intended to improve transparency, timeliness, efficiency, flexibility and integrity in the acknowledgment process, according to the DOI.

However, critics of the proposed rules are calling them the “Patchak patch,” a reference to Supreme Court decision last year in favor of David Patchak, a Michigan man who challenged the way the government takes land into trust for tribes.

They say the proposed rules are meant to drastically limit the uncertainties created by the Patchak decision by adding administrative barriers for potential litigants and rushing fee-to-trust acquisitions, which removes land from local jurisdiction and makes it part of an Indian reservation, under tribal authority.

Larry Roberts, deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, said the presentation during the afternoon public meeting was the same delivered during the morning tribal consultation session.

The public session Thursday afternoon drew between 60 and 70 attendees, including Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson, in the ballroom of the hotel, which is owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Roberta Cortero of the Central Band of Chumash Nation speaks her concerns about the proposed changes to federal acknowledgment regulations for Native American tribes Thursday In Solvang. Daniel Dreifuss/Staff

Roberta Cortero of the Central Band of Chumash Nation speaks her concerns about the proposed changes to federal acknowledgment regulations for Native American tribes Thursday In Solvang. Daniel Dreifuss/Staff

Many of the speakers represented California tribes seeking recognition, a process they described as cumbersome, costly and very time consuming, or as Mona Olivas Tucker, tribal chairwoman of the Yak Tityu Tityu Northern Chumash in San Luis Obispo County, put it, something she doesn’t expect to be completed in her lifetime.

Valentin Lopez, tribal chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of Coastanoan/Ohlone Indians in the San Juan Bautista area, said the acknowledgment process is getting more and more difficult, is too lengthy, should be moved out of the hands of the DOI Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the burden of proof for recognition should revert to the BIA from tribes.

Michael Cordero, tribal chairman of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, said criteria changes could make it easier to be recognized and tribes, such as his, could benefit from the acknowledgment.

A “Letter of Intent,” which begins the acknowledgment petition process, has been submitted for the tribe, he said.

During a break, Cordero said the session had been helpful in clarifying some issues on the process and requirements.

Across San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation has about 2,500 enrolled members, Cordero said.

Under the proposal, reviews of a petitioner’s community and political authority — criteria for acknowledgment — would “begin with the year 1934 to align with the government’s negation of allotment and assimilation policies and eliminate the requirement that an external entity identify the group as Indian since 1900,” according to the DOI.

No More Slots attorney Jim Marino asked why 1934 is being used in the criteria. He represents several groups against more Indian gaming and land acquisition through the fee-to-trust process, which removes land from local jurisdiction and makes it part of an Indian reservation under tribal authority.

The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act represented a “dramatic” shift in federal policy toward self determination for tribes and the use of that year as a benchmark is meant to reflect that change, Roberts said.

To block attempts to annex property into the Santa Ynez Reservation, opponents of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have questioned whether it’s legally a tribal government and thus able to take land into trust via the fee-to-trust process.

The battle centers on Chumash efforts to annex almost 7 acres they own across Highway 246 from the tribe’s Santa Ynez casino.

Members of Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO) and Preservation of Santa Ynez (POSY) have presented documentation to the Bureau of Indian Affairs the groups believe prove the Chumash were not under federal jurisdiction in 1934, and do not qualify to take any land into trust.

By contrast, the Chumash tribe logo and flag says “Federally Recognized Tribe since 1901.”

Due to POLO’s continuing litigation, the group has been advised not to comment on the proposed rule change, POLO president Kathy Cleary said.

Other plans by the Chumash to annex property into the reservation, notably 1,400 acres they own about 2 miles east of the casino and an additional 5.8 acres in the casino area along Highway 246, have also been met with opposition.

Sam Cohen, legal and government affairs specialist for the Chumash, said the proposal is not applicable to the local tribe.

“The Department of the Interior has started to initiate the process of reviewing revisions to the federal acknowledgment regulations for Native American tribes that hope to be federally recognized,” he said in a statement. “Since the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians was federally recognized in 1901, the revisions don’t apply to the Santa Ynez Chumash tribe.”

Transcripts from both sessions will be available at www.bia.gov, officials said.

The discussion draft is available for review at www.bia.gov/whoweare/as-ia/consultation.

Interior officials will accept written comments on the draft until Aug. 16 by email to consultation@bia.gov or by mail to Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, NW, MS 4141, Washington, DC 20240.

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe loses ruling in recognition appeal

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The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana lost a decision in its quest to gain federal recognition.

During the Clinton administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs proposed to recognize the tribe in 2000. The Obama administration, nine years later, reversed course and issued a final determination against the tribe. The tribe asked the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, an administrative review body, to look into the matter. The board, however, said it lacked jurisdiction to order the BIA to reconsider the petition.

“Petitioner’s Exhibits 1 and 2 include allegations that are within the board’s jurisdiction, but we conclude that that petitioner has not met its burden to establish that reconsideration is warranted, and thus we affirm the final determination,” the June 12 decision stated.

But the decision gave some hope to the tribe. The board referred several issues to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who was asked about the issue at a hearing last month, for further review.

Interior Board of Indian Appeals Decision:
In Re Federal Acknowledgment of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana (June 12, 2013)

Related Stories:
Secretary Jewell mum on Little Shell Tribe recognition bid (05/16)