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 The subsequent Bush Administration repealed the recognitions based on perceived irregularities in the review process.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.

Spokane County commission opposes casino

Apr 09 2014 Associated Press


SPOKANE, Wash. –

The Spokane County commissioners are asking the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to take another look at possible negative impacts of a proposed Indian casino near Fairchild Air Force Base.

In a recent letter to the BIA, commissioners say new information has surfaced indicating that an “accident potential zone” could be extended into the area where the Spokane Tribe wants to build its resort.

The Spokane Tribe says the casino would create jobs for tribal members and attract more businesses to Airway Heights, where the proposed project would be built.

The Spokesman-Review says the tribe’s application is before the Office of Indian Gaming, which has not indicated when it might issue a ruling.

If approved by the federal government, the casino would also require approval by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

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