Wednesday, October 30, 2013

US Senate on Indian Affairs Committee

Today is the hearing before the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington DC.

628 Dirksen Office Building
2:30 PM


S. 1074, to extend Federal recognition to the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe; S. 1132, to provide for the recognition of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, and for other purposes; and S. 161, to extend the Federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, and for other purposes.

2:30pm – Business meeting (should last 5 minutes)

2:35pm – Legislative Hearing will commence (members will be given 5 minutes each)

Witnesses Panel I:

Senator Burr to testify
Senator Kaine to testify
Senator Hagan to testify

Witnesses Panel II:

The Honorable Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior

Witnesses Panel III:

The Honorable Stephen Adkins, Chief Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Charles City, VA
The Honorable Paul Brooks, Chairman Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Pembroke, NC
The Honorable Gerald Gray, Chairman Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, Black Eagle, MT

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Federally Recognizied Indian Tribe Acti of 1994

Enacted by the President on November 2, 1994 the H.R. 4180 (103rd): Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994 became the law.

Nearly 19 years have passed that established a tribe can be federally recognized by an an act of Congress, a court ruling, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

The last time Congress recognized an Indian tribe was in 2000 when they recognized the Loyal Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Since 2009, the BIA has granted federal recognition to one tribe (Shinnecock Indian Nation, a 32 year process) and denied recognition to five tribes. In 2002, the Schagticoke were granted federal recognition by the BIA only to have it revoked a short time later.

Federal recognition acknowledges a tribe's sovereignty and establishes a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. It also gives federally recognized tribes access to certain federal benefits and programs. The benefits of state recognition are much more limited and state-recognized tribes do not enjoy the same immunities as federally recognized ones.

It has been determined that the BIA process is broken, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe of Virginia were told that many of them wouldn’t live long enough to see their tribe officially recognized.

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Tribe Status Rules

North Stonington - First Selectman Nicholas Mullane II is calling proposed changes in the federal government's recognition of Indian tribes "a major relaxing" of standards now in place.
Under the revisions, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs would review a petitioning tribe's "community and political authority" beginning with the year 1934 "and eliminate the requirement that an external entity identify the group as Indian since 1900," the BIA said in a June 21 news release.
"We are starting with an open mind and no fixed agenda, and we're looking forward to getting input from all stakeholders before we move forward ...," said Kevin Washburn, the department's assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.
If adopted, the changes could have implications for the Eastern Pequot Tribe of North Stonington as well as other tribes in Connecticut and throughout New England, according to Mullane, who has long had a keen interest in the process.
"For the last two or three years, we have submitted FOI (freedom-of-information) requests for what's going on with federal recognition, and have received nothing," he said last week. "Now, we know."
The proposed revision regarding a petitioning tribe's continuity as a unit begins on the first page of the BIA's preliminary draft of the changes. It defines "continuously" or "continuous" as "extending from 1934 to the present substantially without interruption," replacing the phrase, "extending from first sustained contact with non-Indians throughout the group's history."
Mullane said the change constitutes "a dilution, a watering down" of existing regulations.
"Tribes won't have to be historical tribes anymore," he said. "There are tribes that have maintained their continuity from Day One, that have acted as a tribe, with a chief, a structure, members; now the BIA's saying they don't need that.
"There just won't be any stringent requirements anymore."
In addition to the Eastern Pequots, Mullane suggested, Connecticut's Schaghticoke and Golden Hill Paugussett tribes could benefit from the revisions. Though recognized by the state, all three tribes have failed to gain the federal recognition that could entitle them to certain rights and privileges, including federal funds.
Federally recognized tribes are eligible to have the U.S. government take land into trust for them, a process that exempts the land from local jurisdiction. For the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, federal recognition was a precursor to their development of casinos.
The Eastern Pequots and the Schaghticokes won federal recognition in preliminary BIA decisions that were subsequently reversed.
Mullane said North Stonington will oppose the revisions as best it can. though he said he doubts he'll be able to attend any in a series of public meetings the Department of the Interior will conduct over the next couple of months. The nearest meeting is July 31 in Maine. The department is also accepting written comment until Aug. 16.
"The first thing we have to do is find a bunch of money, because it won't be cheap," Mullane said of efforts to fight the proposed changes.
He said North Stonington spent $750,000 in legal fees opposing the Eastern Pequots' bid for federal recognition, and that the towns of Ledyard and Preston contributed a "couple hundred thousand dollars." Before that, he said, the three towns combined to spend $1.2 million to fight the Mashantuckets' attempt to annex land adjacent to their reservation.
Mullane said he has alerted Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, to the BIA's plan and will seek their support and the support of others in opposing it.
"We have to address it as soon as possible," he said.

White House Council on Native American Affairs

On Wednesday, November 13, President Obama will host the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior. The conference will provide leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. Each federally recognized tribe will be invited to send one representative to the conference.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Rules for Recognition of American Indian Tribes

The Obama administration has decided to amend federal rules for recognizing American Indian tribes, making it easier for those lacking the designation to achieve this new status—and possibly gain new economic opportunities, including health and educational benefits and control over commercial development.
Drafted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the new regulations would streamline the approval process for tribes to gain federal recognition. A key change would make it less difficult to be recognized by having to demonstrate political continuity only since 1934, instead of “first contact” with European settlers, which is the existing rule.
But with more tribes becoming “official” in the eyes of Washington, the potential could expand for political and economic conflicts between tribes, or between tribes and non-tribal communities.
For example, the 100-member Schaghticoke Indian Tribe in Connecticut is seeking federal recognition, and that worries residents in the town of Kent because the tribe claims land sitting beneath established properties, like the Kent School, a boarding school.
The tribe may also try to open a casino, a move that has stirred concerns in other locations where American Indians have used gambling to improve their economic well-being.
Richard Monette, a law professor and expert on American Indian tribes at the University of Wisconsin, told the Associated Press that more tribal recognition could increase inter-tribal frictions in some regions.
He cited the tribes along the Columbia River in Washington state, where arguments may arise over control of salmon fishing.
To date, the federal government has recognized 566 American tribes.