Tuesday, May 2, 2017

VOA: US Government Decides Which Are, Are Not, Legitimate Native American Tribes

Cecily Hilleary continues her essays on Native America for VOICE of AMERICA.

On a sunny afternoon in May 2016, members of Virginia’s Pamunkey Indian Tribe gathered for a formal photograph celebrating a milestone after three decades of effort: Official recognition by the U.S. government.

When the English arrived in Virginia in the 1600s, the Pamunkey were one of the most powerful tribes of the Powhatan federation led by Chief Wahunsenacawh Powhatan – remembered today as the father of the Pocahontas.
His domains stretched across nearly 10,000 square kilometers; today, the Pamunkey reservation has shrunk to 485 hectares where some 80 members still live. The remaining 200 are scattered across Virginia and beyond.

Gaining federal recognition was a Herculean task, said Pamunkey Chief Robert Grey.

“We see recognition as access to certain government programs that could help us stand on our own two feet as a sovereign nation. It’s just the fact that the government acknowledges us and that we actually got through such a tough procedure,” he said.

The U.S. government recognizes 567 tribes, mostly through historic treaties. Non-treaty tribes who want recognition must petition the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and meet strict requirements.

READ the full article here


Reinstatement_Restitution said...

This is how the federal government is continuing the process of tribal termination. Recognized tribes are disenrolling members with the endorsement of the BIA, diminishing the number of Indians on the rolls, and endangering their continued existence. Unrecognized tribes are directed to the Part 83 process as the only administrative route to federal recognition, where the Office of Federal Acknowledgement imposes unreasonable standards in order to ensure that petitioning tribes are denied federal recognition.

The situation with the Virginia tribes is a perfect example. Through no fault of the tribes, the records documenting the continuity of their Indian communities are unavailable. The OFA can point to the lack of documentation as evidence of lapsed recognition and proof that the tribes don't meet the requirements for acknowledgement. The AS-IA can deny the petition and the courts will give such a determination deference. The tribes are left with no recourse other than petitioning Congress, and that takes a sponsor, means to influence representatives, and a lot of money. Most unrecognized tribes just don't have those kinds of resources.

The Federal Government is predisposed against creating more tribes. The policy of tribal termination is unspoken, but overt in the actions of the Federal Government. The futility of the Part 83 petition process is told in the story of the many tribes that have been denied, or whose petitions have languished for decades.

The BIA created many of the problems facing tribes today, but now claim they can't fix those problems without interfering with the self-determination of tribes. The victims of the policy of termination are faced with an impossible burden of proof. How does a tribe prove it is a federally recognized tribe when the BIA says otherwise, is predisposed to deny petitions for acknowledgement, and stringing the process out over decades hoping that petitioners will get frustrated, deplete their resources and give up?

Anonymous said...