National Briefs: July 2015

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BIA ADOPTS NEW TRIBAL RECOGNITION

PROCESS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – All groups seeking recognition of

their status as tribes must follow the same process under a new

policy being adopted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The federal acknowledgment process

formally began in 1978. Yet some groups have gained recognition,

clarification or affirmation of their status through other

administrative means.

The forthcoming guidance puts an end

to that once and for all. Now that the Part 83 reforms are final,

every group will have to follow the same rules.

"The recently revised Part 83

regulations promote fairness, integrity, efficiency and flexibility,

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn wrote in the policy that will be

published in the Federal Register tomorrow. "No group should be

denied access to other mechanisms if the only administrative avenue

available to them is widely considered ‘broken.’"

The document doesn’t offer specifics

but the most recent group that gained recognition outside of the Part

83 process came prior to Washburn’s arrival at the BIA. In January

2012, former assistant secretary Larry Echo Hawk placed the Tejon

Tribe of California on the list of federally recognized tribes.

Echo Hawk did so without following any

sort of "discernible process," the Office of Inspector

General at the Interior Department said in an April 2013 report. By

that time, the former head of the BIA had left the Obama

administration.

In January 2001, the Clinton

administration "reaffirmed" the status of the King Salmon

Tribe of Alaska, the Sun’aq Tribe in Alaska, and the Lower Lake

Rancheria in California. The BIA at the time said they had been

mistakenly left off the list of recognized tribes.

Even though questions were raised

about those decisions, the new policy won’t affect them. The guidance

becomes effective immediately upon publication in the Federal

Register on July 1.

MCCAIN ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK CASINO BID ON

TRIBAL LANDS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. John McCain

(R-Ariz.) continues to push for passage of a bill that prevents the

Tohono O’odham Nation from using its trust land for a casino.

In 1986, Congress passed the Gila Bend

Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act to compensate the tribe for

a reservation that was flooded by the federal government. McCain was

a sponsor of the measure. Two years later, Congress enacted the

Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The law, generally, bars gaming on land

acquired after 1988 but Section 20 contains an exception for land

claim settlements.

McCain also was a sponsor of IGRA. Yet

he insists that Congress never thought tribes would open casinos in

connection with land claims even though that’s exactly what’s

happening with the Tohono O’odham Nation.

McCain at first stayed out of the

dispute. During a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing last

summer, he said he was worried that Congressional efforts to block

the casino went against IGRA. But now McCain is sponsoring S.152, the

Keep the Promise Act. The bill doesn’t mention any tribes by name but

it bars Class II and Class III gaming on newly acquired trust lands

in the Phoenix area — a situation that only applies to the Tohono

O’odham Nation.

The Gila River Indian Community and

the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community are aggressively

lobbing for passage of the bill. The two tribes operate five casinos

on the southern and eastern sides of Phoenix. The Tohono O’odham

Nation already broke ground on the West Valley Resort near Glendale,

a suburb on the western side of Phoenix. An initial structure is due

to open by the end of the year.

In the history of IGRA only two tribes

– the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma and the Seneca Nation of New

York – have opened casinos on land acquired in connection with land

claim settlements. However, only the Wyandotte Nation’s 7th Street

Casino, in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, meets the land claim

exception in Section 20 of the law.

The Seneca Nation has opened two

casinos in connection with a land claim settlement. In that case, the

Bush administration determined that Section 20 didn’t come into play

because the Seneca Nation Settlement Act of 1990 requires that the

tribe’s lands be placed in restricted fee – rather than trust –

status.

OBAMA NOMINATES CHEROKEE CITIZEN TO

DEFENSE POSITION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack

Obama nominated Brad Carson, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to

serve in a high-level position at the Department of Defense.

Carson, a U.S. Navy veteran who fought

in Iraq, has served as Under Secretary of the U.S. Army since March

2014. Obama nominated him in November 2013 and he was confirmed by

the Senate in February 2014.

Before that, Carson served as general

counsel of the U.S. Army, the agency’s top legal post. He was

nominated by Obama in September 2011 and confirmed in December of

that year.

Obama’s confidence in Carson continues

with his nomination as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and

Readiness, in which he has been serving in an acting capacity in

addition to his other post.

Carson represented Oklahoma’s 2nd

Congressional district from 2000 to 2005. The district has the

highest percentage of American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S.

He made a run for Senate but lost in 2004. He then went to work as

chief executive officer for Cherokee Nation Businesses, his tribe’s

economic development enterprise, before returning to Washington,

D.C., during the Obama administration.

TRIBES RECEIVE DOI FUNDING FOR FIRE

PROTECTION

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tribes in New

Mexico and Nevada will benefit from wildland fire protection projects

at the Interior Department.

As part of the Wildland Fire Resilient

Landscapes Program, $400,000 will be spent to restore natural

landscapes at Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico. The tribe suffered

from three devastating fires since 1998 that burned 67 percent of

timberland on the reservation and caused significant flooding of

cultural and food sites.

Elsewhere in New Mexico, $883,000 will

be spent at the Valles Caldera National Preserve, an area also hit by

fires. Jemez Pueblo, whose aboriginal connection to the land has been

recognized in court, and Santa Clara Pueblo is part of a

collaborative effort with multiple public and private partners to

protect the land from future blazes

Finally $3,984,250 will be spent at

the Greater Sheldon Hart Mountain to restore natural sagebrush and

grasses in Nevada, Oregon and California. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Service is the lead agency on a project that includes the Summit Lake

Paiute Tribe of Nevada.

“These projects will help restore

critical landscapes, which is essential for mitigating the impacts of

fire and climate change,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a

press release. “The benefits of increasing the resiliency of our

lands and waters to wildfires are wide-ranging, from conserving

native species like the greater sage-grouse to restoring rangelands,

forests and watersheds. These projects support our efforts to protect

our nation’s landscapes for this and future generations.”

A total of $10 million will spent on

the program.

CLADOOSBY ANNOUNCES RE-ELECTION BID FOR

NCAI PRESIDENT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Brian Cladoosby is

running for a second term as president of the National Congress of

American Indians.

Cladoosby, who serves as chairman of

the Swinomish Tribe of Washington, was first elected to the post at

NCAI’s annual convention in October 2013. He defeated Joe Garcia, a

council member for Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico and a former two-term

NCAI president, by just 25 votes.

After spending two years as the leader

of the largest inter-tribal organization, Cladoosby is gearing up for

a second campaign. He vows to unite tribes as they advance their

interests across the nation.

On his Facebook page, Cladoosby said

he will work to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance

and Self Determination Act, improve the Indian Health Service and

seek more funding for Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The election will take place at NCAI’s

upcoming annual convention in San Diego, Calif., this October. The

organization’s bylaws limit a president to two consecutive terms.

TRIBAL LEADERS RETURNED TO CAPITOL FOR

ECONOMIC SUMMIT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National

Center for American Indian Enterprise Development opens its

Reservation Economic Summit DC on June 15.

Hundreds of tribal leaders, Indian

entrepreneurs and corporate executives — along with federal, state

and local officials – returned to the nation’s capital for the

second year of the RES DC event. Attendees participated in sessions

on the 8(a) business development program, the burgeoning marijuana

industry, online lending, taxation and labor unions at the Omni

Shoreham Hotel.

This year’s event included a "New

Day Now" (NDN) rally. Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-Miss.), the top

Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security, is joined

tribal leaders in front of the U.S. Capitol to discuss economic

development issues.

After the rally, attendees

participated in a listening session with the Senate Indian Affairs

Committee. They discussed the Buy Indian Act and community

development financial institutions in Room 216 of the Senate Hart

Office Building. Tribal leaders heard directly from lawmakers on

energy, transportation and other legislative priorities.

“It is an honor to be able to lead a

panel with some of Indian Country’s strongest supporters,” Ernie

Stevens, Jr., National Indian Gaming Association Chair, said in a

press release. “The panel is just one of many sessions planned

during what will be another fantastic RES event, and I hope Indian

Country turns out in strong numbers to make their voices heard in our

nation’s capital.”

SENATE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE TAKES

UP ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Indian

Affairs Committee focused on economic development issues in mid-June.

The committee held a listening session

on the Buy Indian Act on June 16. The 1910 law requires the Bureau of

Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service to give preference to

tribally- and Indian-owned businesses in procurement matters but

regulations weren’t finalized until June 2013.

The committee also focused on

community development financial institutions, commonly known as

CDFIs. Organizations like Lakota Funds in South Dakota and Native

American Community Development Corporation in Montana provide loans,

grants and financial services to Indian entrepreneurs who are

typically unable to secure capital from traditional sources like

commercial banks.

"The National Center is pleased

Chairman Watchman will be able to shed light on the challenges Native

businesses face to the people who craft national policy," Gary

Davis, the president and CEO of NCAIED, said in a press release.

HOPI TRIBE WORKING ON SETTLEMENT OVER

WASTEWATER AT SACRED SITE

KYKOTSMOVI VILLAGE, AZ – The Hopi

Tribe and the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, are nearing a settlement

over the use of wastewater at the sacred San Francisco Peaks.

The tribe sued the city for signing a

five-year contract to supply treated sewage to the Arizona Snowbowl,

a privately-owned ski resort. The facility uses the wastewater to

make fake snow.

The city extended the contract for

another 20 years and authorized a higher volume of wastewater to be

sent to the resort, The Arizona Daily Sun reported in March. The

changes were adopted without public comment or consultation with the

tribes that hold the San Francisco Peaks as a place of worship and

the home of spiritual beings.

"The City and the Hopi Tribe are

working towards a settlement of the lawsuit and are optimistic about

the possibility of a resolution of the claim," the city said in

a litigation update. "All of the parties to the lawsuit recently

agreed to stay the litigation for at least 60 days as the

negotiations continue. The court granted that request in order to

allow time to explore resolutions and draft a settlement agreement.

Any settlement will be subject to city

council approval.

SHERMAN ALEXIE TO RELEASE PICTURE BOOK

IN 2016

NEW YORK CITY – Author Sherman Alexie

will release his first picture book for young readers in May 2016.

"Thunder Boy Jr." tells the

story of a young boy with the same name as his father. It is

illustrated by Yuyi Morales.

Alexie’s novel for young adults, "The

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,"

won the National Book Award in 2007.

MONTANA TRIBE TO FINANCE COST OF HOMES

BY BRAD PITT

POPLAR, MT – The Fort Peck Tribes of

Montana are planning to spend $2.6 million to install homes that were

promised by actor Brad Pitt and his foundation.

The 20 houses are being provided at no

cost by Make It Right. It’s the infrastructure that the tribe must

pay in order to establish the housing development in Poplar.

Some tribal leaders have questioned

the high cost. But they agreed to take out a loan to finance the

project.

The tribe has already poured the

foundations for 13 homes and tribal citizens could move in by August.

Each house – designed to be eco-friendly – costs $283,000.

OREGON TRIBE CHANGES MARIJUANA POLICY

FOR CASINO EMPLOYEES

People who test positive for marijuana

won’t necessarily be barred from working at the casino owned by the

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.

Marijuana remains illegal to use or

possess on the reservation. And employees of the Wildhorse Resort &

Casino cannot work while impaired by drugs or alcohol. But testing

positive for marijuana use won’t automatically prohibit anyone from

getting a job at the casino. The change in policy was reported by The

Confederated Umatilla Journal, the tribal newspaper.

The change comes as Measure 91 goes

into effect in July. The law allows residents of Oregon to grow

limited amounts of marijuana on their property and to possess

personal limited amounts of recreational marijuana.

The tribe, however, has no plans to

legalize marijuana and Measure 91 does not apply on the reservation.

Marijuana is also illegal under federal law. A new Department of

Justice policy could open the door to tribes that want to legalize

the drug.

With more than 1,600 employees at the

casino alone, the Umailla Tribes are the largest employer in the

Pendleton area.

MONTANA TRIBES SEE 4K ACRES FROM LAND

BUY-BACK

RONAN, MT – Nearly 4,200 acres have

been restored to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of

Montana as part of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

Offers went out to about 1,900

individual Indian landowners on the Flathead Reservation last year.

About 25 percent accepted, resulting in $5.4 million going into their

hands.

The fractional interests were then

transferred to the tribe. As of June 12, the equivalent of 4,197

acres were restored, according to a chart from the buy-back program.

The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement

provided $1.9 billion for Indian landowners who want to sell their

fractionated interests. DOI will pay "fair market value" as

required by the Indian Land Consolidation Act.

Participation is entirely voluntary.

Any land that is acquired will be returned to tribes.

As of June, DOI has extended $1.5

billion in offers to more than 4,900 individual Indian landowners.

Some $445.4 million in transactions have been concluded so far,

according to the chart.

The equivalent of more than 795,000

acres have been returned to tribal governments as a result of the

program.

BILL JOHN BAKER WINS RE-ELECTION AS

CHEROKEE NATION LEADER

TAHLEQUAH, OK

– Citizens of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma went to the polls on

June 27 to choose their leaders.

According to the unofficial results,

Principal Chief Bill John Baker won re-election to a second term. He

secured 52.66 percent of the vote, easily beating three other

challengers.

Deputy chief Joe Crittenden also won

re-election, according to the unofficial results. He secured 62.52

percent of the vote, defeating one challenger.

"Wado. Thank you all for your

support," Baker and Crittenden said on their Facebook page. "We

are honored to continue to serve the Cherokee Nation."