BIA ADOPTS NEW TRIBAL RECOGNITION
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
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
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
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
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
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 –
OBAMA NOMINATES CHEROKEE CITIZEN TO
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
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
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
CLADOOSBY ANNOUNCES RE-ELECTION BID FOR
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Brian Cladoosby is
running for a second term as president of the National Congress of
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
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
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
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
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
"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
SHERMAN ALEXIE TO RELEASE PICTURE BOOK
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
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
With more than 1,600 employees at the
casino alone, the Umailla Tribes are the largest employer in the
MONTANA TRIBES SEE 4K ACRES FROM LAND
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
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
BILL JOHN BAKER WINS RE-ELECTION AS
CHEROKEE NATION LEADER
– 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
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."