"Much has been written about the efforts of the Duwamish Tribal Organization to achieve federal recognition. Because recent news stories about this issue have again raised many popular misconceptions about the nature of Indian tribes, the history of the Duwamish people and their efforts to obtain federal recognition, as chair of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribal Council, I feel compelled to respond.
The issue of federal recognition rests on the central question of what it means to be an Indian tribe. Tribal status requires a clear demonstration that a group's present-day membership is descended from an historic tribe or group of tribes and that the group has maintained attributes of a self-governing community over time. This is an important distinction that separates tribes that possess sovereign rights to self-government from voluntary associations of common ethnic backgrounds organized to promote language and culture.
Recognized tribes have a legitimate concern about the impact of federal recognition of groups that are not functioning social and political communities. Treaty rights and the right to self-government are tied to tribes' status as sovereign political entities, something more than a voluntary association of individuals of common ancestry. Ignoring established standards for tribal recognition would threaten all recognized tribes.
In rejecting Duwamish claims to tribal status Judge George Boldt, the U.S. Court of Appeals and Interior Department separately concluded the DTO had not shown it represented a continuously existing Indian community and did not constitute a political organization that had maintained influence over its members, as required for recognition."
Get the Story:
Charlotte Williams: The realities of tribal recognition
(The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3/13)
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