Opinion | Federal Recognition

John Norwood: Some Indian nations treated like untouchables





"The Obama administration has once again demonstrated its concern for the issues of Indian country by holding another Tribal Leaders Summit on December 5, 2012. Top administration officials, and the president himself, addressed hundreds of tribal leaders who gathered to hear what would be on the president’s “radar” for Indian Country during his second term in office. The well-crafted event addressed many key concerns. And, to the delight of attendees, the president affirmed his commitment to “getting the relationship right” between the federal government and tribal governments. The unspoken caveat in this was that the president was not speaking about getting the relationship right with all historic tribal governments, but only those acknowledged as such by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Many leaders from historic tribal nations were left uninvited to this event. There are those who have alleged that it may be because those not invited lack the Bureau’s stamp of approval and were deemed unworthy by the gate-keepers at the White House. Non-BIA tribes have become increasingly accustomed to having federal doors shut in their faces and their cry for justice left unheard. These non-BIA listed historic tribes are apparently viewed like an American version of India’s oppressed and excluded cultural caste of “untouchables.” It is as though such non-BIA listed American Indian “untouchables” would bring an unsavory element to a summit dedicated to “getting the relationship right” with Indian Country. This “relationship” is one that is declared to be based on the “government-to-government” / “trust” relationship between the federal government and BIA listed tribes. Its application is a revisionist construct that denies the complicated and contradictory history of federal acknowledgment and federal interaction with tribes. It is applied because it is convenient, expedient, and serves the federal government’s presumed authority to define and determine tribal governments."

Get the Story:
John Norwood: American Indian Untouchables and the 2012 White House Tribal Leaders Summit (The Native American Times 12/12)

Related Stories:
Cedric Sunray: White House Indians keep policy of segregation (12/5)
Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes lobbies for historic Indian nations (11/13)