Recognition bills crowd Congress
Facebook Twitter Email
NOVEMBER 29, 2000

As the Bureau of Indian Affairs prepares to issue findings on the federal recognition of two Nipmuc tribes, a number of groups continue to seek acknowledgment through Congress.

From the Lower Muscogee-Creek Indian Tribe of Georgia to the Miami Nation of Indiana to eight tribes in Virginia, several tribes are on the recognition radar as lawmakers return to work next Tuesday.

But these proposals are exactly what some members of Congress wish to avoid. Included among them is Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo), the main proponent of a bill that would create a special commission to handle recognition.

"Tribes are getting legislative recognition and Senator Campbell wishes it weren't done that way," said Chris Changery, a spokesperson for Campbell.

For tribes seeking recognition, though, the alternative can spell bureaucratic death. Since first instituting the federal acknowledgement guidelines in 1978, the Bureau has recognized 16 tribes while Congress has recognized at least eight.

The Nipmuc Tribe, state-recognized in Massachusetts, first filed its intent to petition for recognition in 1980. Twenty years later, the Bureau plans to issue its proposed finding on the tribe this week.

While waiting, the tribe has undergone changes of its own which may affect its standing. In 1996, a band of the tribe split off and filed its own petition. Although two Pequot tribes in Connecticut have received preliminary recognition under similar circumstances, Kevin Gover, head of the BIA, says if those groups were to join as one, they'd have a much better case.

Still, if the two Nimpuc Tribes receive positive findings tomorrow, their wait is not over. Including a comment and response period, as well as any delays requested by the tribe or others, a final ruling might be more than a year away. Changery says Campbell recognizes these limitations.

"The reason he's concerned is that the applications are taking too long to be processed," said Changery. "But when someone says 'My recognition has been pending for 25 years,' what can you tell them?"

For tribes who were terminated by the government, their only resort is Congress, however. The recognition guidelines prohibit acknowledgement of terminated tribes so tribes like the 355-member Groton Rancheria Tribe of California must seek relief through Congress.

But if Campbell's recognition commission becomes a reality, terminated tribes won't get help there either. The bill's current language also excludes them.

Campbell's recognition bill:
A bill to provide for administrative procedures to extend Federal recognition to certain Indian groups, and for other purposes. (S.611)

Some recognition bills pending in Congress:
A bill to provide for Federal recognition of the Lower Muscogee-Creek Indian Tribe of Georgia (S.2771)
To provide for Federal recognition of the King Salmon Traditional Village and the Shoonaq' Tribe of Kodiak. (H.R.4842)
To restore Federal recognition to the Miami Nation of Indiana (H.R.5403)
To extend Federal recognition to Virginia Tribes (H.R.5073)
To restore Federal recognition to the Indians of the Graton Rancheria of California (H.R.946)

Related Stories:
Town approves more anti-Pequot money (Tribal Law 11/28)
Recognition on Nimpucs due soon (Tribal Law 11/24)
Town wants more anti-Pequot money (Tribal Law 11/22)
Decisions put Gover in the middle (Tribal Law 08/16)
Little Shell finding a departure (Tribal Law 08/16)

Only on Indianz.Com:
Federal Recognition (Tribal Law 5/17)