This issue is fresh on our mind because of this week’s refusal by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to grant federal recognition to the Little Shell Band of Chippewa – even though the state of Montana recognized the tribe nearly a decade ago, and the state’s congressional delegation is pushing legislatively for recognition.
The Little Shell, of course, are not alone. They’ve got plenty of company in the Lumbee in North Carolina, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape in New Jersey – the list goes on and on. Tribal people all – but they won’t be able to voice their concerns about Indian Country to President Barack Obama at Thursday’s meeting. That’s despite the fact that Obama received overwhelming support from Indian tribes – federally recognized and others – during his presidential bid.
“I don’t begrudge our federal brothers and sisters one iota. I know they deal with different issues in some respects and I think having an audience to deal with those types of issues is appropriate,” the Rev. John Norwood who heads the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tells Indian Country Today. “But to be snubbed and not to be told that there will be a meeting for us state recognized down the road is surprising.”
The president’s invitation to the first-ever Tribal Nations Conference came during the National Congress of American Indians’ annual meeting in Palm Springs.
“This organization is the National Congress of American Indians. It’s not the National Congress of the Federally Recognized American Indians,” says Larry Townsend, the tribal veterans service officer for the Lumbee Tribe.
Norwood tells Indian Country Today that the state-recognized tribes are thinking about coordinating their efforts to deal with their collective issues. Sounds like a good idea – even if it won’t happen in time for Thursday’s meeting.