Tribal Leaders Summit (sovereignty)

President Obama Live!  Thursday, December 16th, 2010: 8:30AM Eastern!

President Obama will host the White House Tribal Nations Conference.  This conference will provide leaders from the 565 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration.  Each federally recognized tribe has been invited to send one representative to the Conference.  This will be the second White House Tribal Nations Conference for the Obama Administration, and continues to build upon the President's commitment to strengthen the nation to nation relationship with Indian Country. You can watch it live starting at 8:30-AM Eastarn.

Pushing the envelope of sovereignty

often cringe when I read headlines that blare out new controversies over gaming or taxes, especially those that exacerbate ever-tense state-tribal relations. I’m aware that the tribes involved are exercising their sovereignty, and in most cases, rightly so. And if some tribes had not boldly exercised their sovereignty, there would not be tribally owned casinos and other revenue-generating developments.  Full musings at:

Tribe Seeks Excess Navy Base (sovereignty)

NEWPORT, R.I. — Hundreds of prime acres are up for grabs in this waterfront city and its neighboring towns, valuable commodity on an island known for prized beaches, lavish homes and natural beauty.

The 260 acres on Aquidneck Island were for decades owned by the U.S. Navy, which says it no longer needs the land and is moving to unload it. The island communities envision the property as untapped economic potential for sweeping new development.

But another suitor — the Narragansett Indian Tribe — says the land falls under its ancestral footprint and is mounting a bid that may conflict with local development plans.

The Narragansett, Rhode Island's only federally recognized American Indian tribe, say getting the land would allow it to expand far beyond its existing reservation and would create room for a hotel complex, shopping, a cultural center, park space and public housing.

The tribe and its supporters see an unprecedented opportunity for a population that's grappled with poverty and whose past efforts at development, including a tax-free smoke shop and proposed casino, have been rejected by the state.

"The tribe's current land has been extremely limited. This would help boost the tribe's ability to success," said John Brown, the tribe's historic preservation officer. "We shouldn't have a chance for economic self-sufficiency?"

The tribe's bid has rankled some local officials, who say it was submitted after they had done years or work and planning in anticipation of using the land.

"It's delaying the process, and I don't think it's benefiting the city of Newport," said Paige Bronk, Newport's director of planning, zoning, development and inspections. "Their involvement, I would consider to be detrimental to our efforts."

Federal agencies receive right of first refusal for surplus military land, so the Narragansett enlisted the help of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has asked to acquire it on the tribe's behalf. .

The bureau has asked to obtain the property for free and to waive a requirement that whoever gets the land pay for its environmental cleanup. The Navy has determined that asbestos, lead-based paint and other contaminants taint at least some of the property. Navy officials say they're in the process of responding to the bureau's request.

The Defense Department has multiple options for disposing of surplus land, including conveying it for public benefit or selling it at fair-market value. The land has been advertised as surplus in the Federal Register, a key step toward making it available to nonfederal agencies like local governments and redevelopment authorities or ultimately private interests.

The availability of the land offers a chance to level the playing field, said the tribe's lawyer, Douglas Luckerman.

"This is a real opportunity for them to move ahead with economic development on solid footing — not gaming, not cigarette taxes," Luckerman said.

The Narragansett identify themselves as Rhode Island's aboriginal residents, greeting white explorers in the 16th century and selling land rights to Roger Williams, the colony's founder.

Federally recognized in 1983, the 2,600-member tribe occupies a reservation in the southern Rhode Island town of Charlestown that is well removed from the state's commercial hub.

Poverty remains a problem; an average of 41 percent of the tribe's members were unemployed between 2005 and 2008, according to the tribe's application. And the Narragansett have had a fractured relationship with the state.

In 2003, a state police raid on a tribal smoke shop that was selling tax-free cigarettes sparked a violent confrontation; three tribe members were convicted of misdemeanor charges and four others were acquitted. Voters statewide rejected a 2006 constitutional amendment that would have allowed the tribe and Harrah's Entertainment to open a casino.

The property in question testifies to the island's rich military maritime history. But as part of the nationwide Base Realignment and Closure process over the last decade, the Defense Department re-evaluated its needs and decided to part with it.

The Navy says it has not assessed the value of the land — in Newport and neighboring Portsmouth and Middletown. But it's unquestionably valuable given its size and waterfront proximity.

The crown jewel is a 10-acre shuttered hospital complex abutting the bay in Newport that opened in the early 20th century but was replaced by a new facility more than 10 years ago. The Navy hospital complex alone is likely worth at least a couple million dollars, said Newport's Bronk. There's also acreage once used to store underground fuel tanks in Portsmouth and other land offering convenient water access.

Local officials have for years been brainstorming uses for the property, including arrangements with private developers, and tout the potential of job creation and transportation improvements.

Newport, for instance, hopes a private developer or corporation will ultimately acquire the land and convert it into mixed-use projects that could include a hotel, marina, office space or housing, Bronk said. A blueprint document created by the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission envisions upscale housing and shopping, pedestrian trails and bicycle paths.

The tribe submitted an application last year, after the commission had been publicly discussing its vision for the property.

After requesting and receiving several extensions, the bureau said in December that it would not pursue the land after failing to get answers from the Navy about the land's value and how much it would cost to clean it up, Luckerman said.

Two months later, though, the bureau notified the Defense Department that it was again interested in the land in the "furtherance of the tribe's economic development."

It's not clear where that request stands or who will get the land.

Tina Dolen, executive director of the island's planning commission, said the tribe's bid has left local officials in a holding pattern.

"We're really in great shape," she said. "We just need the green light."

Tribe Recognized by State (community/sovereignty)

NEWPORT NEWS — It took eight years for the Virginia General Assembly to officially recognize the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Tribe, but tribal leaders say the American Indian tribe has existed for hundreds of years.

"It's like they're saying that, 'Yeah, we recognize you are who you say you are,'" Chief Walt "Red Hawk" Brown, said of the March 14 recognition. "But we've always been a tribe."

Brown said the Southampton County tribe, which has about 15 members in the Denbigh area of Newport News, is documented back to 1580, but probably existed for hundreds of years before that.

The tribe now has 272 members, and they host a pow wow at the Southampton County Fairgrounds every summer.

Brown said the tribe recently purchased 100 acres in Southampton County, where it intends to build a museum and replicas of tribal longhouses. He said he's also working to preserve the tribal language.

The Cheroenhaka endured a lengthy, twisting path to state recognition, which Brown said means that the tribe can stamp its crafts with the tribal name, start partnerships with schools promoting Native American history, and acquire more financial aid for college students. The tribe will now seek federal recognition, which would bring more benefits, he said.

But Brown said the most important reason for recognition is to preserve the "tradition, culture and history" of the tribe, whose name is pronounced cher-en-ho-kee.

In traditional regalia Wednesday, Lila "Spirit Heart" Hedgepeth, of Denbigh, wore a black flowing dress with turkey feathers sticking out of her headdress. She gripped a cypress tree staff decorated with a deer antler.

"You don't see us running around half-naked like you do on television," Hedgepeth said, explaining that tradition dictates that for females the dress should cover most of the body.

In 1705 the tribe owned 41,000 acres in Southampton County, Brown said, but as the tribe-owned acreage dwindled over time, members of the tribe dispersed, some to Newport News.

Hedgepeth said it's "impossible" to know when some members of the tribe moved. "They're still finding arrowheads in Newport News Park," he said.

Brown said there's lots of written history of the tribe, including a 1608 account by settlers of the Jamestowncolony referring to the tribe as the "people at the fork of the stream."

Bernard "Firewalker" Hedgepeth, Lila's husband, said he's happy for the state recognition.

"To me, it's validating our long history and existence," said Hedgepeth, whose children and grandchildren are carrying on the tradition. "We're still here."

Tribal history

For information on the Cheroenhaka and details on a July 24-25 pow wow at the Southampton County Fair Grounds:

Tribal Consultation (sovereignty)

Salazar Announces Plan of Actions to Develop a Department-wide Policy
on Tribal Consultation Per President’s November 5 Directive

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary Ken Salazar today announced the Interior Department’s plan of actions, as directed by President Obama in his memorandum dated November 5, 2009, to implement Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments, which directs Executive Branch departments and agencies to develop policies on tribal consultation and cooperation.  Under the Department’s plan Interior will establish a comprehensive, department-wide policy for meaningful consultation with the nation’s 564 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in accordance with the Executive Order as well as any other applicable statutes and regulations.   

“In keeping with President Obama’s memorandum of November 5, 2009, I am pleased to announce the Interior Department’s plan of actions to develop a department-wide policy on tribal consultation and coordination,” Salazar said.  “Establishing a comprehensive, department-wide policy for meaningful consultation is vital to our goals of supporting tribal self-determination, ensuring tribal self-government, respecting tribal sovereignty and carrying out our federal trust responsibilities.” 

The Department’s plan outlines guiding principles for a comprehensive policy to support Interior, its agencies and bureaus in conducting “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration” with tribes as stipulated in the executive order and in the presidential memorandum.  The policy will: 

·        Recognize the special legal status of tribal governments; 
·        Respect tribal sovereignty and support self-determination and self-governance; 
·        Honor the  trust relationship between the United States and tribal governments; 
·        Demonstrate Interior’s commitment to improving communications while maximizing tribal input and coordination; 
·        Ensure that Interior consults on a government-to-government basis with appropriate tribal representatives; 
·        Identify appropriate Interior officials who are knowledgeable about the matters at hand and are authorized to speak for Interior; 
·        Ensure that Interior’s bureaus and offices conduct consultation in a manner consistent with the department-wide policy, thus harmonizing the consultation practices of Interior’s bureaus and offices; 
·        Be clear, understandable, and workable. 

The plan also includes a separate action item to create a Tribal Consultation Team, comprised of senior Department representatives and tribal leaders.  The Tribal Consultation Team will draft the consultation policy document; ensure compliance with the President’s goal and policy of transparency during the policy development process; require the review and evaluation of Interior functions, policies, procedures and practices to identify policies with tribal implications; and require on-going review and comments from the tribes and general public on the draft policy. 

The plan also requires the Department to identify an official who will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the plan, as well as progress on reporting and compliance with the Executive Order.  The Department official will also be responsible for overseeing the development of supplemental consultation policies specific to each bureau and office and coordinating with other federal departments and agencies to bring greater efficiency and consistency to the consultation process throughout the federal government. 

The presidential memorandum directs Executive Branch departments and agencies to implement Executive Order 13175 dated November 6, 2000.  The President signed the memorandum at the White House Tribal Nations Summit held at the Interior Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2009.   

On November 23, 2009 the Department invited tribal leaders to participate in a series of tribal consultation meetings to discuss their experiences with federal consultation efforts, provide suggestions on the Department’s plan of actions, and make recommendations on improving its consultation practices.  Meetings were held in seven cities from December 2009 through January 2010:  Anchorage, Alaska (December 2); Portland, Ore. (December 9); Washington, D.C. (December 14), Ft. Snelling, Minn. (January 5); Oklahoma City, Okla. (January 7); Phoenix, Ariz. (January 12) and Palm Springs, Calif. (January 14).  Approximately 300 tribal representatives and over 250 officials from Interior as well as the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies invited by the Department to hear the tribes’ ideas and concerns attended. 

After the draft consultation policy has been circulated to tribes and tribal organizations for review and comment, the Department will publish the revised draft in the Federal Register with a 60-day comment period.  Following the Department’s publishing of the final consultation policy within 90 days of the close of the comment period, the Secretary will issue a Secretarial Order directing all Interior bureaus and offices to comply with the department-wide policy and its guiding principles. 

The text for the Department’s plan of actions can be found on our website at Tribal Consultation Plan