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."

The 2010 Census and Natives (information)

Indian Country Counts
Be Counted - Complete the Census
It is Important to You and Your Tribe

Reasons to participate in the Census:
  • The federal government distributes approximately $300 billion to local, state and Tribal
  • governments based on the Census.
  • The population totals from this census will determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives.
  • The totals are also used to redraw legislative districts.
How it works:
  • Census questionnaire will come in the mail with a return postage-paid envelope.
  • Questionnaires will be mailed out between February 2010 and the end of March 2010.
  • Census Day is April 1, 2010. Complete your questionnaire on April 1, 2010.
  • It’s easy! Fill it out and mail it back!
Additional Facts:
  • The census questionnaire has only 10 questions per person living in your home and takes only 10 minutes to complete? It’s the shortest in history.
  • One last thing: Strict confidentiality laws protect the confidentiality of respondents and the information they provide.
American Indians Count, but only if the questionnaire is completed correctly:
  • Page 1, Question 5, “1st Adult in House”
  • Always list the adult Indian spouse or household member as the “1st Adult” (not the non-Indian), regardless of who is the husband or wife, or wage earner, etc.
  • Page 1, Question 8 “Hispanic” always check “NO”
  • Page 1, Question 9 “Race” Check American Indian/Alaska Native ONLY. Do NOT check any other race.
  • Page 2 and on-List all other household members here, including non-Indian spouses and others in household

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:

Broadband Funding (community)

PLUMMER, Idaho – The Coeur d’Alene Tribe was awarded $12.3 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to construct a broadband network that will provide high-speed Internet access for the rural communities and surrounding areas on the reservation.

The fiber-to-the-home project calls for miles of fiber optic lines to be installed in Plummer, Worley, Tensed and DeSmet.

“This is awesome news for everyone living on the reservation,” said Coeur d’Alene Tribe Chairman Chief James Allan. “The broadband project will have a profound impact on all residents of the Coeur d’Alene reservation.”

The project will provide services to anchor institutions and critical community facilities and roughly 3,800 un-served and underserved households on the reservation – both tribal and non-tribal member alike, said Valerie Fast Horse, the tribe’s information and technology director.

“We have a rare opportunity to build one of the first fiber-to-the-home networks of this scale in the region. True economic development must involve revitalizing the human spirit of our communities. It is our hope that by lighting up the reservation with a fiber optic network we will spark our most creative minds and encourage the knowledge-based economy we’ve been striving to develop.”

The tribe expects to start work on installing fiber optic lines in the coming months.

The telecommunication funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The tribe will receive half of the money through a grant and the other half will be loaned to the tribe.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the selection of 22 broadband infrastructure projects to give rural residents in 18 states or territories. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s selection is one of the first Native American tribes to receive broadband funding and was the only application in Idaho to be funded.

“These broadband projects will provide rural America access to the tools it needs to attract new businesses, educational opportunities and jobs,” Vilsack said. “The Obama administration understands that bringing broadband to rural America is an economic gateway for people, business owners and key institutions – such as libraries, hospitals, public safety buildings and community centers. Broadband is important for rural communities to remain strong in the 21st century.”

The tribe received congressional and state support for the project, including support from U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Gov. Butch Otter.

“We truly appreciate them for seeing the need in our rural community,” Allan said.

In all, the federal government will invest more than $254.6 million on 22 projects. An additional $13.1 million in private investment will be provided in matching funds. Congress provided USDA $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funding to assist applicants to bring broadband services to those without service and underserved communities. To date, $895.6 million has been provided to support 55 broadband projects in 29 states or territories.

The tribe currently offers wireless broadband services to more than 600 customers through Red Spectrum. The service is available to all residents living in the service area.

Shredding & Culture (community)

RYAN WASHINGTON, 21, said he can perform over 100 gravity-defying tricks on his skateboard, which has given him a place of honor at the local skate park. “There is no limit to what you can do on a piece of wood with plastic wheels, he said. “Whenever I master a trick, I feel like I am on top of the world.”

Mr. Washington, a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe, started skateboarding at age 14 and quickly fell in love with a sport that requires tenacity. Elaborate tricks can include dizzying midair flips and twists, and mastering them takes the discipline to get back on the board after falling. Full story at: