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Both Indian Country Today and The Native American Times have published an article by ACET General Secretary, Rev. John Norwood, regarding the White House Tribal Leaders Summit held on December 5th, 2012. The article "American Indian Untouchables..." discusses the summit's inclusion and exclusion of historic tribes based on BIA listing and how that ultimately, albeit unwittingly, perpetuates the very injustice that the Obama Administration is dedicated to eradicating.
Click here to read the article.
On March 19th, 2013, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, appeared before the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs and a hearing on "Authorization, Standards, and Procedures for Whether, How, and When Indian Tribes Should be Newly Recognized by the Federal Government." The previous invitation from the subcommittee has been either declined or ignored in July 2012, when several tribal leaders testified on the same topic. Asst. Sec. Washburn's comments were greatly anticipated, given his previous pledges to improve the current unjust and highly criticized Federal Acknowledgment Process (FAP). Included in his comments were the following...
"Some have criticized the Part 83 Process as expensive, inefficient, burdensome, intrusive, less than transparent and unpredictable. The Department is aware of these critiques and, as we have previously indicated, we are reviewing our existing regulations to consider ways to improve the process to address these criticisms. Based upon our review, which includes consideration of the views expressed by members of Congress, former Department officials, petitioners, subject
matter experts, tribes and interested parties, we believe improvements must address certain guiding principles:
The Adoptive Couple v Baby Girl case before the United States Supreme Court is seeking a change in the interpretation of the definition of “parent” under the The Indian Child Welfare Act in a fashion that would vary from state to state, disregard the standards and definitions used by the child’s tribe, and derail the Congressional goal of decreasing the number of Indian children adopted outside the tribal community.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 was enacted to respond to the disruption of American Indian families and tribal communities as tribal children were being coercively or forcibly removed from their families, and communities, and placed in non-Indian homes. ICWA recognizes the vital and unique role of tribes in protecting their children, affirming their exclusive jurisdiction over tribal children on their reservation, as well as their right to intervene in state child custody proceedings in order to effectuate their interest in children that are members of the tribe or eligible for membership as the child of a tribal member. ICWA protects the rights of natural parents and extended families as a response to the egregious violations of parental and extended family rights that had been taking place in state courts and because Congress believed that protecting the relationship between children and their parents, extended family, and tribal community was in the best interests of American Indian children.
The removal of American Indian children from tribal families does harm to the child, who often loses a connection to his or her tribal family, identity, culture, spirituality, and social connection. Removal of American Indian children from their American Indian families often results in an intergenerational loss, as the removed child’s future progeny suffers from the loss of their tribal connection, sometimes in perpetuity. Removal of American Indian children from tribal families does violence to the tribal family and community, negatively affects tribal cohesiveness and culturl legacy, causing irreparable damage to the family and tribe.
ACET joined with numerous Tribes and national tribal organizations (including the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs), in the Amicus Brief sent to the United States Supreme Court in defense of Tribal Rights and the protection of American Indian Children.
During its December 2012 meeting, the ACET Board unanimously endorsed the following statement on Respecting Sacred Places...
Indian Country continues to suffer through the long history of the violation of sacred sites and the desecration of ancestral remains by non-Native agencies, organizations, companies, and individuals. Tribal Nations have struggled to protect their patrimony, heritage sites and the graves of their ancestors. For traditional tribal cultures, the connection to the past is part of our collective identity and future legacy. The mishandling of sacred sites and ancestral remains is an act of violence against the tribal people of today and a crime against future generations.
The disrespect for inherent tribal rights in the handling of tribal antiquities, ancestral graves, patrimony, and sacred sites is not merely an issue that indigenous people have with non-indigenous people; such disregard for the sacred is a growing problem among indigenous people. Some tribal governments, agencies, and companies have begun to adapt foreign ways and values that devalue and disrespect the sacred heritage granted by the Creator. Some of this growing disregard can be attributed to a breakdown in the passing on of traditional ways from one generation to the next. Much of the growing disregard can be attributed to the escalation of greed in which profit and expediency outweighs cultural and spiritual heritage and responsibility.
Tribal governments are challenged to balance honoring and respecting the past with growing and developing for the future. Finding this balance can be difficult. But, the pursuit of this balance is the charge given from past generations. ACET calls on all tribal nations to respect all indigenous sacred sites and ancestral remains. While the primary responsibility falls upon the heirs of any particular site or resting place of ancestors, the charge to honor and defend the collective heritage of the indigenous people of Turtle Island falls to all tribal governments and individual American Indians.
ACET further calls on the federal government, all local and state governments, educational and research agencies to honor the inherent rights of the historic tribal heirs of any patrimony, sacred site, or ancestral remains, based upon continuous tribal community connection, as a matter of justice and in compliance with the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
For over a year the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) worked with the National Congress of America Indians (NCAI) Eagle Feather Task Force reviewing proposed changes in the policies regulating access to eagle feathers by American Indians. This has been an issue of great concern as there have been reports of the confiscation of ceremonial, heirloom, honor, and regalia feathers by law enforcement officers. Tribal citizens have reported harassment and intimidation by law enforcement over their possession of feathers. Raids to seize feathers and eagle parts during ceremonial and social events have created a climate of fear.
During the process of review, numerous meetings were held and listening sessions were conducted. Many points of contention between federal practice and tribal concerns were addressed and consensus was reached. However, one important issue consistently raised by tribal leaders, NCAI representatives, and tribal attorneys was that the Morton policy, which had been the federal policy, had not explicitly excluded non-BIA listed tribal citizens, while the proposed regulations would. The voiced opinion from Indian Country during meetings of the working group and the listening sessions was that the access to eagle feathers was a matter of religious freedom and that drawing a line that excluded citizens of historic tribes was not in the best interest of Indian Country.
The NCAI response included legal opinions from NCAI attorneys, the Association on American Indian Affairs, and the Native American Rights Fund. All were troubled by the manner in which the federal government was interpreting the language of the Morton Policy to now only include BIA listed tribes. This is following a trend that is dividing historic tribes and creating a pattern of exclusion which is also being used to revise historical fact in regard to the manner that federal agencies have dealt with historic tribes regardless of BIA listing. While congratulating DOI and DOJ in regard to the positive changes to their enforcement regarding BIA listed tribes, tribal leaders expressed concern that neither department was appreciating the critical issue of religious freedom for all American Indians.
DOJ provided verbal assurances that the while the new policy did not extend the right of possession to citizens of non-BIA listed tribes, there was no intention to pursue any American Indian who was not killing eagles or selling eagle parts or feathers. Federal prosecutors present at the listening sessions affirmed that citizens of non-BIA listed tribes were not being targeted by the new policy. However, this language was not included in the written policy.
The Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET) agrees with and supports the statement provided by the NCAI that access to eagle feathers is the religious right of all American Indians. ACET further asserts that to deny such access is a violation of the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. ACET affirms the right of all American Indians to possess eagle feathers in accordance with their tribal beliefs and practices and calls on the government of the United States of America to do the same.
ACET encourages all of its member nations to develop policies consistent with tribal law and custom that discourage the abuse and disrespect for all sacred feathers.
Kevin Washburn, a Chickasaw Nation citizen and Dean of the
On October 10th, after a year of activities promoting and defending inherent tribal sovereignty, representatives authorized by seven tribal governments ratified the charter of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET). The efforts of ACET include successfully advocating for the defense of full membership and voting rights for all historic tribes with the National Congress of American Indians.
ACET has been chartered as an alliance of southern and eastern tribes which share a common history and common goals. Tribes acknowledged by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and those not yet listed by the BIA which share the history of certain types of documented colonial and federal contact are eligible for membership. Advocacy efforts will not be limited to the s
The newly appointed ACET General Secretary, Rev. John Norwood (Nanticoke-Lenape), has responded to questions posed by journalist Cedric Sunray (MOWA Choctaw) of the Haskell Endangered Legacy Project on the formation of ACET. Read the Interview here.
The Alliance congratulates President Obama on his re-election and looks forward to working with the Administration and Congress in addressing the injustice of the Federal Acknowledgment Process and the marginalization of so called "non-federally recognized" tribes and their citizens.
The Obama Administration has engaged Indian Country in many positive ways. Yet, the false divide between those tribes that are listed and those that are not listed on the Bureau of Indian Affairs list of Federally Recognized Tribes continues to grow in areas of government consultation, the legal definitions of "American Indian," respecting the inherent sovereignty of tribal governments, and access to federal protections afforded to tribal citizens. We applaud the Obama Administration's support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP)and call on the federal government to work with all historic tribes in establishing ways to uphold the lofty principles of the UNDRIP.
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