One Feather Staff Report
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, along with the Shawnee Tribe, sought a constitutional amendment for the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) that would bar state-recognized tribes from voting membership. According to Native News Online, the amendment did not pass.
A One Feather request to NCAI for the exact vote count and percentages went unanswered by press time.
The two tribes proposed several amendments to the NCAI Constitution including the following:
- Article II(B)(1) Tribal Membership. The entirety of this section would be stricken and replaced with the following: “All Tribal Nations with treaty and/or trust relations with the United States, as demonstrated by inclusion on the list annually published by the Department of the Interior in compliance with the Federally Recognized Tribes List Act, shall be eligible for tribal membership.”
- Organization Associate Membership. The section would be amended to read, “Organizations and groups recognized as tribes by states but not by the United States shall be eligible for non-voting organization associate membership upon the payment of annual dues as fixed by the By-Laws. If a group does not meet the eligibility requirements for Tribal Membership in Article II(B)(1), it cannot be grandfathered in as a tribal member or vote as a tribal member.”
In a letter to NCAI, dated Nov. 1, EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks writes, “We understand that sovereignty is not delegated from the United States or a state. Indeed, sovereignty is inherent to a tribal nation that pre-existed the creation of the United States and whose current citizens descend from those persons who were a part of that pre-federal community. But self-identification as a tribe and acting like a sovereign in not enough. Certainly, state recognition as a tribe cannot be enough, particularly where we now know that none of the state processes are rigorous enough to determine that a group’s claims to U.S. pre-existence and Native ancestry are valid.”
He concluded the letter by writing, “These proposed amendments are a start to protecting and defending our cultures and identities. To be sure, the groups opposing these amendments acknowledge the existence of many fraudulent groups claiming to be tribes – yet they offer no other solution to this issue except to maintain the status quo. For NCAI to remain a leading voice in Indian Country, it is imperative that we oppose fraudulent organizations claiming to be tribes.”
A request for comment from Principal Chief Hicks’ office following the vote was not available at press time.
Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation principal chief, said in a statement prior to the vote, “Cherokee Nation proudly supports the proposed constitutional amendment. A state-recognized tribe is not an Indian tribe. And a member of one of these groups is not an Indian.”