Some of the controversial amendments proposed at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) annual convention will be voted on Thursday.
One proposal seeks voting membership to be restricted to only federally recognized tribes and only citizens of federally recognized tribes to be eligible for an individual membership.
Another proposal is for board members and regional vice presidents to be citizens of federally recognized tribes.
As Rhonda LeValdo reports, while there’s much debate, not everyone wants to go on the record to share their viewpoints.
Currently, NCAI considers both state and federally recognized tribes as voting members of the organization.
Chief of the Shawnee Tribe Ben Barnes has concerns about the proposed amendment which eliminates the voting status to only federally recognized tribes, saying it diminishes the sovereignty of federally recognized tribes in NCAI.
“For the majority of these state recognized tribes that are members of NCAI, they have no Native ancestry, they’re not Native governments, so this creates problems for folks that are still seeking recognition and they’re legitimate, but NCAI has refused to deal with this issue and now its member tribes are left to take it up, and make sure that this passes.”
Several attendees at NCAI with various views declined to comment to National Native News about the proposal, but in an opinion piece in Native News Online, Lumbee Chairman John Lowery called the possible changes an “internal termination process that contradicts the founding principles of NCAI” and a slippery slope for the organization that could open up other tribes as targets including landless or non-treaty tribes.
NCAI is being held in Louisiana, a state with four federally recognized tribes and nearly a dozen state-recognized tribes.
Currently, NCAI has 145 tribal memberships and, of that number, 24 are state-recognized tribes.
For years, drought and development in the West have caused water shortages for tribes.
Now, a new institute aims to give tribes resources and training to advocate for their water rights.
The Mountain West New Bureau’s Kaleb Roedel reports.
It’s called the Tribal Water Institute.
Its goal is to help tribes navigate laws and policies, and recruit and train young water attorneys.
The project was created by the Walton Family Foundation, a group working to protect rivers, and the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit law group in Colorado, where the institute will be based.
David Gover is a managing attorney and Pawnee and Choctaw.
He says helping tribes protect and assert water rights comes at a critical time.
“Climate change is impacting all of our communities, right? And there becomes more competition for that resource. And, of course, the states and industries are not waiting around, right? They’ll continue to find what they can and take what they can.”
He says the new institute will allow the fund to double its water staff to 14 members.
The team will publish a semiannual report to educate tribes, policymakers, and attorneys about new and ongoing water rights cases and issues.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill late Wednesday night to avoid a government shutdown on Friday.
It has two expiration dates – one for funding programs for agriculture, energy, water, veterans, military construction, transportation, and housing through January 19.
The second has an expiration date of early February for the rest of the government.
The measure also extends the Special Diabetes Program for Indians through January 19 and the nation’s farm and food programs (WIC and SNAP) until September.
Congress is on break for Thanksgiving.
The bill was sent to the President for a signature.
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