One to watch: Legislative filing on Indian ‘tribe’ recognition
Here’s another piece of legislation to watch — HR 1011 by Rep. Marcus Richmond and others to “recognize the Cherokee Nation West and re-establish the relationship between the people of the Cherokee Nation West and the United States Government.”
Cherokee Nation West is not a federally recognized tribe, as, for example, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. But groups that some critics call “fake tribes” can, with state recognition, enter contracts with state and local governments.
In 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported on “Cherokee” groups that had landed $300 million in government contracts. From an Indian news website account of that article:
The biggest offenders by far are people who belong to the “Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory,” The Times investigation found. These businesses have received $269.2 million in government contracts since 2000 even though the group is not considered legitimate.
“I have nothing to say to you,” Billy Boyce Jr., the owner of a company that is considered a “minority” contractor in Missouri, told The Times when asked about his family’s alleged Indian ancestry, which they have used over two generations to land work. “Get off my property.”
Businesses owned by people from “Northern Cherokee Nation” received $31.5 million in government contractors while those from the “Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri” secured $3.1 million, The Times found. Both groups, also based in Missouri, lack legitimacy [as defined by federal tribal recognition].
The Times traces much of the problem to lax oversight in Missouri. Businesses claiming minority status don’t have to do much to show they are owned by someone who is a citizen of a federally recognized tribe or a legitimate Indian nation.
But the U.S. Small Business Administration also plays a role in perpetuating the situation, The Times found. When officials questioned whether the Boyce family is legitimate, their concerns were “dismissed” by the federal agency, the paper reported.
More here from the Tahlequah Daily News on difficulties such groups can present for federally recognized tribes.
Here’s a blog post on such groups.
The Cherokee Nation West defends its legitimacy (in part by citing its various government contracts) and it has its defenders. The Missouri news article suggests the group in Missouri may have a longer claim to existence in the region than federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma.
Trading on Indian ancestry is not unheard of in Arkansas. For example, the Arkansas Times reported in 2010 on some $1 million in grants sought for school districts by groups claiming Cherokee heritage for public school students identified as having Indian ancestry.
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