The vanished Native Americans: unrecognized tribes.

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Brown, Cynthia. “The vanished Native Americans: unrecognized tribes.” Nation 257:11 (1 October 1993): 384, 386-388, 391. 2,647 words.


The article was spurred by Adrian Andrade's question to President Clinton, during his televised talk with American children in 1993, about Lumbee lack of federal recognition. Notes that although over 500 tribes are recognized by the Bureau of Indian affairs, over 100, scattered among 30 states and comprising 80,000 to 100,000 people, are petitioning for recognition.  BIA recognition would give these tribes some startup funds; funds (based on tribal needs) for education, health, and housing; and control of any natural resources located on tribal property.  Fewer that half of petitions submitted to the BIA have been approved since the petition process began in 1978. 

Discusses the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, then describes Congressional termination of numerous tribes in the 1950s and 1960s.  Explains that the federal acknowledgment guidelines are too burdensome for most petitioning tribes to follow.  The tribes routinely seek federal grants for experts to help them research, write, and file their petition.  It may then take several years before they receive an initial response from the BIA, then more time for the tribe to remedy parts of the petition that the BIA identified as “obvious deficiencies,” and still longer before they receive a final ruling from the BIA.  The author notes that (at the time of this article) since 1978, only 23 petitions had been completely resolved. 

Notes that the Lumbee are the most controversial of all petitioning tribes, since there are 40,000 tribal members.  Most tribes asking for federal recognition are smaller (500-1000; the Miamis of Indiana, with 4,500 members, were considered large).  The Lumbee petition, filed in 1987, took eight years and over $500,000 to prepare.  The article then reviews administrative and political obstacles to Lumbee recognition.

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