Tribal Map (Eastern U.S.)

Tribal Map (Eastern U.S.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pamunkey Tribe Files For Federal Acknowledgement

From Native American Law Blog:

October 22, 2010

Pamunkey Indian Tribe Files for Federal Acknowledgment

Got this a week ago, but have been on travel a bit lately:
Contact: Chief Robert Gray, 804.339.1629; Tribe's legal counsels: Mark C. Tilden, Tilden McCoy, LLC at, 303.323.1922, or David Gover, Esq. and Kim Gottschalk, Esq. at Native American Rights Fund at 303.447.8760.
Boulder, CO - After years of preparing the necessary historical, legal, genealogical and anthropological evidence to fully document its petition for federal acknowledgment, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, located on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, Virginia, filed its petition with the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on October 14, 2010. It is the only Indian Tribe located in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have filed a fully documented petition. Established no later than 1646, the Pamunkey Indian Reservation is located next to the Pamunkey River, and adjacent to King William County, Virginia. The Reservation comprises approximately 1,200 acres and is the oldest inhabited Indian reservation in America.
The history of the Pamunkey people is rich and well documented. In the course of collecting evidence for the federal acknowledgment petition, researchers compiled more than a thousand documents recording their existence from the period of first European contact through the present. These documents comprise official censuses, correspondence between the Pamunkeys and officials of the Commonwealth and U.S. governments, numerous newspaper stories, church and school records, books by prominent scholars, popular authors, and federal officials, memoirs and much more. Because of these rich resources, continuous, detailed genealogies have been created for the Pamunkey Tribal members, which trace their lineage back over two hundred years.
Notably, documents have been preserved both in the United States and England that show the continual existence of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe as an independent sovereign since the first visit of Capt. John Smith in 1607, when the English settled Jamestown. At this time, Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, ruled a vast empire which included the great and powerful Pamunkey Indians who were at the core of his empire. A Treaty relationship between the Pamunkeys and Great Britain in 1646, followed by the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677, is still honored between the Pamunkeys and the Commonwealth of Virginia. One expression of this continuing relationship is the annual tribute ceremony at Richmond, Virginia where deer and other wild game are presented to the Virginia Governor by the Pamunkey Chief and members of Tribal Council.

The Tribe has survived intact as an identifiable Indian tribe, although they are not yet federally acknowledged.  Tribal existence does not depend on federal acknowledgment. It is, however, necessary to establish a government-to-government relationship between the Tribe and the Federal government, which allows the Tribe access to federal services and benefits.  The Tribe’s petition documents their continued existence from 1789 to the present and their self-governance throughout this time, which meets the federal acknowledgment regulations.
The Pamunkey Chief and Tribal Council state that “Current Pamunkey Tribal members respect and appreciate what our ancestors have accomplished since first European contact, especially their sustained and successful efforts to maintain the lands, identity and sovereignty that have belonged to the Pamunkey Indians for thousands of years.  We believe that federal acknowledgment is the natural means to continue those traditions and honor the ancestors who have given us our birthright.  We look forward to the day our existence as an Indian Tribe is formally acknowledged by the United States.”
The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has represented the Pamunkey Indian Tribe in this effort since 1988, joined by the law firm of Tilden McCoy, LLC this year. For any questions, please contact Robert Gray, Chief, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, 804.339.1629 or; Tribe's legal counsels: Mark C. Tilden, Tilden McCoy, LLC at, 303.323.1922 or 1942 Broadway, Suite 314, Boulder, Colorado 80302, or David Gover, NARF,, 303.447.8760 or 1506 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302.
October 22, 2010 | Permalink

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

USDA Settles Native American Farmer Discrimination Lawsuit For $760 Million

From Native American Legal Update:

USDA Settles Native American Farmer Discrimination Lawsuit for $760 Million

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced an historic agreement to settle a decade-long class action lawsuit known as Keepseagle v. Vilsack, wherein Native American farmers and ranchers alleged discrimination in the USDA's farm loan program dating back to 1981.
Under the agreement, the USDA will pay $680 million in damages to thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers and forgive up to $80 million worth of outstanding farm loan debt. The settlement also initiates new programs to improve USDA's farm loan services for Native Americans. Those initiatives include the creation of a Native American Farmer and Rancher Council, where top USDA officials and Native American advocates will collaborate to make USDA's programs more accessible for Native Americans farmers and ranchers, as well as enhanced delivery of technical assistance to Native American borrowers, the creation of sub-offices on tribal lands, a systematic review of the farm loan program rules to improve accessibility to Native Americans and other measures designed to improve the provision of farm loan services to Native Americans.
The Keepseagle lawsuit alleged that Native American farmers and ranchers were denied the same opportunities as white farmers to obtain low-interest rate loans from USDA. Congress has charged the USDA with serving as the "lender of last resort" for family farmers who can't obtain credit from commercial banks. According to an expert report prepared by a former USDA economist, Native Americans suffered actual economic losses amounting to $776 million between 1981 and 2007 as a result of receiving less than their fair share of credit opportunities from the USDA.
Lead plaintiffs Marilyn and George Keepseagle, ranchers in Fort Yates, N.D.,said "We have been waiting nearly three decades for this day to come. This settlement will help thousands of Native Americans who are still farming and ranching. But more important, through this settlement we will leave to our children and grandchildren a farm loan system far more responsive to our community than the system we inherited from our parents."
The settlement has three major components:
1) Payment of $680 million in damages to class members for the economic losses they suffered due to the denial of loans or loan servicing by the USDA.
2) The USDA will forgive up to $80 million in debt currently held by class members who succeed in obtaining damages. Once the Court gives preliminary approval to the agreement, the USDA will establish a moratorium on foreclosures, debt accelerations and debt offsets not already referred to the Treasury Department. The moratorium will last until the debt relief process has concluded and class members' debt has been forgiven. After the debt relief is provided, USDA will engage in a round of loan servicing for all class members who are delinquent on any outstanding USDA farm loan debt.
3) Changes to USDA's farm loan program to improve the delivery and responsiveness to Native American farmers and ranchers, including through the creation of the Native American Farmer and Rancher Council, a new federal advisory committee. The new Council will have 15 members, 11 of whom will be Native Americans or represent Native American interests and four of whom will be top USDA officials. Members will meet at least twice a year for the next five years to discuss how to make USDA's programs more accessible for Native Americans farmers and ranchers, including changes to Farm Service Administration (FSA) regulations and internal guidance. The Council will report its recommendations directly to senior USDA officials.
In addition to the Council, the USDA will: 1) create 10 to 15 USDA regional sub-offices that will provide education and technical assistance to Native American farmers and ranchers and their advocates; 2) undertake a systematic review of its farm loan policies to determine how its regulations and policies can be reformed to better assist Native American farmers and ranchers; 3) create a customer guide on applying for credit from the USDA; 4) create the Office of the Ombudsperson to address concerns of all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers; and, 5) regularly collect and report data on how well Native Americans fare under USDA's farm loan programs.

Friday, October 15, 2010

U.S. Considers Endorsing U.N. Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples

From Common

US Weighs Endorsing Indigenous Rights Declaration

by Matthew Berger
WASHINGTON - Just over three years after having voted against it at the United Nations, the United States is in the process of reviewing its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The declaration lays out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the world's indigenous peoples, although it is not legally binding. It was originally opposed by just four countries - the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The latter two have since reversed their positions and, in March, Canada announced its intention to change its position. Around the same time, the U.S. also decided to undertake a review of its position.
The process of that review has been ongoing since then, but it heated up a bit this week in Washington, where a series of meetings between U.S. indigenous leaders, government officials and NGOs took place as the period of public input on the U.S.'s review winds down.
Robert Coulter, who participated in the drafting of the original declaration over 20 years ago and is now executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center, an American Indian law and advocacy organisation, took part in the meetings Thursday.
Though he says the officials present would not divulge any concrete information on whether the U.S. will endorse the declaration nor when a final decision might be made, he did see an exceptional level of interest on the part of the U.S. government, with officials from numerous agencies present.
"They have been discussing the thing with us for over 20 years in Geneva, but this kind of consultation process is somewhat extraordinary," he told IPS Thursday. "The White House appears to be genuinely committed to the policy of consultation with indigenous leaders on all things but particularly on this."
The U.S. State Department, which is overseeing the review process, says President Barack Obama's administration was urged in 2009 by tribal leaders and other stakeholders to reexamine the U.S. position. On Apr. 20, the country's ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, announced they would do just that.
The review, the State Department said in a statement Thursday, "reflects [the Obama administration's] understanding of the importance of this document for many around the world and is consistent with President Obama's call for a new era of U.S. engagement globally."
Three consultations with U.S. indigenous leaders have taken place as part of this process, with Thursday's three-hour session marking the final one. Friday, NGO leaders and other stakeholders were having a consultation of their own at the State Department.
Coulter says this sort of careful, inclusive process is normal when the U.S. is considering supporting an international agreement, but, when it comes to indigenous issues, "We've never seen anything like this."
The declaration received overwhelming support from U.N. member countries when it went before the General Assembly in 2007, with 144 states voting in favour and only those four - notable because of their historical mistreatment of indigenous populations - voting against. Another 11 countries abstained, though two of those, Colombia and Samoa, have since endorsed it.
As a legally non-binding treaty, the declaration is seen mainly as a way to affirm the rights of communities whose rights have historically and repeatedly been violated. Many also see it as a way to help end discrimination and the exploitation of indigenous land without informed prior consent.
If the U.S. were to change its position and support the document, Coulter hopes the move will at least set a framework for discussing these issues.
"We know that this is not a binding instrument but that it is a serious instrument about human rights and that it will in effect set an agenda about the kinds of discussions and changes that have to be worked out in the future," he says. "It's an agenda for our future consultations about what improvements need to be made in U.S. law, what changes need to be made to fully respect our land rights.
"No one expects this to create any instant changes. The terms of the declaration could indeed be used in arguments or court cases, but courts are not obliged to apply the declaration," he adds.
In its comments to the State Department, the Indian Law Resource Center emphasised that the declaration would require no improvements to U.S. law concerning indigenous lands that are not already required by the U.S. constitution, and that the contentious principle of "free, prior and informed consent" included in the declaration would not give indigenous a people veto but, rather, require a process that must be followed before taking action that could be construed as an infringement of rights.
For its part, the State Department says it "recognises that for many around the world, the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a framework for addressing indigenous issues."
Coulter also hopes the review process currently underway marks the beginning of an ongoing consultation to strengthen and improve the relationship between Washington and native nations in its own territory, such as Alaska and Hawaii.
But the implications might go even beyond than that. Under the Obama administration the U.S. has increased its awareness of its own human rights record, and endorsing the declaration may be another milestone in that effort.
"The U.S. endorsement would be perhaps the first concrete step the U.S. has taken to follow through on its professed attention to once again be a leader in the field of human rights and to subject itself to human rights scrutiny and accountability," says Coulter.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Oneida Indian Nation Foreclosure case

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch and Native American Law Blog:

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Oneida Indian Nation foreclosure case


Purchase this photo
NICOLE L. CVETNIC/Observer-Dispatch

A SavOn gas station, owned by the Oneida Indian Nation, is shown on the corner of routes 365 and Route 31 on Thursday in Verona. A draft state-Nation agreement, which includes a cap of 30,000 acres of land into trust and equity on prices and tax levels with neighboring businesses, is not enough, many local leaders said.


Yellow Pages

Find whatever you're looking for
with Totally Local Yellow Pages
Posted Oct 12, 2010 @ 02:43 PM
Last update Oct 12, 2010 @ 07:16 PM
Print Comment
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday to hear the case in which Oneida and Madison counties are attempting to foreclose on Oneida Indian Nation-owned properties on which taxes haven’t been paid.
On April 27, a three-member panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower-court decision that said the counties could not foreclose on the properties because the Oneidas are protected by sovereign immunity.
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear arguments in the case sometime between January and April, according to the Supreme Court public information office.
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said he considers it good news because the issue will be resolved, but there still is uncertainty about how the Supreme Court will rule and what would happen next.
“It’s the double-edged sword to some extent,” Picente said.
In 2005, U.S. District Judge David Hurd barred Oneida and Madison counties from foreclosing on the Oneidas’ land. That decision was appealed in 2007 and upheld in the April 27 ruling, which said the counties don’t have the right to sue an Indian tribe unless Congress has authorized the lawsuit or the tribe has waived its legal immunity.
Jose Cabranes, one of the judges in the April 27 decision, wrote a concurring opinion at the time that addressed why he believed the Supreme Court needed to weigh in.
“The holding in this case comes down to this: An Indian tribe can purchase land (including land that was never part of a reservation), refuse to pay lawfully owed taxes and suffer no consequences because the taxing authority cannot sue to collect the taxes owed,” Cabranes wrote. “This rule of decision defies common sense. But absent action by our highest court, or by Congress, it is the law.”
Madison County Attorney S. John Campanie said the legal claim of sovereign immunity has been “the biggest impediment” to the collection of property taxes from the Nation lands.
Campanie said because the Supreme Court has agreed to take the case, there is some indication that the court believes the previous decisions need to be addressed. Madison County officials are encouraged by the decision and are “cautiously optimistic” about how the court will rule, he said.
“I think our hope remains that simply these taxes be paid,” he said.
Nation spokesman Mark Emery said in an e-mailed statement that the Supreme Court decision to hear the foreclosure case makes it four times “in 35 years that the counties’ fights against the Oneida Nation have led to the nation’s highest court.”
“There’s got to be a better way to resolve disputes between our respective governments,” Emery said. “We will respond to the case at the Supreme Court through the appropriate channels and hopefully look forward to bringing these issues to closure once and for all.”
But even if the decision favors the counties, further steps would likely be necessary – such as going to back to a lower court – before the counties could actually foreclose on Nation properties, Picente said.
The lawsuit deals with unpaid taxes from the 1990s and only directly affects some Nation land – not including the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, he said.
Picente, however, said he would assume that if the Supreme Court rules that the Nation isn’t protected from foreclosure by sovereign immunity, the decision would affect the ability of Oneida and Madison counties to foreclose on other Nation properties. Additionally, he believes it would impact similar situations across the state and country, he said.
“It has far-reaching implications,” he said.
Tuesday’s decision to hear the case means there are issues of law that the Supreme Court feels need to be ruled on, said Robert Batson, who teaches federal Indian law at Albany Law School and is the school’s government lawyer in residence,
“It’s always significant when the Supreme Court decides to take a case,” Batson said, adding that the case holds extra importance because it deals with the issue of sovereign immunity. “This will be a very interesting case to watch.”