There is a hearing scheduled for Nov. 4, titled “Fixing the Acknowledgment Process.” There are those who feel the process is to complex and takes too long. There are those who believe the process is unfair and does not take the history of the people involved into account. There are issues of land and local government.
Please be aware also that there are those of us out here who simply want an acknowledgment of our heritage and the right to sell our arts and crafts and “Native American Made” and to apply and receive feathers and parts for religious purposes. These two things cut to the heart of identity. The reason for this involves the definitions the government uses for Indian and Indian tribe. In order to be a “real Indian” a person must belong to a federally recognized tribe. This presents many problems in the lives of American Indian descended people across the country.
Thus far, there is nothing in place that recognizes, at least in a limited capacity, the rights of American Indian descendants in regards to religion (i.e. the feather laws), or the expressions of identity and culture via the selling of arts and crafts. Further the Certificate Degree of Indian Blood cards that are issued for individuals only applies to those that can trace a line of descent back to a Dawes roll or some other reservation census. This situation is likewise difficult for many since some tribes lost their reservations prior to the American Revolution. Some tribes were tributary tribes in the Colonies and never enjoyed a government-to-government relationship as dictated in criteria number one of the recognition process.
Is it fair that the descendants of Native Americans should be relegated to a third class status in regard to Constitutional rights such as equal protection under the law, freedom of religion, and the rights to redress of grievances?
Thus far, no one has talked about solving these dilemmas in a fair and positive way. The non-recognized population of American Indians will not suddenly disappear when the recognition process is done away with; nor shall they give up attempting to bring their issues into the light of day. This is something the legislature will continue to deal with until the issues are resolved in a positive and affirming manner that can meet the needs of the people involved.
Perhaps the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, if they are willing, could interview tribal groups and descendant organizations across the country in order to come to a better conclusion about what the problems are and how best to meet the needs of those American Indian descendants. Talking to people from federally recognized tribes entrenched in the process to discourage or ban the rest of the American Indian population from it; perhaps they are not the right people to be talking with concerning these issues. I implore you today in order that you may listen and hear the needs of less fortunate American Indian people in the country.
Scott P. Collins
Saponi Nation of Ohio