Indian Country headlines for Friday

Cody Jacobs, a member of the Lumbee tribe, waits to take part in the men's traditional dance at the 13th annual Native American cultural festival in Greensboro, N.C., on Nov. 4, 2006. (AP Photo/News & Record, Jerry Wolford, File)

Indian Country Today

News we’re following on Oct. 2, 2020: Bill to recognize Lumbee Tribe passes House committee; yes, Native Americans pay taxes; call for preservation of ancient shell mound in Berkeley, California; and more

Committee approves Lumbee recognition bill

Washington  The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources this week approved a bill introduced by Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina to provide federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.

The bipartisan bill, called the Lumbee Recognition Act, is co-sponsored by North Carolina Republican Reps. Dan Bishop and Richard Hudson, North Carolina Democratic Reps. Alma Adams and David Price, and Republican Reps. Bill Timmons of South Carolina and Don Young of Alaska.

“I am pleased the committee took this action and so grateful for the strong support and commitment of Mr. Butterfield and all the bill sponsors,” said tribal chairman Harvey Godwin in a statement issued by the Lumbee tribe.

The tribe was recognized by the state of North Carolina in 1885 and has sought federal recognition since 1888.

If the bill is enacted, the tribe and its nearly 60,000 members would be eligible for services provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies. 

"Do Native people pay taxes?”

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Still, yes. Like all U.S. citizens, Native people pay federal income tax to the IRS on income they earn.

President Donald Trump reportedly paid just $750 in federal income taxes the year he ran for office; what do tribal citizens pay?

The question, or in some cases, accusation, that Native people are somehow tax-exempt is an old, tired myth that refuses to go away.

All Native Americans pay payroll taxes, the 6 percent that goes to cover Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance. In addition,as the Native American Rights Fund states:

“All Indians are subject to federal income taxes. As sovereign entities, tribal governments have the power to levy taxes on reservation lands. Some tribes do, and some don’t. As a result, Indians and non-Indians may or may not pay sales taxes on goods and services purchased on the reservation, depending on the tribe.

“However, whenever a member of an Indian tribe conducts business off the reservation, that person, like everyone else, pays both state and local taxes. State income taxes are not paid on reservation or trust lands” (which are owned by the federal government).”

Typically there would be at least one car parked in front of My Bookkeeping Place, a tax preparation business on the Hopi reservation but it's closed due to the pandemic which has also pushed back the filing deadline to July 15th. Photo courtesy Marvin Yoyokie
My Bookkeeping Place, a tax preparation business on the Hopi reservation (Photo courtesy Marvin Yoyokie, File)

Shellmound makes endangered-places list

The National Trust for Historic Preservation says a 5,700-year-old Ohlone shellmound and village in Berkeley, California, is one of 11 of the nation’s most endangered historic places.

The site was the first Ohlone village on the shores of the San Francisco Bay and served as a burial and ceremonial ground. Much of the village and burial mounds were destroyed in early development of the area.

What’s left is now covered by an asphalt parking lot and threatened by development of a five-story retail space and apartment complex that would require a 10-foot excavation.

Corrina Gould, a Lisjan Ohlone leader who has led a four-year effort to protect the site, said the tribe is honored the National Trust is calling for a halt to its destruction and desecration.

“We are incredibly honored and grateful to receive this recognition for the sacred site we have been fighting so hard to preserve. Not only does it validate the historic significance of this site to the Ohlone people, but also establishes one of our sites in its rightful place as a significant and essential part of the history of this region and the entire nation,” Gould said in a statement.

Advocates say they would like the site to be repurposed to serve Ohlone ceremonial purposes.

Historic Keetoowah videos to be available to scholars

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Council Member Mose Killer, Chief John Ross, Vice Chief Jim Henson, and Secretary Jimmie Lou Whitekiller (Photo by Frank Scheide – University of Arkansas)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Keetoowah Band of Cherokee in Oklahoma is reviewing 160 rare recordings of council meetings and special events from 1987-2000, then the videotapes will be made available to University of Arkansas scholars.

University of Arkansas communications professor Dr. Frank Scheide first videotaped a 1987 Keetoowah council meeting for a documentary he was producing. He continued taping them for tribal secretary Jimmie Lou Whitekiller who said taking minutes was a challenge.

The university’s release of the videos is timed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of federal recognition of the Keetowah Band on Oct. 3, 1950.

“This is really great news,” Keetowah Chief Joe Bunch said in a statement. “It gives us an opportunity to learn from our past, to improve our present as well as our future.” He said he’s grateful to Scheide for his foresight and dedication in creating the historical record.

The tribe’s John Hair Cultural Center and Museum in Tahlequah and the University of Arkansas provided financial support to catalog and preserve videotapes of Indigenous American events, including those of the Keetoowah, that Scheide and university students taped between 1984 and 2017.

Watch: Get to the polls says Little Cheiis

Antonia Ramirez, Navajo, co-creator of Little Cheiis video released in September 2020. (Screenshot)
Antonia Ramirez, Navajo, co-creator of Little Cheiis video released in September 2020. (Screenshot)

Thursday’s Indian Country Today newscast featured Antonio Ramirez, co-creator of Little Cheiis discussing their new election video, followed by Indian Country Today reporter Aliyah Chavez covering how one man finds therapy through cycling.

Little Cheiis began when two young Native men began to record videos about Native history, news, and culture. They named themselves Little Cheiis, which is a Navajo word for grandpa. And since they are grandpas in training, they use the word little. 

Antonio Ramirez, a co-creator, said the video Little Cheiis released last week is about the history of voting in Arizona starting in 1924.

“The argument that the state of Arizona had was that Native Americans were under guardianship by the federal government. And because of that, they weren't able to vote.

“And it's just infuriating because in that clause in the state constitution, it says that those who are under guardianship, or who are insane, are not allowed to vote. To categorize all Native Americans like that, because we are considered wards of the federal government was just ridiculous,” Ramirez said.

In Reporter Talkback, our own reporter producer Aliyah Chavez shares a story about former NBA phenom Damen Bell-Holter and his movement Break the (BI)Cycle. He's raising money and awareness about the dearth of mental health care for Black and Indigenous men.

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