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Politics and Government

This Week In Indian Country

Susan Shannon

Decision Made On Cheyenne And Arapaho Tribal Government

It’s been a long four plus years for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes - working under two governments, enduring separate court systems and dealing with divisive and competing decisions by local Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) officials. Compounding these difficulties was the freezing of assets which adversely affected tribally owned casinos, payrolls and tribal programs that served the Cheyenne and Arapaho people.

Things were in such upheaval that the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) was asked to step in with its authority to speak for the Secretary of the Interior.  Part of the IBIA’s job is to exercise its authority over BIA decisions and just what entity is recognized as a tribe.

On July 15, 2015 the IBIA issued a decision that the tribal courts have the final say, and that the BIA recognizes the 2013 election where Eddie Hamilton was elected as the Tribe’s Governor. 1500 tribal members participated in this election. This election was confirmed by the only “legitimate and functioning Tribal Supreme Court – the final arbiter of all questions of tribal law.”

The IBIA’s decision involved eight different appeals from five different decisions made by the Southern Plains Regional Director.

The parties involved included the Arrow Court, former Governor Janice Prairie Chief Boswell, former Lt. Governor Leslie Harjo and an entity known as the Third Legislature. The IBIA reversed and made moot the five afore-mentioned decisions, calling them “arbitrary and capricious, and lacking any reasoning.”

The decision of the IBIA was that the BIA must “defer to decisions of the tribal officials and court forums lawfully carrying out the responsibilities of tribal government.” The IBIA decision is posted on www.c-a-tribes.org.

Indian Times will have a comment from Governor Eddie Hamilton next week.


Senate Affairs Committee On Indian Affairs Questions Garden City Group On Cobell Settlement

Democratic senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Jon Tester brought the Chief Operating Officer, Jennifer Keough, from Garden City Group before a his committee this week to give a progress report on the implementation of the Cobell Settlement.

Tester expressed concern with the lack of progress on making final payments to individual Indians “four years after the Settlement was first agreed upon, and twenty months after final approval by the Courts.”

Keough told Testor that Garden City understands the concern and stated the payments owed would be mailed out “once the payment amounts are finally resolved by the parties and approved by Judge Hogan, as required by the terms of the Settlement.”

Frustration was also expressed about the Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. The Cobell Settlement Agreement provided $1.9 billion to buy and consolidate fractional land. This land can have many owners, sometimes hundreds, making it hard to do anything with the land as each individual owner must give permission.

The Consolidation Fund makes bids for the land and essentially buys it back for the tribe, keeping the land in trust for tribal use. So far only three out of 150 reservations have started this process, so worry was expressed that the ten year time limit may not be enough.

Members from the three tribes currently involved in the Land Buy-Back Program were mixed on its productivity, with two of the tribes conveying their concern that the program will not achieve its intended result.

Chairman Testor said the Cobell Settlement Buy-Back program will be a priority of his committee and will push for swifter action.


Secretary Of The Interior Announces Tribal Climate Resilience Program

Interior Secretary Sally Jewel and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced a new Tribal Climate Resilience Program as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

Jewel said the impacts of climate change are “increasingly evident” for American Indian and Alaska Native communities, making it hard for them to maintain cultural traditions and beliefs. The program will offer funding to develop science-based information and enable adaptive resource management techniques.

To further the President’s commitment, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will establish an interagency group on climate change under the White House Council on Native American Affairs. The Interior Department will also create a tribal climate liaison position to coordinate with tribes.


Upcoming Native Events:

August 1-3, Friday-Sunday: Oklahoma Indian Nations Powwow, Concho Powwow Grounds, Concho, OK. For more information: 405-476-1134.

August 6-9, Wednesday-Saturday: 83rd Annual American Indian Expo, Caddo County Fairgrounds, Anadarko. Parades at 10:00 am on Wednesday, August 6 and Saturday, August 9 in downtown Anadarko. Arts and crafts, food vendors will be in the Baldwin building from 10:00 am–10:00 pm. Nightly dance competitions, camp contest, fry bread contest, archery competition, hand games and more. Daily Gourd dancing from 1:00 pm–5:00 pm. For more information: Yonie Terry, 580-483-5095.


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