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Virginia tribes clear major hurdle in recognition fight
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Filed Under: Politics | Recognition

INDIANZ.COM LISTENING LOUNGE
Debate on H.Res.377, the closed rule:
Rep. Alcee Hastings

Rep. Doc Hastings

Rep. Jim Moran

Rep. Chris Shays

Rep. Moran and Rep. Shays Exchange

Rep. Doc Hastings

Rep. Chris Shays

Rep. Doc Hastings

Rep. Alcee Hastings
Six Virginia tribes whose ancestors helped the first European settlers at Jamestown cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday with the passage of their federal recognition bill.

The unanimous approval of H.R.1294 marked the first time the Virginia tribes have cleared any chamber of Congress. But the vote only came after a heated debate on the floor about gaming, sovereignty and corruption.

In order to speed up consideration of the bill amid the 400th commemoration of the Jamestown settlement, the six tribes agreed to a prohibition on casinos. The tribes have longstanding religious and social objections to gambling.

The significant concession, however, didn't stop Rep. Chris Shays (R-Connecticut), a frequent critic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, from attacking the motives of the tribes and their Democratic supporters. "Corruption is alive and well in this place again," Shays charged in his one-minute floor speech at the beginning of the legislative day.

Shays continued his campaign during the one-hour debate on a resolution to clear the way for a vote on the bill. The debate was needed because Democrats brought up the measure under a "closed" rule, a move that prevents amendments on the floor.

Shays said the bill bypasses the BIA's regulations for determining tribal recognition, a process that he has criticized in the past. "I have no way of knowing if this is a legitimate tribe, if each of them are legitimate tribes," he said.

He further said Republicans "stopped [legislative recognition] because we saw bypassing the Bureau of Indian Affairs process was corrupting."

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Florida), who has Creek ancestry, defended the legislative route, citing laws in Virginia that prohibited citizens from identifying as Indian. State records were modified and destroyed in order to classify Indians as either "white" or "colored."

"Over the centuries, they have survived racial hostility and state-sanctioned attempts to stamp out their heritage and cultural identity," Hastings said of the tribes.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Virginia), the primary sponsor of H.R.1294, also spoke in favor of passage of the closed rule. He highlighted the prohibition on gaming and said a former opponent, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), another BIA critic, now supports the bill.

"We are going to prohibit it in this legislation, just to reassure people who are concerned about gambling, and understandably, given all of the corruption that has occurred, Jack Abramoff and so on," Moran said.

But Shays charged that the tribes will find a way around the ban. However, the federal courts have consistently upheld federal recognition laws that contained prohibitions, or restrictions, on tribal gaming.

"The bottom line is gambling is a license to print money, and the financial instincts and pressures will be so great that to say they will not have gambling is patently laughable," Shays said. "They will have it, if they are a tribe."

Despite the opposition, the Democratic majority in the House had enough votes to ensure passage of the closed rule. The roll call was 228 to 186, with just five Republicans -- including Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, voting yes.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), the only Native American in Congress, voted no. He is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Only one Democrat voted no on the closed rule. That was Rep. Heath Shuler (D-North Carolina), whose district includes the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which opposes legislative recognition for the Lumbee Tribe.

The Eastern Band belongs to the United South and Eastern Tribes, which also opposes legislative recognition even though several of its members were recognized under special acts of Congress.

After the roll call on the closed rule, Moran was able to bring up the bill for final consideration. This time, there were no opponents, although Young questioned the need for the tribes to give up their right to engage in gaming.

"It is unfair to view recognition through the prism of Indian gaming," said Young. "However, the committee made its decision to defer to some members of the Virginia delegation on this issue, and I reluctantly supported an amendment to add the gaming measure."

According to Moran, passage of H.R.1294 marked the first time the House has approved a federal recognition bill in over two decades. He said the unanimous voice vote improves the odds in the Senate, where the bill lacks a sponsor.

The last time Congress extended recognition to a tribe was in 2000. The Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and the Graton Rancheria of California were placed in an "omnibus" bill in the final days of the 106th Congress. Before that, some Michigan tribes were restored to recognition via legislation in the mid-1990s.

Statements:
Rep. Jim Moran: House Approves Federal Recognition for VA Tribes (May 8, 2007) | WOLF STATEMENT ON FEDERAL RECOGNITION OF VIRGINIA INDIAN TRIBES (May 8, 2007)

Roll Call:
Providing for the consideration of H.R. 1294, Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act (May 8, 2007)

Committee Hearings:
Full Committee Markup (April 25, 2007) | Full Committee Legislative Hearing: H.R. 1294 and H.R. 65 (April 18, 2007)

Recognition Bill:
Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act (H.R.1294)

Relevant Links:
Virginia Indians Tribal Alliance For Life - http://www.vitalva.org
House Resources Committee - http://resourcescommittee.house.gov

Related Stories:
Gaming affects federal recognition bills (5/8)
Vote expected on Virginia recognition bill (5/8)
Pat Buchanan: Indians had the land and we took it (5/8)
Virginia tribes hope 2007 is year for recognition (5/7)
Editorial: A step forward for Virginia's tribes (5/7)
Opinion: Virginia Indians advocate 'mythology' (5/4)
Rep. Moran expects vote on Virginia recognition (5/3)
Editorial: Virginia tribes deserve recognition (5/1)
Virginia recognition bill clears House committee (4/26)
Virginia tribes make case for recognition bill (4/19)
Adkins: Virginia tribes deserve federal recognition (4/18)
House hearing on Lumbee, Virginia recognition (4/18)
Virginia tribe optimistic on recognition in 2007 (12/06)
Letter: Indians are the Palestinians of Virginia (10/16)
Editorial: No recognition for Virginia's tribes (10/10)
Virginia tribal recognition bill remains in limbo (09/07)
Virginia Indians set to return from trip to England (07/20)
Senate panel to consider Virginia recognition bill (07/19)
Virginia Indians enjoy historic week in England (07/18)
Virginia tribes make historic trip to England (07/13)
Virginia tribes head to England to share history (07/10)
House, Senate panels take up recognition bills (06/22)
Virginia tribes press for recognition measure (06/22)
Virginia tribes make case for recognition bill (6/2)
Virginia tribes jockey for federal recognition (5/26)
Bill introduced to recognize Rappahannock Tribe (04/07)
Virginia tribe won't boycott Jamestown events (01/20)
Book Review: Virginia Indians not friendly to settlers (10/25)
Virginia tribal leaders visit grave of Pocahontas (07/28)
Virginia tribal delegation heads off for England (07/15)
Virginia tribal leaders on historic trip to England (7/11)
Groups call for changes to Virginia recognition bill (7/6)
Editorial: Federal recognition a matter of justice (05/24)
Virginia tribes to mark Jamestown in England (05/09)
Six Virginia tribes to gather for annual powwow (03/25)
Editorial: Virginia tribes in need of recognition (03/14)
Virginia tribe not optimistic on recognition bid (02/11)
Virginia tribes fight for federal recognition (10/12)
Bill seeks to speed recognition process for tribes (2/7)
Virginia tribes fight for federal recognition (10/12)
Rep. Moran: Virginia tribes deserve recognition (06/24)
Virginia tribes press case for federal recognition (06/17)
Senate panel backs recognition of Virginia tribes (05/10)
Virginia tribes press case for federal recognition (04/19)
Virginia tribes seeks support for recognition bill (03/15)
Va. tribes seek recognition for Jamestown 2007 (2/16)
Senate bill to recognize six Va. tribes advances (10/30)
GOP Editorial: Say no to Virginia's tribes (05/19)
BIA opposes Va. recognition bill (09/27)
Va. tribes rally for sovereignty (4/30)
Recognition of Va. tribes opposed (1/26)
Recognition bills crowd Congress (11/29)
Virginia tribes: Recognition Yes, Casinos No (09/19)

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