National | Federal Recognition

NCAI to debate membership rule to bar state recognized tribes





The National Congress of American Indians is being asked to restrict its membership to federally-recognized tribes.

Since the 1970s, NCAI has welcomed state recognized and historically recognized tribes. Leaders from these tribes have served in elected positions within the organization and have been among the most active in promoting Indian issues.

But Kerry Holton, the chief of the Delaware Nation of Oklahoma, has proposed a constitutional amendment to bar them from participating. The issue is expected to come up for discussion today as NCAI nears the end of its 69th annual convention in Sacramento, California.

"If this gets voted down, we will have dodged a bullet," a leader from a state-recognized tribe told Indianz.Com yesterday.

State recognized tribes make up a small portion of NCAI's overall membership. But in the Southeast area, whose vice president is a member of the Lumbee Tribe, they outnumber federally recognized tribes.

The Northeast area has also drawn state-recognized leaders. The current vice president is a member of the Shinnecock Nation, which didn't gain federal status until 2010.

Tribes in Alaska weren't put on the list of recognized tribes until 1994. And in other areas, notably the Midwest, some members didn't gain federal recognition until the mid-1990s.

NCAI itself also has taken the lead on federal recognition issues. The group has a task force that met on Sunday to push for reforms in the Bureau of Indian Affairs process.