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Highlights from Day 3 of National Congress of American Indians

Filed Under: National | Politics
More on: brian cladoosby, dennis welsh, ed thomas, elections, george tiger, joe garcia, juana majel-dixon, meetings, michael finley, ncai, oklahoma, robert sheperd

The National Congress of American Indians holds its 70th annual convention all week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Monday. Here are some highlights from the third day of the conference.

NCAI elects officers every two years so this convention has drawn a lot of interest as the organization chooses a new leader to succeed Jefferson Keel, who served two terms as president.

The nomination process began on the convention floor on Wednesday. Up first was Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians from Michigan, who nominated Joe Garcia, a council member for Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico and a former NCAI president.

"He's articulate, he's sincere," Payment said of Garcia, who served two terms as president and won his first election at NCAI's conference in Tulsa in 2005.

Up next was George Thurman, the chief of the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma. He nominated George Tiger, the chief of the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma and a local favorite.

Rosemary Morillo, the chairwoman of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians in California, nominated Juana Majel-Dixon, a council member for the Pauma Band of Mission Indians, also in California. who currently serves as NCAI's first vice president. Morillo praised Majel-Dixon's "tireless commitment" to Indian Country, noting her work on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Finally, Floyd Jourdain, the chairman of the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, came to the floor. He nominated Brian Cladoosby, the chairman of the Swinomish Tribe of Washington.

"We need a fresh new face in Indian Country," Jourdain said of Cladoosby.

The nominations process for president closed and NCAI opened nominations for 1st vice president. John Berrey, the chairman of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, nominated Michael Finley, the chairman of the Confederated Tribes Of The Colville Reservation in Washington.

Finley was the only candidate named so NCAI quickly adopted a motion to install him as 1st vice president.

For secretary, Brian Cladoosby nominated incumbent Ed Thomas, the president of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes in Alaska. "Ed is a wonderful leader," Cladoosby said.

Another Northwest leader, Mel Sheldon, the chairman of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, came to the floor. He nominated Robert Shepherd, the chairman of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of South Dakota, for the post.

Finally, NCAI accepted one nomination for the post of treasurer. Cedric Cromwell, the chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts, nominated Dennis Welsh, a council member for the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

"He's a class act, a great guy," Cromwell said of Welsh.

As with the 1st vice president post, NCAI adopted a motion to install Welsh as treasurer.

Voting takes place today from 10:30 to noon. Follow Indianz.Com on Twitter for updates.

Tax Fairness in Indian Country
A measure to protect tribes and their members from Internal Revenue Service audits is moving forward in the 113th Congress.

Generally, all income and benefits are subject to federal income tax. S.1507, the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act,ensures that tribal members won't have to pay taxes on certain benefits -- such as elder assistance or school supplies for children -- provided by their governments.

"We're really building some steam in the Senate," said Jason Giles, the executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, at a breakout session on Wednesday.

The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate. And NIGA has brought in a heavyweight -- former Sen. Ben NIghthorse Campbell, a Republican, to lobby for its passage.

"It got a zero score from the joint tax committee," Giles noted. "So it;s not going to cost the U.S. a penny."

Last year, the Obama administration issued new guidance, Application of the General Welfare Exclusion to Indian Tribal Government Programs That Provide Benefits to Tribal Members, Notice 2012-75, to help clarify what benefits are exempt from federal taxation. The move was welcomed by tribes and their advocates but they say passage of a bill will ensure a consistent policy.

"This bill is far better than the [IRS] bulletin," said Mark Van Norman, who is helping NIGA with the effort.

The House version of the bill is H.R.3043. No hearings have been held, but tribal advocates are confident they can move the measure forward.

Related Stories:
Highlights from Day 2 of National Congress of American Indians (10/16)
Highlights from Day 1 of National Congress of American Indians (10/15)
National Congress of American Indians opens annual meeting (10/14)

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