Cedric Sunray: Non-recognized tribes treated with 'disrespect'

"I recently read an article concerning the murder of a highly articulate, cultural young Indian woman who was attending the University of North Carolina when this horrific tragedy occurred. She is an enrolled member of the historic Haliwa-Saponi tribe. The last sentence of the article stated, “The tribe … lacks federal recognition.”

Lacks? What on Earth does the murder of an Indian woman have to do with federal recognition and why was this even mentioned? Another recent article in The Tulsa World ended with, “The only federally recognized tribe in Alabama, the 3,000-citizen Poarch Band of Creek Indians also operates casinos in Montgomery and Atmore.” This occurs time and time again in both non-Indian and Indian news media.

When I contacted one of the editors at the newspaper I explained to him that the oldest Indian reservations in the country are inhabited by “non-federal” tribes and that over 20 “non-federal” tribes attended Indian boarding schools established by both the federal government and closely related missions. He explained to me that he was unaware of this history. He was aware, however, that many members of federal tribes in his neck of the woods (northeastern Oklahoma) were of predominant white ancestry and that these individuals had only recently become tribally involved. There was a discomfort in his voice regarding this issue and its implications.

Other articles have included statements such as, “We are the first federally recognized tribe to operate a rehabilitation center for injured birds.” That would make sense to write this because injured birds prefer “federally recognized” Indians to care for them in life and death situations."

Get the Story:
Cedric Sunray: ‘Federally Recognized’ Often Misued (Indian Country Today 10/21)

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