Original Americans Foundation claims work with over 50 tribes

A playground for the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana, funded by the Original Americans Foundation. Photo from Facebook

The Original Americans Foundation claims it is spending millions of dollars in Indian Country but hasn't publicly disclosed a leadership board, donation guidelines or any other policies that are normally associated with a charitable organization.

The Washington NFL team announced the foundation over a year ago. By then, the group had already started making donations to a small number of tribes in Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and South Dakota.

The organization is now working on more than 200 projects with more than 50 tribes, The Washington Post reported. But the team has yet to disclose its financial activities, the paper said, and it's not clear how the funding process works.

In the case of the Paiute Tribe of Utah, it appears the foundation reached out via e-mail in January 2014, the paper reported. The tribe was immediately given an eight-passenger van that is apparently being used to transport elders, veterans and children to various events.

In May of that year, Chairwoman Gari Lafferty met with Gary Edwards, the CEO of the foundation, in Washington, D.C., although it appears she did not specifically travel to the nation's capitol solely for that purpose. But she did ask for two more vans -- one has been delivered, the paper said -- along with a slew of other items.

Gari Lafferty, the ousted chairwoman of the Paiute Tribe of Utah. Photo from NMAI

In September, Lafferty accepted a free trip to attend a team game at its D.C., area stadium. She also accepted other gifts in violation of the tribe's ethics rules, the council determined this week.

“I can’t lie. It did cross my mind," Lafferty told the Post when asked whether accepting the gifts might have constituted a conflict of interest.

The tribal council voted 5 to 0 to remove Lafferty from office. The vote came after a hearing on Tuesday in which the public was allowed to observe the process.

"The role of a tribal official is to act to make the tribe better, but the actions of Gari Lafferty since she took office have served neither the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah nor its elected council," Vice Chairwoman Jeanine Borchardt said in a press release. "Gari Lafferty's actions served only her self-interest. We are deeply saddened in taking this action."

A notice of charges filed against Lafferty noted that tribal member Phillip Gover is one of the plaintiffs in Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc., the case that seeks the cancellation of the team's trademarks. Gover and Lafferty are cousins.

The tribe will hold a special election on April 30 to choose a new chair. The leader will be chosen by tribal members among the remaining members on the council.

Get the Story:
Tribe’s infighting offers glimpse into Redskins foundation’s tactics (The Washington Post 4/3)
Utah’s Paiute Indian Tribe chairwoman removed from office for taking gifts from controversially named NFL team (The Salt Lake Tribune 4/3)
More R-Word Scandal: Utah Tribe Removes Chairwoman For Receiving Gifts (Indian Country Today 4/3)
Utah tribe's leader removed from office over Redskins gifts (Al Jazeera 4/3)
Utah Tribe Impeaches Chairwoman For Taking Redskins Bribe (Deadspin 4/2)
Utah tribe’s leader removed from office over Redskins gifts (AP 4/2)

Related Stories
Paiute Tribe removes chairwoman for accepting NFL team gifts (4/2)
Paiute Tribe moves to oust leader for accepting NFL team's gifts (4/1)

Join the Conversation