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Nationwide View: Congress Will Not Allow Cultural Appropriation by Minnesota Tribunes – Duluth News Tribune

From for-profit shoe companies posing as Native Americans in our state to others who for other self-serving reasons claim to be of Native American cultural descent, the cultural appropriation of Minnesota’s Native American population has continued for decades and shows no sign of stopping . The University of Minnesota’s American Indian Student Cultural Center now even hosts an annual “Our Culture is Not Your Costume” campaign to raise awareness of the problem.

The sad reality, however, is that if some members of Congress prevail, aboriginal cultural appropriation will deteriorate and will be effectively sanctioned by legislation.

A coalition of tribal leaders representing the concerns of more than 140 tribes across the country recently held a briefing for congressional staffers in the US Capitol on these concerns. In particular, they expressed concern about proposed legislation, including the Lumbee Recognition Act and the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians Act, that would allow groups of questionable backgrounds to obtain state recognition as Indigenous without providing the required proof of ancestry have to.

Any sitting member of Congress should know that groups with controversial claims should not receive federal recognition through a Congressional stamp. There are prescribed rules and procedures. They are to go through the official recognition process created by Congress through the Department of the Interior. This process is straightforward and only checks standard information, e.g. B. whether each group has been identified as a Native American entity on a substantially continuous basis and whether it has existed as a community from historical times to the present. If the evidence supports it, the group will be recognized as a tribe. There is no valid reason for any group to ignore or bypass this process.

It’s understandable why groups, whose claims have long been questioned by historians and genealogical experts, would want to sidestep the process. It is likely that their claims have no validity. So the only way forward is to try and create that congressional loophole. Still, Congress should not be looking to help groups evade authentication of their claims. This would have significant consequences for the native Minnesota population and potentially the general public.

The recognition of illegitimate tribes as real tribes could lead to mass cultural appropriation. That’s because, by definition, all groups seeking federal recognition claim descent from other existing tribal nations. Federal recognition as a Native American tribe by Congress would allow these groups to adopt the unique identities and customs of legitimate tribes, ultimately giving them access to their scarce, essential cultural assets, such as eagle feathers and peyote, as well as the remains of their ancestors—and even the ability to make claims to rise to the holy places dear to their hearts.

These threats will not necessarily be rare either. There are literally hundreds of groups claiming to be tribes with no evidence. Once Congress short-circuits Interior’s recognition process for one of these illegitimate groups, Pandora’s box will open. We can expect dozens more to come knocking.

Native Americans in Minnesota have many other concerns to attend to. Possible federal attacks on their sovereignty should not be included.

Minnesota Senator Tina Smith is a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. She has long been a champion and ally of Native American tribes. Hopefully she will use the influence of her position to quash these loophole bills before they ever see the light of day.

Indigenous rights are too important to be traded in congressional political horse-trading games. Indians have seen this game before and they were usually the losers. Congress must eliminate this loophole legislation before it is enshrined in must-pass legislation. We owe our local neighbors and friends no less.

Gil Gutknecht of Rochester, Minnesota, worked with Minnesota’s native tribes on sovereignty issues during his tenure in both the Minnesota and US Houses of Representatives. He wrote this for the News Tribune.

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Gil Gutknecht

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