AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BIA ACKNOWLEDGMENT BRANCH
by Iron Thunderhorse, 11 March 2013
The BIA’s acknowledgement process has been dubbed ‘arbitrary and capricious,’ ‘unfair,’ ‘intrusive,’ ‘burdensome,’ ‘expensive,’ and above all ‘broken’ according to comments at the Oversight Hearing on Federal Recognition.
On September 01, 2007, ACQTC.ORG (The Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council), the acronym for our ancestral Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy, posted on-line a copy of our “letter of Intent” to file a Petition pursuant to 25 CFR 383.4. The original was sent, certified mail (RRR) No. 7605-1820-0002-7549-3405, addressed to the Office of the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Branch of Acknowledgement & Research, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop 2611-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240. The green card was returned and stamped “RECEIVED – SEP 07, 2007 ASIA-OFA [Assistant Secretary Indian Affairs – Office of Federal Acknowledgement]” with a signature that reads: “A. Sec. Fleming.”
Our Letter of Intent has been posted now for five years at http://acqtc.org/Items/200709PetitionToBIA. Next, ACQTC sent to the same address a cover letter of December 01, 2007, along with a 42-page Original Petition for Federal Acknowledgement with Appendices C, E, and F, Certified Mail No. 7006-0100-0003-9655-9955. This green card, too, was returned, stamped, dated ‘RECEIVED” and signed on December 11, 2007.
The final three additional Appendices A, B, and D (all CDs full of information) were sent via cover letter from ACQTC on 23 December 2007, Certified No. 7006-0100-0003-9655-9962. Again the green card was signed, dated, stamped ‘RECEIVED JAN 03, 2008.”
The exhibits took ACQTC 30 years to amass at great expense, resources, time, and donations. As an impoverished and oppressed indigenous nation, this process simply cannot be duplicated today.
ACQTC never received a letter affirming receipt of our letter of intent. The BIA is now claiming it never received any of this material. If this involved a single document or a lone mailing, that excuse might have merit. However, all three mailings were well recorded, signed and stamped, which is proof of service.
The BIA then presented ACQTC with a new ultimatum … “re-file anew, because we can’t find it.” This is unacceptable.
When ACQTC filed its 42-page Original Petition, we had two primary goals — to prove we are not a ‘tribe,’ but the only true aboriginal nation of our region and to initiate procedures to streamline the acknowledgement process by completely reforming it.
So, in addition, ACQTC sent a separate proposal to the Indian Affairs Committee in Congress to develop a three-stage system of progressive acknowledgement: (1) basic recognition; (2) intermediate benefits; (3) advanced issues of land, resources, etc. Each phase would take no longer than one year, each leads to the next level only if applied for. At its conclusion, either party can request an additional two years, so the entire process lasts longer than three years, but no more than five years.
Federal law today affirms that all indigenous groups have complete sovereignty over its membership and territory. So ACQTC refuses to surrender personal data of our 2,500 members (1,000 in Canada) and we have meticulous rolls, but we also have a confidentiality agreement to protect our members from overzealous legal and political intrusions into our members’ lives and welfare. In our past experiences, the information we passed on to other governments was routinely abused.
The entire BIA Acknowledgement Process is broken beyond repair. It can’t be patched, fixed, or mended. Throw it all out and start fresh and begin by honoring the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People).
Congress and the BIA have shown absolutely no interest in reforming their acknowledgement process because it is their “tool” of oppression and intimidation. To be truly sovereign, a nation must speak out and inform others of their will — not ask permission to be independent.
Quinnipiac Grand Sachem
And Legal Sovereign