Eagle staffs play an important role for American Indians ceremonies.
Published November 3, 2019
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The National Congress of American Indians (“NCAI”) held their 76th Annual Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico from October 20, 2019 to October 25, 2019. The Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee secured the passage of two resolutions that the Tribe submitted for consideration by the NCAI Member Tribes at the Convention. Both resolutions were passed in their respective subcommittees and full committees, before being presented and approved by NCAI’s General Assembly on the final day of the Convention. Resolutions are the main policy mechanism utilized by NCAI to express the consensus positions of member tribes on legislation, litigation, or policy matters that affect the welfare and treaty rights of tribal governments or communities.
The first resolution calls upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fully and conclusively deny a Petition from Pastor Robert Soto for Rulemaking that seeks to give non-Indians the ability to possess and use eagle feathers for religious purposes. The Ute Indian Tribe’s resolution outlined how the Petition’s request violated the applicable federal statute, Supreme Court precedent, and the government’s trust responsibility to federally recognized tribes. The resolution built upon the Ute Indian Tribe’s longstanding effort to oppose this Petition, protect tribal treaty rights, and ensure that only members of federally recognized tribes maintain the ability to possess and use eagle feathers for religious purposes. Importantly, not only was the Ute Indian Tribe’s resolution establishing opposition to the Petition adopted by NCAI’s General Assembly, but through discussions with various stakeholders the Business Committee was also able to convince Pastor Soto to agree to withdraw the Petition in its entirety.
The second resolution submitted by the Ute Indian Tribe called on the United States Congress to develop, introduce, and support legislation addressing the historical trauma and lasting harm United States policies have inflicted on native communities through the enactment of reparations. Reparations, or the concept of governmental compensation for past wrongs, has been a policy topic in the mainstream media and politics, including the 2020 presidential elections. However, the vast majority of the national reparations conversation so far has been focused on reparations for the decedents of black American slaves, ignoring the forced removal, land theft, and genocide undertaken against Indian people that has profoundly handicapped tribal sovereignty and self-determination. The resolution established NCAI’s support of reparations legislation in order to fully and truly address the long legacy of violence and human rights abuses inflicted on Indian people and communities.
The Ute Indian Tribe’s Business Committee issued the following official statement:
The Ute Tribal Business Committee appreciates the support from NCAI’s membership in passing the two resolution sponsored by the Tribe which protect tribal sovereignty and treaty rights and seek to hold the United States accountable for their historical wrongs perpetrated against Indian people. Despite the passage of these resolutions, the Business Committee remains concerned with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ongoing consideration of the Soto Petition which seeks to allow non-Indians the ability to possess and use eagle feathers. The Business Committee looks forward to continuing discussions with NCAI, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Congress on these issues to ensure tribal sovereignty and the government’s trust responsibility to all federally recognized Indian Tribes are upheld.