Grijalva Questions False Premise, Slanted Republican Witness Panel at Today’s Hearing on Tribal Land Trust Issues

Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) challenged the Republican majority’s decision not to invite any Native American witnesses to today’s 10:00 a.m. hearing on the federal tribal recognition process, where attorney Don Mitchell will testify at Republicans’ behest despite tribal observers previously comparing him to the Ku Klux Klan. Mitchell referred sarcastically to “Alaska ‘tribes’” in a July 2016 Alaska Daily News op-ed.

The Native news outlet Indianz.com yesterday headlined a report on the panel “Hearing on Indian Reorganization Act Stacked With Anti-Indian Interests.” The Democratic witness is Kirk Francis, chief of the Penobscot Indian Nation and president of the United South and Eastern Tribes, who will lay out the many ways Republicans have tried to manipulate the federal tribal recognition process to the detriment of Native communities.

“This hearing isn’t even an attempt to seek information – it’s a forum for repeating anti-Native talking points,” Grijalva said today. “We should have a higher standard for Native American policy hearings than a panel of non-Native witnesses with axes to grind. This hearing is a waste of this Committee’s time and an insult to Native Americans who need Congress to take tribal quality-of-life issues seriously.”

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who is expected at today’s hearing, has a long history of opposing tribal sovereignty and attempting to weaken federal recognition for Native Americans. Last year Bishop introduced an ill-fated bill that would have made Congress the sole arbiter of whether a tribe receives federal recognition – an effort that contradicted decades of legal precedent by which federal agencies reviewed tribal petitions and established a historical basis for recognition. As Grijalva said at the time, “The validity of a Native American or Alaska Native community’s request for recognition should have nothing to do with who won the last election.”

Bishop held a hearing in April 2015 titled “The Obama Administration’s Part 83 Revisions and How They May Allow the Interior Department to Create Tribes, not Recognize Them” – a hearing that also featured testimony from Don Mitchell, a controversial Alaska attorney with a long history of outlandish remarks and anti-tribal activism. At the hearing, Bishop lectured then-Bureau of Indian Affairs head Brian Washburn about the tribal recognition process: “One way or another, we are going to push you until we do it the right way. Whether that’s quick or not, I don’t care.”

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