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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Indigenous Peoples

The fight for civil rights for the nation's more than 4 million indigenous peoples affects and reflects on all Americans. The fight to preserve tribal sovereignty and treaty rights has long been at the forefront of the Native American civil rights movement. Native Americans also suffer from many of the same social and economic problems as other victims of long-term bias and discrimination--including, for example, disproportionately high rates of poverty, infant mortality, unemployment, and low high school completion rates.

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Civil Rights Groups Urge Washington to Change Football Team Name

December 18, 2013 - Posted by Patrick McNeil

At its annual meeting last week, The Leadership Conference passed a resolution calling for the Washington Redskins to change its name, saying it “cannot in any reasonable way be viewed as honoring the culture or historical legacy of any particular Native American tribe or individual.” The resolution also urged state, local, and federal governments to break association with the franchise.

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Senate Passes Compensation Bill for African-American Farmers and American Indians

November 24, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

On Friday, the Senate approved a nearly $4.6 billion settlement for African-American farmers and American Indians who filed claims against the federal government more than a decade ago.

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"Free Land" Tells Personal Story of Cherokee History, Homelessness

August 2, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

In her documentary film, Free Land, Minda Martin explores the impact her Cherokee ancestors have had on her family's nomadic life.

The film primarily focuses on her grandmother, Cordelia Taylor, who moved at least 43 times with her husband after the government-mandated Cherokee removal in 1830. Taylor was miserable when she first moved. The land where she grew up held deep traditions; all of her ancestors had been born, grown up, died, and been buried in the same place. "For my people," her voiceover simply states, "no one owned land." 

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New Law Will Make American Indian Communities Safer

August 2, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act into law, significantly increasing the ability for tribal police to ensure the safety of their communities. The Act will enhance tribal law enforcement and improve the cooperation between tribes and the federal government in apprehending and prosecuting criminals.

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NCAI Announces Winners of Census Art Competition

April 6, 2010 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) congratulated 15 Native American artists last week on winning the Indian Country Counts national art competition

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President Obama Commits to Greater Cooperation Between Federal Government and Tribal Nations

November 6, 2009 - Posted by Ron Bigler

Fulfilling a campaign promise, President Obama held a historic White House Tribal Nations Conference on November 5 and made it clear that he is committed to ensuring that the needs and concerns of Tribal Nations are addressed by the federal government.

At the conference, the president signed a directive to every cabinet agency asking them to provide a detailed plan — within 90 days — on how to implement Executive Order 13175 — "Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments."

"In the final years of his administration, President Clinton issued an executive order [13175] establishing regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration between your nations and the federal government. But over the past nine years, only a few agencies have made an effort to implement that executive order — and it's time for that to change," said Obama upon signing the directive. 

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Native American Tribes in Virginia and North Carolina Are Close to Achieving Federal Recognition

May 5, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The Lumbee tribe, located in Robeson County, N.C., was recognized by the state of North Carolina as American Indians in 1884. In 1956, Congress recognized them as American Indians, but they did not receive the full benefits of federal recognition.

The Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe, all located in Virginia, received recognition from the state of Virginia in 1983.  There are currently no federally recognized tribes in Virginia.

Federal recognition is usually handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, the process is difficult.  One of the bureau's criteria for recognition is that tribes prove that they've been recognized as group or community of American Indians for a century, which is very hard for most tribes because states haven't always classified them as American Indians.  For instance, members of the Virginia tribes were classified as "colored" in the 1920s.

Because the Lumbee tribe were partially recognized in 1956, full recognition must come from Congress. 

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Comic Art Indigène Exhibition Shows How Comics Have Inspired Native American Artists

April 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Katie Kohn standing in front of paintings of Native American women

Katie Kohn, LCCR intern, standing in front of paintings from Rose Bean Simpson's "Objectification Series" at the National Museum of the American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., is hosting an exhibition called Comic Art Indigène, which shows how American Indians have incorporated comics and comic-inspired art into their storytelling tradition.

The exhibition shows the many ways American Indians have historically told stories, from rock art to ceramics to the more recent comics and comic-inspired art.

Many of the artists, like Rose Bean Simpson and Diego Romero, use comic-inspired art to examine politics, Native American culture, and identity.  Simpson's "Objectification Series" explores various portrayals of Native American women in the United States.  Romero's paintings tell stories inspired by the Marvel Comics of the 1960s.

"Comic strips were the first accessible form of mass media made available on reservations, and there was this immediate connection between native people and that type of work.  There was no language barrier, and the whimsical stories were a very familiar tradition," said Antonio Chavarria, curator of ethnology at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in New Mexico, who organized the exhibition.

The exhibition runs through May 31.

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Native Hawaiians Push for Federal Indigenous Status

April 2, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii

Senator Daniel Akaka, D. Hawaii, is the lead sponsor of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act in Congress.

The indigenous people of Hawaii have lived on the islands for thousands of years. But even though the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown in 1893 and the islands were annexed by the U.S. in 1898, Native Hawaiians do not have a federally recognized native governing body, like Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Since that time the U.S. government gradually improved its relationship with Native Hawaiians. Legislation passed in 1974 made Native Hawaiians eligible for some, but not all, of the federal assistance programs available to Native Americans.

In 1993, Congress passed the Apology Resolution which "apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii."

There are many different proposals for dealing with the federal indigenous status of Native Hawaiians.  A bill, the Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009, was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate that would initiate the process to create a sovereign Native Hawaiian government that will be able to engage in a federally recognized government-to-government relationship with the U.S. government, similar to Native Americans and Alaska Natives.  Different versions of the bill have been introduced in Congress since 2000.

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National Congress of American Indians President Gives Annual State of Indian Nations Speech

February 11, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Tribal leader hands NCAI President Joe Garcia a silver-headed cane

A tribal leader hands NCAI President Joe Garcia a silver-headed cane called a "Lincoln Cane."  The canes represent the recognition of tribal sovereignty, authority, and honor.

Native Americans are hopeful that their concerns will be a part of the new administration's agenda this year.

During the annual State of Indian Nations speech yesterday, Joe A. Garcia, president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) laid out the Native American community's four main priorities for the new administration in 2009:

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