News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

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Native American Times guest commentary

Cedric Sunray 7/27/2005

The fortunes of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians are well documented and marketed to the general public. They are a testament to overcoming racism and prospering against overwhelming odds. Even so, their leadership, federally recognized tribes in their region and their lobbyist colleagues have left one clear victim while pursuing their economic ventures.

A victim which has escaped the majority of press outlets and newscasts.

A victim which has been misrepresented when mentioned and has had to endure generations of poverty.

The MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians Reservation is located 50 miles east of the Mississippi Choctaw Bogue Homa community. Their state recognized reservation lies wedged between the Alabama towns of Citronelle, Mt. Vernon and McIntosh, Alabama. They are an identifiable and culturally rich community of Choctaw citizens who have resided in their same location prior and since the signing of the Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty of 1830. Their current two decade long quest for federal recognition has been terminated by corrupt officials at the Bureau of Indian Affairs/BAR branch, lobbyist opposition and the leadership of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who view them as a threat to their gaming interests. This is ironic, due to the fact that the MOWA Choctaw community has no interest in gaming and has publicly stated this in front of members of Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The MOWA community has support from numerous federally recognized tribal nations as well as the National Congress of American Indians. They also have strict requirements for enrollment and oral and written history which substantiates their claims. Their attendance at all-Indian schools such as Bacone High School/College in the early 1950’s, gives further legitimacy to their people as a distinct and recognizable Indian community. Their attendance, at Choctaw Central High School on the Mississippi Choctaw Reservation, which is exclusive to American Indian students, should also send off some alarms. Their exclusion from black and white schools in the state of Alabama and creation of a third caste Indian schooling system gives further credence to their cohesive community structure.

National Indian leaders such as renowned author Vine Deloria Jr. have defended their claims as well as a host of anthropologists, enthnologists, linguists and scholars. There is no question that lobbyist money was and is used against the MOWA Choctaw community. National news has broadcast loudly and clearly that the Mississippi Choctaw are in collusion with lobbyists and politicians to suppress gaming and tribal recognition processes, especially in the neighboring state of Alabama. The Mississippi Choctaw’s recent “testimony” in front of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs left the national audience with the impression that they were the ones who were scammed during all of this. They played the “us poor Indians” card. The reality is that they still employ the very same lobbyists, minus one individual (Jack Abramoff) who they claim scammed them. Does the name Kevin Ring, “ring” a bell? He is the same individual who was pleading the 5th during the Senate Select Committee hearing when questions as to his role in the scam were asked of him.

As another generation of MOWA community elders pass on the lie continues. Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Kevin Ring, their colleagues and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Poarch Creek and Eastern Band Cherokee leadership have conspired against the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians since the very beginning of the “casino era”, while the people of the Mississippi Band, Poarch Creek and the MOWA Band have remained friends, neighbors and culturally connected due to their shared history and want to make a better life for their families. It is sad that the Mississippi Band, Poarch Band and Eastern Band Cherokees former and in some instances, current leadership, have not taken the example set by their own people in regards to their relationship with the MOWA Choctaw. With numerous new leaders elected in these communities, it is hoped that they will live up to the words of one of their own, former Poarch Creek Tribal Chairman and current Tribal Councilor Eddie Tullis, who stated on June 20, 1981 in a letter to former MOWA Choctaw Tribal Chief Framon Weaver “This letter is to formally ask your tribe in the spirit of Indian brotherhood, support our efforts for Federal Recognition…We as Native Americans must work together to protect our rights. I assure you that if you assist us with our struggle for Federal Recognition you can count on us to be there when your petition is ready for consideration by BAR.” When the Poarch Creek federal recognition came 3 years later in 1984, they suddenly caught a case of amnesia.

Amnesia that still exists today.

In the MOWA’s own federal petition, Dr. Kenneth York, Ph.D., and a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, after critical review of their evidence wrote, “It is my belief that as a member of the MBCI that members of the MOWA Band are descendants of the Great Choctaw Nation which was disbanded by the U.S. Government during the Indian Removal Period. It is my professional opinion that the MOWA Band has provided documentation regarding the history, culture, and ancestral relationship as well, if not better, as any tribal petition in recent years.” The BIA/BAR has purposely not reviewed evidence, which would have recognized the MOWA community years ago, due to the pressures of lobbyists and casino wealthy tribal nations. Instead, they have relied on only one of the 7 criteria for federal recognition to dispute the MOWA claim. They have used former records, which list the MOWA as “Cajun”, “Creole”, “Black”, “Mulatto”, etc. during the historic period.

Of course, during this time, “Indian” was not allowed to be placed on records in the state of Alabama and yet some community members were still listed as such. They have purposely left out those listed as “Indian” and have even gone against their own research which states that 1 of their 5 core ancestors is listed on the Armstrong Roll of 1831. They have discounted all testimony of third party professional sources and have been openly prejudicial in various public settings in relation to the MOWA community. Aside from this, almost all information accepted for the Jena Choctaw community in Louisiana, during the 1990’s, was considered irrelevant for the MOWA Choctaw community during the same time period. The Jena’s attained federal recognition and rightfully so. The MOWA’s however, are still waiting. Recently they have been informed that they no longer have any other recourse with the BIA/BAR process. Their only hope for recognition now lies through the Congress or through litigation. With large numbers of “wannabe” tribes populating the Southeast and clogging up the FederaAcknowledgement Process, corruption at the BIA, lobbyist scandal, erasure of blood quantum requirements for some federal tribes (which creates larger populations and in turn creates a larger financial burden for the BIA) and continued casino profits for federal tribes near the MOWA, their hopes of bringing nearly 80% of their tribal population out of poverty would seem a long shot at best. The old adage if it looks like a Choctaw, talks like a Choctaw and acts like a Choctaw must only apply to ducks. It is time that this charade ended.

Cedric Sunray is an American Indian Studies teacher at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Chicago Tribune | Bush nominee frustrates GOP senator at hearing

Specter says support may be in jeopardy

By Andrew Zajac
Washington Bureau
Published July 27, 2005

WASHINGTON -- After politely sparring with Timothy Flanigan, a peeved Sen. Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hinted Tuesday he might not support President Bush's choice to serve as second-in-command of the Justice Department if Flanigan wasn't more willing to allow lawmakers to look over his shoulder.

Specter (R-Pa.) said his backing for the one-time deputy White House counsel would depend on his "understanding of oversight" as explained in written questions from the panel.

It is too early to tell whether Specter's pique will jeopardize Flanigan's confirmation as deputy attorney general. His nomination is not set for a committee vote until after Congress returns from its August recess.

But Specter's veiled threat underscores the frustration among some congressional Republicans at what they perceive as a continual stiff-arm from the Bush administration when looking closely at how the executive branch goes about its business, particularly its conduct of the war on terror.

The White House recently lobbied against legislation, supported by some Senate Republicans, to specifically prohibit the U.S. from "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of detainees and from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross.

During a hearing of the Judiciary Committee on Flanigan's nomination, Specter asked Flanigan for his opinion of that legislation.

Flanigan told Specter he believed that the administration and lawmakers could reach an informal understanding about how much congressional scrutiny of the Justice Department is appropriate.

"In the real world these things get worked out," Flanigan said.

But Flanigan demurred when Specter prodded him to agree to a detailed definition of what oversight would entail.

"I can't brush away two centuries worth of experience in the executive branch," Flanigan said, referring to his belief that the president must zealously guard against too much supervision from Congress.

Flanigan, 52, has bounced between the practice of corporate law and legal service in Republican administrations, including a previous stint at the Justice Department under President George H.W. Bush.

Flanigan is the father of 14 children. Thirteen of them, plus spouses and grandchildren, filled about one-third of the hearing room Tuesday.

After serving as deputy White House counsel to Alberto Gonzales, who now is attorney general and would once again be his boss, Flanigan in November 2002 joined Tyco International as senior vice president and general counsel.

In response to a question from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Flanigan acknowledged that in early 2003 he had day-to-day supervision of Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist under Justice Department criminal investigation for allegedly swindling a series of Indian tribes out of millions of dollars.

Among the work his team did for Tyco, Abramoff listed lobbying the White House. Neither Abramoff, Flanigan, the White House nor Tyco would comment on what the firm was seeking.

As expected, Flanigan was questioned closely about his role in the writing of memos discussing the permissibility of torture of captured enemy combatants.

Flanigan said he participated in two meetings between White House and Justice Department lawyers discussing an August 2002 Justice Department memo that laid out what methods the CIA could use to extract information from senior Al Qaeda operatives.

"The agency asked basically what it could do beyond the normal Q-and-A approach" to interrogation, Flanigan said.

He said that he did not "recall specific questions that I asked," but that his role was to make sure Justice Department lawyers "had the statutory analysis correct . . . that it sounded correct."

The memo, eventually repudiated, argued that abuse short of "death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions" did not qualify as torture.

Flanigan said the memo was "sophomoric . . . It was unnecessary. It was useless.

"Torture cannot be the policy of the United States. It is abhorrent," he said.

Pressed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Flanigan said the president could not immunize someone against prosecution for engaging in torture, nor could the president ignore specific instructions from Congress unless they were unconstitutional.


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