PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thursday morning, members of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) voted “no” on a pair of proposed constitutional amendments that could have removed voting membership status for 24 state-recognized tribes.
Chairman Tony Johnson with the Chinook Indian Nation told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday that, if the amendment had passed, his community would have been among those prevented from being members.
“To not be members would both be an insult, but also would prevent us from accessing some of those protections,” he said.
Johnson said the Chinook have been fighting for federal recognition for more than a century. They were formally recognized by the Clinton administration 20 years ago, only to have that rescinded just 18 months later by the Bush administration.
“Tribes federally recognized today: 75% of them were not recognized when I was born in Oregon, 25% of Washington’s tribes were not recognized,” Johnson said. “No one would argue that those folks shouldn’t have been members of NCAI.”
According to the proposal, the changes would have updated membership rules to exclude all tribes that are not federally recognized.