Jessica McBride/Managing Editor
Funding would keep Tribe operational for one year
OKMULGEE, Okla. — A joint session of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation National Council’s Business, Finance and Justice Committee and the Land, Natural Resources and Cultural Preservation Committee was held June 13 at the Mound Building in Okmulgee.
BFJ/LNC addressed the following legislation, the interpretation of which is attributed to language in the bills:
NCA 17-107 Authorizing a $60,000 donation to the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians. Reps. Lucian Tiger, Robert Hufft and Mitch Jack sponsored the resolution, which passed 4-1 with Rep. Mark Randolph voting against it.
The legislation states that the Yuchi Tribe typically operates with federal grant funds, but has not received funding in two years. The Tribe has since exhausted its finances.
The appropriation would keep the Tribe open for a year so that they can obtain federal funding.
During the session, Yuchi Tribe representative Geoffrey Rolland said individuals have been working for the Tribe on a volunteer basis for the past several months.
Rolland said the appropriation would allow the office to remain open with limited staff so the Tribe can work on obtaining grants for funding.
“We’re not federally recognized at this time, so the only grants we can go for, we’re limited to a certain amount of what we can do,” he said.
Randolph said during the session that he received calls from citizens regarding the appropriation.
He said communities are required to provide and complete certain items such as audits in order to obtain funds, and some of his callers were concerned about the precedence the appropriation would set for bailing out communities and tribal towns.
“All of our communities when they come for a special appropriation, they have to show financials. It’s a law… I do support the eligibility for $5,000 as a non-profit organization. But because of these questions, because of the things that have been asked of me that where I stand,” Randolph said.
He said he was about consistency and fairness, and his decision was not personal.
Rolland said he could provide an itemized financial statement to help satisfy any requirements, but was limited on any additional documentation of financials for the last couple of years because he was not previously serving in his current role with the Tribe.
Rep. Dode Barnett, who is on the Council’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee, asked what the Tribe would do for long-term sustainability. Rolland responded they were looking at fundraising.
Rolland said the Yuchi Tribe provides social services such as burial assistance, rides to run errands and tax preparation to enrollees. He said currently, these are being completed on a volunteer basis, as funding is not available.
“We’re here for the community,” he said.
Barnett said she could support an appropriation to get the Tribe out of debt, but because they were not a recognized MCN community, she could not support the appropriation because she was concerned about the precedent Randolph had discussed.
Hufft asked if the funding would be used to become a federally recognized tribe.
“Federal recognition is an uphill climb for us. I mean, we’re surrounded by Creeks, we’re surrounded by Cherokees, we’re surrounded by tribes that would not be favorable to that, us being a federally-recognized tribe,” he said.
Rolland said another possibility would be tribal town status, but he was unsure of how that would work. He said the main goal was to move the Tribe forward.
Rep. Thomas Yahola said he would support the measure.
“…because in older times, the Yuchis were I guess, more or less, incorporated by the Nation and they moved with the Nation. And even during the Civil War when the Nation was divided, the Yuchis united with the ones that went to Kansas.
“And also even today, they’re recognized because the ceremonial grounds are issued to the three grounds of Yuchis. So to me that shows a relationship,” he said.
Rep. Pete Beaver mirrored Yahola’s statement on MCN and the Yuchi Tribal being culturally and historically related.
“We go back a long way, and we’re going to stay together as brothers,” he said.
Reps. Adam Jones and Del Beaver were excused. Reps. Randall Hicks and David Hill were absent.
MCN Controller Linda Roe said the funding source would be interest on the Permanent Fund.
The legislation passed through the joint session will move on to be addressed during the June 17 Council regular session.