Sunday, October 30, 2005

No FEMA Love for the Houma Nation

If you had asked me yesterday to name a Native American tribe in Louisiana, the only one I could have come up with is the Houma people (yes, I willingly admit my ignorance).

Well, according to the federal government, my ignorance knows no bounds because it doesn’t recognize the Houmas as an official Native American tribe. And, because of that, the Houma people didn't receive relief assistance for Hurricane Rita like the other officially recognized tribes:

The Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe - both federally recognized - received mobile homes for displaced families and other supplies from Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross. But the Houmas, who aren't recognized as a tribe by the federal government, said they were left to fend for themselves.

Terrebonne Parish, where many of the Houmas live, was hit harder by Rita than Katrina. The Houma people that applied for federal aid received it like any other non-tribe applicant. But this doesn’t take in account that members of a tribe are more than just a collection of unrelated individuals. When the federal government deals with tribes, it is like they are dealing with sovereign nations.

From the Kansas City Infozine:

"We treat the federally recognized tribes with public assistance directly through the tribal governments ... on a government-to-government basis," he [FEMA Tribal Liaison Joseph Hesbrook] said. "The Houma Nation would have gotten a little more direct help if they had federal status."

According to the above linked article, the United Houma Nation is not a federally recognized tribe because “it lacked a distinct community, a leader and records of descendants.” Also, the Houmas don’t dress like the Washington Redskins mascot and do the tomahawk chop like at Atlanta Braves games.

And, in case you’re wondering where the President stands on the sovereignty of Native American nations, watch this video, taken in August 2004, to see him (painfully) say this:

"Tribal sovereignty means that it's sovereign. I mean, you're a – you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities."

And, yes, that is laughter in the background.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

in this one humble houma's opinion, the reason that bia & the fed gvmt won't recognize us is that if they do, we have a big ol' honking lawsuit against texaco due to us for desecration of our traditional lands & tribal burial sites.

any excuse they give about not being able to trace ancestry is just bs. i can trace my houma ancestry back definitavely six generations. beyond that, the forced removal and acculturation by the french missionaries make it almost impossible. names were forcably changed, families torn apart, etc. etc.

that, combined with this psycho hatred and envy of "indian gaming" by some non-indian peoples. look folks, if you gave every single indan around their very own casino, you still wouldn't be coming close to giving them due compensation for 1/10th the promises broken.