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|Thursday, 19 June, 2014|
NACNA audience at Riverton, Wyoming. (Roselynn Wahtomy photo)
Peyote Research Project & other issues discussed at NACNA conference
By ROSELYNN WAHTOMY
RIVERTON, Wyoming – The 65th Annual Native American Church of North America (NACNA )Conference was sponsored by the Native American Church of Wyoming for Arapahos & Other Tribes June 12-15.
Cletus Moss is the newly elected President of the hosting chapter. He is a Northern Arapaho tribal member. His wife, Martha Loneman, is the new vice president.
Moss explained it was the wish of the late Bobby Jo Goggles who wanted to see the conference hosted by their chapter. The last time a national convention was sponsored in the area was in Ethete in the 70s.
Moss said the former administration did a lot of the work in organizing the event, including Thomas Goggles, Benjamin Gardner, Melinda Whitman, Felicia Antelope and Lance Oldman.
There were 19 affiliated chapters in attendance; including 37 voting delegates, among them local group NACNA United Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho Inc.
On Thursday, the Little Medicine Birds, a local youth chapter, organized a youth day. There were several activities such as hide tanning, drum trying and various games and crafts. Two invited speakers encouraged youth of learning the ways of the Native American Church; they were Dr. Wilson Aronilth Jr., a Navajo educator and Irene Jones of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The conference opened with a prayer by Crawford White and posting of colors.
Ronald Oldman, Northern Arapaho Business Council Co-Chair, welcomed the crowd and was appreciative of all the prayers offered throughout the weekend.
Mid-Year meeting minutes were passed and officers presented their reports, along with the appointed committees.
Topics of discussion included a Peyote Research Project, NACNA logo, budget, bylaw amendments and representation at National Conference of American Indians.
Last year in Wisconsin Dells, the NACNA voted to support the Peyote Research Project (PRP), through the help of Dr. Deward Walker. Walker already has an established relationship with the organization and has worked with other researchers such as Omer Stewart. The goal of the project is to preserve and protect the future of the peyote sacrament. Funding was made possible through the Native American Rights Fund.
Walker took the floor to address there appears to be several problems associated with the supply for peyote. He explained information for the PRP is conducted in two ways, through a survey and meeting and visits with local chapters. Everyone was encouraged to complete a questionnaire to produce credible results.
The NACNA logo was first used in March of 1978, however it was never copyrighted. This resulted in others able to profit off it using the likes of it on their products. Legal team gave the update that they are awaiting the final description of services and will process once that’s complete.
In an effort to create a more transparent expenditure of NACNA funds, a motion to freeze the NACNA account and terminate all travel expenses for executive officers until a policy can be determined was put forth at the quarterly meeting in Shiprock, New Mexico. Treasurer James Tso met with a finance committee on Friday to come up with an annual budget for 2014-2015. The budget totaled $3,275 and was passed by the delegation with 31 in favor.
The Bylaw Committee is overseen by Vice-President Leo Dayish, who took the time to recognize those serving on the board. Local United Tribes member Rose Tesheep, was one of those recognized.
This year the committee proposed seven new changes to the bylaws; one of the two Tesheep submitted was passed with 32 voting in favor. The bylaw concerned official markers for voting delegates. The amendment was created to clear confusion during the voting process.
NACNA Secretary Sheila WhiteEagle approached the delegation to consider holding a membership with the National Congress of American Indians to better have the organization’s voice represented. WhiteEagle was willing to donate the membership dues. The delegation proposed to move forth by developing a committee to look into the issue further.
Next year’s conference was invited to be hosted in Salt Lake City by the Native American Church of A’Shii Be To’ chapter.
Cobell counsel Smith: Second payment in 60 to 90 days
By LORI EDMO-SUPPAH
FORT HALL — Cobell attorney David Coventry Smith of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLC says it could be 60 to 90 days before the second payment from the Trust Administration Class Distribution Cobell v Salazar is sent.
“There is no way to get it done sooner,” Smith said, the records were just bad and the appeal process hasn’t finished. “We’re working as hard as we can to get it done,” he continued. “It has become my mission to make sure this legacy is fulfilled.”
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered May 29 to commence distribution of Trust Administration Class payments before final decisions on appeals by those who believe they are Trust Administration class members. The judge’s order allows the process to continue so beneficiaries who are already approved class members can receive their share. The plaintiffs have to submit another order to Judge Hogan detailing how much money will be distributed to beneficiaries and a reserve fund has to be set aside for people’s appeals that are successful.
Attorney Smith said records were a mess when they were received from the federal government. Claims Administrator Garden City Group (GCG) inherited the trust records of the Department of Interior that had suffered from decades of mismanagement according to a status report to the court filed May 29.
The report says GCG had insufficient contact information for 315,349 class members. No addresses were provided for 174,909 individuals. A total of 73,594 individuals had wrong addresses. A total of 66,846 were officially classified by DOI as “Whereabouts Unknown.” The report says there was no contact information for approximately 63 percent of the entire class.
GCG also determined 21,974 individuals the DOI listed as alive were actually deceased. They also determined 1,313 individuals DOI listed as dead were actually alive. In 14,649 cases, multiple records were identified as belonging to a single individual. In 15,746 instances, accounts identified as belong to a specific individual actually belonged to another individual.
DOI had the wrong number of Historical Accounting Class members and since GCG received the records, approximately 13,306 additional class members have been identified.
The status report also says there’s been delays in transferring land records from the probate system to the land records system resulting in inaccurate Class membership data. Individuals identified as non-Indian by Interior actually proved to be Indian.
DOI had no records of thousands of Class Members in Oklahoma and Alaska because of the absence of trust land records on Interior’s systems.
The report says GCG and Class Counsel have worked over the past several years to fix the records. Since the December 2012 Historical Accounting distribution, three updates — in August 2013, February and March of this year have been delivered to GCG. It has included updated probate information. The report says the only way to effectively identify and correct the problems in the records is through extensive outreach to Indian Country through $11 million spent on notice programs designed by Kinsella Media targeting Native population centers; Class action and claims forms mailed to 375,000 potential claimants. GCG maintains a call center that averages 15,000 calls per week.
Concerning Historical Accounting Distributions there are 339,206 individuals or estates that have received or are designated to receive Historical Accounting payments. Distributions have been made by check or by wire into IIM accounts for 307,861 or approximately 91 percent of the Class members. Undistributed funds consist of 28,707 estates pending distribution; 573 checks were undeliverable; 2,479 Class members have no addresses; 159 checks have been withheld because of liens.
Trust Administration Claims Process: Approximately 467,208 claim forms constituting 382,520 unique claims were received by GCG. Of those, 113,082 were determined to be personally eligible and 73,957 were determined to be potential heirs to an eligible Class Member estate. The remaining claimants were not determined eligible based on the information GCG was provided. A total of 85,979 claimants requested reconsideration by GCG of which 53,169 were determined to be eligible based on receipt of additional information. There were 2,451 appeals consisting of 1,149 individuals appealing, from a determination of ineligibility by GCG to the Special Master. The claims have a total estimated value of approximately $1.5 million.
The report says there are 493,755 Trust Administration Class members of those, there currently exists contact information for 360,149 or 73 percent of the class. An additional 32,152 or seven percent will have their funds wired to an IIM account because they are minors, in restricted status or officially designated as “Whereabouts Unknown.” There are 101,454 or 20 percent of the Class members for whom no deliverable address exists.
The report addresses identifying Class members with no contact information and also estates.
Smith has traveled to Oklahoma and Alaska to meet with groups and is doing his best to accommodate all requests, he said.
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