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Alabama Native American tribe hopes for Federal recognition

Framon Weaver, a former chief of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, speaks during an interview at the group's reservation at Mount Vernon, Ala., on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Native American groups in Alabama and North Carolina are hoping that two outgoing U.S. senators can help them achieve something that's been elusive so far: federal recognition as tribes. Victories in Congress could mean millions in federal funding for both. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
Jay Reeves/AP
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AP
Framon Weaver, a former chief of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, speaks during an interview at the group's reservation at Mount Vernon, Ala., on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. Native American groups in Alabama and North Carolina are hoping that two outgoing U.S. senators can help them achieve something that's been elusive so far: federal recognition as tribes. Victories in Congress could mean millions in federal funding for both. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Outgoing U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is being lobbied to help an Alabama Native American tribe earn official recognition from Washington. The MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians in Alabama are working with Shelby, while the Lumbee Tribe is making a similar effort with retiring Senator Richard Burr in North Carolina. Both groups are state-recognized tribes, but the federal government has not acknowledged them. Some federally recognized tribes oppose the bills. They say the groups are trying to short-circuit the process. Alabama Choctow Chief Framon Weaver testified before Congress in 2012 about his tribe which has roots dating back to the 1830s. “It is clear that our tribe, the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, (is) the literal poster child for the structural failures evident in the federal recognition process,” Weaver told the committee. The MOWAs are still seeking federal recognition, and they’re one of two state-recognized tribes hoping Congress will right what they see as wrongs of the past with the help of two influential U.S. senators who are retiring. It’s an issue entwined not just with history but with the possibility of gambling revenues.vBoth groups contend the process for gaining federal recognition has become adulterated and now favors money over history. They say that’s partly because of the billions generated by Indian gambling, something they can’t offer because of the lack of federal acknowledgement.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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