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Historian 08-17-2005 05:05 PM

H.R. 3526 - Federal Recognition for Mowa Band Choctaw
You may have heard that Congressman Jo Bonner has introduced a bill H.R. 3526 in U.S. Congress for federal acknowledgement of the Mowa Band of Choctaw. He introduced it on 28 July 2005. My Choctaw brother has asked me to ask friends, relatives and supporters to e-mail their U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives asking them to support this bill.

To contact your U.S. Senator, go to: http://www.senate.gov/general/contac...nators_cfm.cfm

To contact your U.S. Representative, go to:

To contact Members of the House Committee on Resources, go to:

To contact Congressman Jo Bonner who introduced the bill, go to:

Obviously, the more nationwide public support we can generate, the more likelihood it will happen.


Title: To extend Federal recognition to the Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians of Alabama, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Bonner, Jo [AL-1] (introduced 7/28/2005) Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 7/28/2005 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Resources.

Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians Recognition Act (Introduced in House)

HR 3526 IH


1st Session

H. R. 3526
To extend Federal recognition to the Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians of Alabama, and for other purposes.


July 28, 2005
Mr. BONNER introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Resources


To extend Federal recognition to the Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians of Alabama, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) Short Title- This Act may be cited as the `Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians Recognition Act'.

(b) Definitions- For the purposes of this Act:

(1) TRIBE- The term `Tribe' means the Mowa Band of Choctaws and Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians of Alabama.

(2) SECRETARY- The term `Secretary' means the Secretary of the Interior.


Federal recognition is hereby extended to the Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians of Alabama. All Federal laws of general application to Indians and Indian tribes shall apply with respect to the Tribe.


(a) In General- All rights and privileges of the Tribe which may have been abrogated or diminished before the date of the enactment of this Act by reason of any provision of Federal law that terminated Federal recognition of the Tribe are hereby restored and such Federal law shall no longer apply with respect to the Tribe or the members of the Tribe.

(b) Approval of Transfers- Under the treaties entered into by the ancestors of the Tribe, all historical tribal lands were ceded to the United States. Congress does hereby approve and ratify such cession effective as of the date of the cession and the cession shall be regarded as an extinguishment of all interest of the Tribe, if any, in said lands as of the date of the cession. By virtue of the approval and ratification of the cession of said lands, all claims against the United States, any State or subdivision thereof, or any other person or entity, by the Tribe, including but not limited to, claims for trespass damages or claims for use and occupancy, arising subsequent to the cession and that are based upon any interest in or right involving such land, shall be regarded as extinguished as of the date of the cession.

(c) Historical Land Claims- The Tribe has no historical land claim and cannot and shall not use its Federal recognition to assert any historical land claim. As used herein, `historical land claim' means a claim to land based upon a contention that the Tribe, or its ancestors, were the native inhabitants of such land or based upon the Tribe's `status as native Americans or based upon the Mowa Band of Choctaws' Federal recognition.

(d) Request and Best Interest of Tribe- Congress finds that the provisions of this section are enacted at the request of the Tribe and are in the best interests of the Tribe.


(a) Land Taken Into Trust- All legal rights, title, and interests in lands that are held by the Tribe on the date of the enactment of this Act are hereby transferred, at the request of the Tribe, to the United States in trust for the use and benefit of the Tribe.

(b) Future Lands Into Trust- (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the Tribe transfers to the Secretary any interest in lands acquired by the Tribe after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall accept such land on behalf of the United States. Such lands shall be held by the United States in trust for the benefit of the Tribe.

(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Attorney General of the United States shall approve any deed or other instrument used to make a conveyance under paragraph (1).

(c) Any lands held in trust by the United States for the use and benefit of the Tribe pursuant to this section shall constitute the reservation of the Tribe.

(d) Congress finds that the provisions of this section are enacted at the request of the Tribe and are in the best interests of the Tribe.


The Tribe, and the members of the Tribe, shall be eligible for all services and benefits that are provided by the Federal Government to Indians because of their status as federally recognized Indians and, notwithstanding any other provision of law, such services and benefits shall be provided after the date of the enactment of this Act to the Tribe, and to the members of the Tribe, without regard to the existence of a reservation for the Tribe or the location of the residence of any member of the Tribe on or near an Indian reservation.


(a) In General- The Tribe may organize for its common welfare and adopt a constitution and bylaws in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary. The Secretary shall offer to assist the Tribe in drafting a constitution and bylaws for the Tribe.

(b) Filing With Secretary- Any constitution, bylaws, or amendments to the constitution or bylaws that are adopted by the Tribe shall take effect only after such constitution, bylaws, or amendments are filed with the Secretary.


(a) Interim Membership- Until a constitution for the Tribe is adopted, the membership of the Tribe shall consist of every individual who--

(1) is named in the tribal membership roll that is in effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, or

(2) is a descendant of any individual described in paragraph (1).

(b) Membership After Adoption of Constitution and Bylaws- After the adoption of a constitution by the Tribe, the membership of the Tribe shall be determined in accordance with the terms of such constitution or any bylaws adopted under such constitution.


The Secretary shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act.

Wojapi4Me 08-18-2005 08:03 AM

Is your Choctaw friend a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaws because that tribe BITTERLY opposes this recognition. On a consistent level, they have opposed it - not on monetary issues - but on a heritage issue. They say the MOWAs are simply not Choctaw.

The MOWAs tried to go through the BIA recognition process - which is slow, but at the very least thorough. The BIA issued their decision in 1994 not to recognize the MOWAs.

At the time Holly Reckord, chief of the BIA's Branch of Acknowledgment and Research (1994) stated, "What we found was that the Indians that the MOWA claimed as their ancestors were not their ancestors. The people we found to be their ancestors were not Indians."

I read the BIA's final findings report, and it was, without a doubt, very scathing and matter of fact that these people are not Indians. The report stated that only one of the people listed on their rolls was an Indian, and he was enrolled with the Mississippi Choctaws.

The fact that the Mississippi Choctaw are so opposed to this group sends up a huge red flag to me. They sure didn't oppose the Jena Band of Choctaws which has been recently recognized.
Let the arguments begin.

Blackbear 08-18-2005 03:20 PM

:lurk: This should be interesting! Two of our more knowledgable posters with opposing views on a topic I know absolutely nothing about! I hope no flaming, just fact!

Historian 08-18-2005 09:30 PM

Part 1
Actually, my brother/friend is Mowa Choctaw. The following document may help to provide some background information on what the recognition process has been so far.

Wilford “Longhair” Taylor, Tribal Chief, MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians
Testimony Before the Committee on Resources
Unites States House of Representatives
Hearing on the Federal recognition and acknowledgment process by the
Bureau of Indian Affairs March 31, 2004

Testimony of Chief Wilford “Longhair” Taylor
Mr. Chairman and committee members: good morning. My name is Wilford “Longhair” Taylor and I am the elected tribal chief of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians. Thank you for granting me the opportunity to testify on the federal recognition and acknowledgment process by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

The Choctaw Indians of Mobile and Washington Counties, Alabama (MOWA) are the descendants of American Indians who occupied this territory prior to European discovery. We selected the acronym, MOWA, to represent our modern day geographic location. We live in an area transected by the county line between south Washington and north Mobile Counties. Although the State of Alabama legislature officially recognized the MOWA Choctaw as a tribe in 1979, and an official recognition proposal was approved by a U.S. Senate committee in 1991, the Bureau of Indian Affairs later denied our petition for Federal acknowledgment.

The criteria for Federal acknowledgment which a petitioning group must satisfy were designed to provide a uniform and objective review. However, the immense latitude granted to and demonstrated by the agency in its evaluation of the evidence submitted has clearly yielded arbitrary and subjective decisions. One example is the radically different standards applied in evaluating the petitions of the MOWA Choctaw and the Jena Choctaw. The oral histories of our venerated elders were discounted as "allegations" while the oral histories of the Jena Choctaw were described as even more reliable than written records. Identical types of written documentation that we were required to produce for BIA were characterized as an impossible and unreasonable expectation for the Jena Choctaw. Our petitions were evaluated within just months of each other. In all fairness, the same criteria should have been applied.

The Federal recognition process was designed to take two years, but in reality, the process often places a petitioning group in an endless "loop" of research and expense that, for most tribes, is overwhelming. It took seven years for our initial petition to be processed. It took ten years for the final determination report. If you include the years needed to undertake the research the BIA requires for documentation and our continued fight today, my people are in the twenty-third year of this process.

Although it is obviously not practical for me to present to you today my tribe’s entire struggle with the recognition process, it is spelled out in detail in my written testimony. Therefore, please allow me to share with you just a few comments of independent experts from across the country regarding our failed effort to achieve recognition.

In the words of the well-known and renowned Native American legal scholar and member of the Standing Rock Sioux, Professor Vine Deloria, Jr. writes “The Federal acknowledgment process today is confused, unfair, and riddled with inconsistencies. Much of the confusion is due to the insistence that Indian communities meet strange criteria which, if applied to all Indian nations when they sought to confirm a Federal relationship, would have disqualified the vast majority of presently recognized groups. He further writes, “The MOWA Choctaws have a typical profile for Southeastern Indians. Their credentials are solid and the historical data that identifies them as Indians extends back to the days when they were integral villages in the Choctaw Nation....the fragmentation of the Five Civilized Tribes before, during and after Removal makes their history a fascinating story of persistence and survival but certainly does not eliminate them from the groups of people that should rightfully be recognized as Indians.”
Dr. Richard W. Stoffle, Ph.D., an anthropologist from the University of Arizona wrote to me in response to the BIA decision to deny recognition saying, “I can only express my deepest disappointment in the BIA’s decision. As someone who has reviewed your petition at length and has talked with your elders, there is no just argument against recognizing your status as an American Indian tribe… After working for 27 years with more than 80 American Indian tribes, it is my considered opinion that the MOWA Choctaw people are a persistent tribal society. It is difficult for me to understand how that point could have been missed by the BIA.”
Dr. Kenneth York, Ph.D. and Member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, after critical review of our evidence writes, “It is my belief as a member of MBCI that members of the MOWA Band are descendants of the Great Choctaw Nation which was disbanded by the U.S. Government during the Indian Removal Period. It is my professional opinion that the MOWA Band has provided documentation regarding the history, culture, and ancestral relationship as well, if not better, as any tribal petition in recent years.”

Dr. Loretta A. Cormier, Ph.D., an anthropologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently wrote, “As you are well aware, I have had the opportunity to work among the MOWA Choctaw over the course of the last three years and have researched your cultural history. Let me say unequivocally that I have no doubt that the MOWA Choctaw are an American Indian community. I am astounded by the BIA’s denial of your Federal recognition and find the technical report they prepared to be seriously flawed in terms of its historical, cultural, and even logical analysis of MOWA Choctaw history."

The work and words of these individuals, and many other informed professionals, should provide ample support to prove that the BIA’s recognition process is, flawed and riddled with inconsistencies. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, as a federal governmental agency, has a duty to make decisions on a rational basis, which are neither arbitrary nor capricious. I find it quite disturbing that the BIA can selectively “pick and choose” the evidence it uses to deny a petition and, at the same time, not even consider, or in fact, totally and completely disregard stronger, more solid and compelling evidence that it normally uses as support to acknowledge other tribes.

The federal acknowledgment process was originally designed to be fair, objective and neutral. Today, the process is dehumanizing and insulting. As American Indians, we are the only people in this country who to have to prove to the United States government who we are. I strongly believe that as long as the BIA has the power to serve as judge, advocate or adversary, the issues we discuss today will never be resolved and the recognition process will continue to be widely held in contempt.
Thank you.

Introduction: The Choctaw of Mobile and Washington Counties, Alabama
We, the MOWA Band of Choctaw, are a community comprised of the ancestors of American Indians who escaped the 1830 Indian removal act and remained in our traditional homeland in southwest Alabama. We chose the acronym "MOWA" to refer to our location in the area bordering Mobile and Washington Counties.

Our credentials are solid and the historical data that identifies us as Indians extends back to the days when we were integral villages in the Choctaw Nation. Few people realize that not all people were removed when the Army marched our nation to the West. Our ancestors have been documented as a distinct American Indian community since shortly after the 1830 Indian removal act. In 1835, a government Indian School was built in Mount Vernon, Alabama and described in the Library of Congress Historic Building Survey as built for Indians by Indian labor (Russell 1935 [1835]). Census records, birth certificates, sworn court testimony, government correspondence, military records, and anthropological descriptions provide written documentation of our continuous history in the area. However, the strongest evidence of our American Indian ancestry is not found in written documents, it is found in our lives. Our ancestors passed to us our Indian identity and traditions, persevering and preserving our heritage despite a long history of injustice and persecution.

Our ancestors essentially became fugitives in their own homeland. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, they retreated into heavily forested, marginally desirable land along the Tombigbee River, married amongst themselves, and maintained a separate community. It is critical to understanding the experience of our ancestors to know that such segregation was not only due to the amalgamation of our Indian ancestors who escaped removal: it was an imposed isolation. Isolation helped to spare our people from persecution, although not completely. Elders describe atrocities against our ancestors such as being hunted down and imprisoned; killed, dismembered and stuffed in a gopher hole; or taken West in periodic Indian round-ups by government-paid contractors. These types of events are well documented in the literature (e.g., Debo 1972 [1934] and Forman 1982 [1932], Matte 2002).


Historian 08-18-2005 09:45 PM

Part 2
Non-Indian settlers to the area applied the term "Cajun" to our ancestors' community, a term borrowed from a nickname given to French-Canadian immigrants to the Gulf Coast area originating in Arcadia, which our ancestors clearly were not. We consider the term a pejorative, but nevertheless, this is the term often used to document our community in the literature, including a 1948 Smithsonian Institute description of the Cajun Indians of southwest Alabama (Gilbert 1948:144).

Unfortunately, such erroneous descriptions of our culture have been the rule rather than the exception in our history. The ultimate irony is that the very isolation and persecution contributing to our bonding together as an Indian community have, even today, impeded our ability to receive acknowledgment that we are who we say we are. We were denied federal recognition primarily on the basis that the BAR found insufficient written documentation by outsiders to substantiate the reality of our history and our lives.

The second section of this document entails a critique of the BAR denial of federal recognition for our people. At this juncture, it is important to make the point that we did provide the BAR with substantial documentation of the type that is acceptable to them in these matters. We maintain that we provided clear evidence to them that should have been more than sufficient to prove by their standards that we are who we are.
In brief, the BAR accepts that Indians remained in the area inhabited by the MOWA Choctaw today after the 1830 Removal Act. They also accept that our MOWA Choctaw community demonstrates clear ancestry from late 19th century core ancestors with Indian traditions. The crux of the denial is that our ancestors from the mid to late 19th century who lived as a separate community with Indian traditions cannot provide a level of documentation of Indian ancestry written by the non-Indian peoples who persecuted them that is considered acceptable to the BAR. Logically, it defies reason that non-Indians of that time period would desire to voluntarily adopt Indian traditions that would only invite persecution. Even if such self-destructive individuals were to exist, then one would have to presume that another as of yet unidentified Indian community existed in the MOWA Choctaw area from whom these non-Indians would be able to acquire foreign traditions. This is a bizarre and irrational scenario. Our MOWA Choctaw ancestors had Indian traditions because they were Indian.

Our people are, and have always been, a self-governing community following traditional ways of our ancestors and not accommodating ourselves to the rigid institutional organization that the majority of the nation adopted. Traditional ways, our people rightly feel, are more precise and enable the community to meet the needs of our people whereas the institutional process serves only people who fit into rigidly defined categories of assistance. Thus the political and social profile of our MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians does not always fit into the neat and narrow categories required by the federal acknowledgment process. Although the Alabama legislature officially recognized the MOWA Choctaw as a tribe in 1979, as did a U.S. Senate committee in 1991, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied our petition. Nevertheless, as our revered elder, Mr. Leon Taylor stated to Congress in 1985,

“Today, I am Choctaw. My mother was Choctaw. My Grandfather was Choctaw. Tomorrow, I will still be Choctaw.”

This abstract and timeline form the basis of the petitions and supporting documents submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Branch of Acknowledgment and Research in 1988, 1991, and 1996. A more in-depth treatment of the material summarized here can be found in Jacqueline Matte's, They Say the Wind is Red: The Alabama Choctaw--Lost in Their Own Land (2002, New South Books).

Critique of the BAR Technical Report
The following is a summary critique of the BAR Technical Report denying our federal recognition. Our critique addresses four key problem areas we see in their evaluation, 1) dismissal of written documents, 2) arbitrariness in evaluating oral history, 3) failure to appreciate the historical context of the MOWA Choctaw experience, and 4) procedural errors. It should be duly noted that space limitations for this testimony do not allow us to present to the Committee on Resources a complete description of the factual errors, erroneous interpretations, and inconsistencies in the BAR technical report of our people. However, we are fully prepared to present more extensive evidence and inaccuracies of the BAR report and, more extensive documentation demonstrating that we are a legitimate American Indian people.
1. The BAR Discounted Written Documents Presented as Evidence of MOWA Choctaw American Indian Ancestry
a. The Bar Discounted Written Documents of MOWA Choctaw Antebellum Ancestry
We presented extensive written documentation to the BAR of the continuous settlement of our people in the region we inhabit today from 1813 until the present. Included were letters of correspondence to representatives of the U.S. government between 1832 and 1859 which provide a continuous record of our presence for a time period that spans approximately 30 years after the 1830 Indian removal act (Exhibit 1: Choctaw Timeline). In our original petition, we described the segregation of our ancestors from the surrounding community in that they were not permitted to attend either “white” or “black” schools, and built their own. A record of the school exists in the Library of Congress that verifies that the school was built in 1835 “by Indians and for Indians” (Exhibit 2: Original Catalogue Record of Indian School). We presented to the BAR documentation of 120 records in the U.S. General Land Office from 1836 to 1936 of homesteads showing land occupation by the same names listed on the 1910 census who were described as mixed blood Indians (see Exhibit 1 for references for census data and Database of Land Records, 1836-1936). These records demonstrate 100 years of our continued occupation in the area from shortly after the Indian Removal Act until nearly the middle of the 20th century. We also provided the evidence of an 1855 “Census Roll of the Choctaw Indians” which describes Indians living in our present-day area as well as evidence of a “Choctaw Regiment” in Mobile county during the Civil War (see Exhibit 1: references for the Cooper Roll 1855, showing Choctaws in Mobile, Alabama and the 1862 Choctaw Regiment of Mobile, Alabama.)
The evidence above contradicts the conclusion of the BAR which states,
“the petitioner’s attempt to demonstrate the existence of a continuing American Indian tribal entity, or community, in southwestern Alabama in the first half of the nineteenth century was not documented” (Technical Report: MOWA Band of Choctaw 1994:72 [cited hereafter as TR-MOWA]).
Not only did we provide such evidence, it should be duly noted that BIA regulations under which the final determination was made do not require evidence of ancestry prior to 1900. The BAR required a burden of proof in violation of BIA standards and failed to acknowledge documentary evidence that indeed met the inappropriate standard they imposed upon us.
In addition, although the BAR relied most heavily on genealogical historical records, support for the material we presented is found in genetic research published in professional medical journals that characterize our contemporary MOWA Choctaw people as a community of Native American ancestry that have intermarried and been genetically isolated since antebellum times. Our community has been a subject of study by medical geneticists from the University of South Alabama due to the high frequency of Marinesco-Sjorgren syndrome, an extremely rare autosomal recessive genetic disorder. The community of these patients was described as,
“each patient was a member of an inbred population living in a well-defined area of South-Western Alabama. The ancestry of this population is Indian, with White and Black admixture” (Superneau et al. 1987:9).
“all come from a remote, rural area of southwest Alabama that has been virtually isolated since before the civil war” (Brogdon, Snow, and Williams 1996:461-462).
b. The BAR Discounted 1910 U.S. Census Evidence of American Indian Ancestry
The 1910 United States Census for Washington County, Alabama contained marginal notes which identify MOWA Choctaw families in the Fairford and Malcolm precincts of Washington County. The original identification of Indian was written over with the word “mixed.” The interlineations were written by an official taker of the United States Census. The note explains: “These people entered as mixed are composed of Indian, of Spanish, some of them French, some with White, and some with Negro. The prevailing habits are Indian. Called "Cajun” (see Exhibit 1 references to 1910 Census Identifying Indian People and Communities in Washington County).

Despite this direct proof, the BAR concludes, “nor were the core ancestors identified as an Indian entity on the 1910 U.S. Census.” It should also be noted that the core ancestors were dead by the time of the 1910 census, and these would have been descendants of our core ancestors. Moreover, the BAR concluded that “none of the primary records demonstrate that the petitioner’s members descend from a historical tribe or tribes which combined to form an autonomous political entity” (Summary under the Criteria and Evidence for Final determination of the MOWA 1997:5 [cited hereafter as SCFD-MOWA]. We offered the report of Professor Richard Stoffle (1996) entitled, “A Persistent People: A Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of MOWA Choctaw Federal Acknowledgment Petition.” Stoffle, using an anthropological approach, concluded that we were operating as an Indian community at the time of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830.


Historian 08-18-2005 09:52 PM

Part 3
Rather than respond to the substantive conclusions reached by Stoffle, the BAR suggested that we did not demonstrate that our core ancestors descended from persons listed on the Dawes Rolls. However, when the Curtis Act of 1898 directed the commission to enroll the Mississippi Choctaw (Mann 2003:293), some of our ancestors did make application for enrollment. They were rejected because they had no written documents to verify their Indian identity and were labeled “half-bloods.” Most of the applicants rejected lived in Alabama and traced their descendancy through Lofton and Byrd’s lineage. This information was submitted to the BAR. The basis for the exclusion from the list was not that the applicants were not Choctaw. Indeed they could speak the Choctaw language. No logical reason exists for anyone to speak the Choctaw language in 1898 in Alabama if they were not Choctaw. They were not permitted on the list because they could not supply written documentation and were deemed “half-bloods.” The BAR ignored this information.

In addition to the 1910 census, the 1920 census identified our people as “French and Indian” (see Exhibit 1 reference to the 1920 Census Identifying Indians in Washington County). We have also recently found Birth and Death Certificates from around this time period identifying our people as Indian (see Exhibit 1 references to Birth and Death Certificates Identifying MOWA Choctaw as “Indian”). Moreover, the 2000 U.S. census is unequivocal in its description of our people as Indian. In its “Race List Codes,” the MOWA Choctaw Indians are listed under the category “American Indian,” sub-category “Choctaw,” sub-category “C12-Mowa Band of Choctaw” (Exhibit 4: Federal Agencies Recognizing the MOWA Choctaw, U.S. Department of Commerce). We agree with the contemporary classification of our people as American Indian by the United States Federal government, and so should the BAR.
c. The BAR Discounted Sworn Testimony Related to the American Indian Ancestry of Core MOWA Choctaw Families
The MOWA Choctaws submitted minutes from “The State v. John Goodman and Jenny Reed,” dated 1881-1882 (Washington County, Alabama Circuit Court 1881-1882). We also presented a 1918 miscegenation case, “The State of Alabama v. Percy Reed and Helen Corkins [a.k.a. Calkins]” (See Exhibit 1 reference to 1920 Miscegenation Case of Percy Reed and Helen Caulkins). The BAR ignored direct evidence of Indian ancestry which arose out of these hearings and also intentionally refused to draw inferential conclusions from the trials.
First, we used the minutes from “The State v. John Goodman and Jenny Reed” to support the claim that Rose Gaines was half-Choctaw and half-white. The minutes indicated that Alabama prosecuted John Goodman and Jenny Reed under the miscegenation acts. The BAR concluded that the not-guilty verdict was non-supportive of Choctaw heritage. The BAR discredited sworn testimony of witnesses who stated that Rose was the daughter of Young Gaines and a Choctaw woman. Additionally, the BAR questioned the reference to burned records in our 1988 petition, “Initially, the petitioner claimed that ‘these [1880’s] court records were burned” (FD-MOWA 1997:13). The 1988 petition was based on information available at the time. That the BAR would castigate us for dutifully supplementing its submission is inconceivable, unprofessional, and insulting. We did not know that the records existed because we were told in 1988 that some of the courthouse records had burned in 1907. However, some of the records had been moved and were later found in a storage closet in Chatom, Alabama.
At the trial involving John Goodman and Jenny Reed, testimony was offered that Jenny was American Indian. The BAR ignored this testimony, which was provided in prior submissions to the BAR. They took issue with the fact that Mr. Sullivan, the foreman of the jury, had testified similarly in the 1920’s. However, that does not discredit the testimony, rather it supports the conclusion of Indian descendancy. The fact that the jury found the defendants not guilty in the Goodman and Reed case is strong proof that Jenny Reed was of Native American rather than African descent. This is the only defense that would have worked in the jury trial. The BAR completely and literally ignored this conclusion.

In addition, the specific reasons outlined by the BAR for not accepting this conclusion are specious. First, the BAR says that the testimony was given at a time greatly removed from the events being discussed. The BAR is acting as a super-jury in determining the Reed and Goodman case again. The original jury, hearing the evidence and seeing the witnesses, concluded that the defendants were not guilty of miscegenation. The only reasonable conclusion for that verdict can be that Jenny Reed was Native American. The credibility and weight accorded to witnesses’ testimony is to be decided by the jury in that case and not decided by a reviewing agency some 115 years after the court hearing. The BAR does not, and should not, sit as a super-reviewing agency of previous court decisions. Finally, the BAR impugns the testimony of George Sullivan because he was 74 years old. Again, this is a matter which was weighed and determined by the jury hearing that case. The BAR does not have legitimate basis for declining to believe sworn testimony evaluated by a jury.

We also presented the 1918 case of “Alabama v. Percy Reed and Helen Corkins [Calkins].” Percy was the son of Reuben Reed and the grandson of Daniel and Rose Reed. Percy Reed was originally found guilty of miscegenation; however, the Alabama Court of Appeals reversed that verdict and concluded that the evidence presented at the trial was hearsay and that the trial Judge should have directed a verdict in favor of the defendants. The Court of Appeals concluded: “Judgment entry that court ascertained ‘that defendant is of Indian or Spanish origin” significant that state failed to make a case of miscegenation (State of Alabama 1918),” the BAR did not accord this judicial conclusion any weight at all. In fact, the BAR ignored this direct evidence of Native American descent.
2. The BAR Demonstrated Bias, Arbitrariness, and Inconsistency in Evaluating MOWA Choctaw Oral History
Recording of oral histories is a key research methodology for both historians and anthropologists. It is also the traditional Native American means of transmitting family history and cultural traditions from generation to generation. Glaring problems exist in the BAR evaluation of information from oral history we provided to them. The BAR is inconsistent and arbitrary in its utilization of oral history information as evidence of Native American ancestry. Oral history information substantiating written documents is dismissed. The BAR reviewed the petitions of the MOWA Band of Choctaw and the Jena Band of Choctaw within several months of each other. However, similar types of oral history information were deemed superior to written documents for the Jena Choctaw, but judged as inadequate evidence for the MOWA Choctaw. Second, the requirement for extensive antebellum documentation of genealogy is an unreasonable expectation for a non-literate people whose cultural norms are based on preserving cultural heritage through oral tradition.
a. The BAR Discounted Oral History Information Substantiating Written Documents.

The BAR has completely dismissed our oral history as “vague and unreliable when tested.” The BAR refused to accept oral history “until verified from contemporary documentary sources.” As demonstrated with Nancy Fisher, contemporary documentary sources have been provided that have, for reasons beyond being described as frivolous, been discounted. The BAR concludes that oral traditions cannot be accepted at face value and must be evaluated where there are accuracy and reliability. The BAR refers to Rubicam, “consider and analyze all of the facts, regardless of the source, whether tradition or an official record, then decide if you should accept or reject those facts” (Rubicam 1980:48).


Historian 08-18-2005 10:01 PM

Part 4
The BAR has ignored its own advice and refused to consider and analyze all of the facts. We have urged, on more than one occasion, that the strong common thread of references to Indian heritage, the 180 year-old story of our Indian ancestor who swam the river with the baby on her back and self-identification has to be given weight. Further support for the veracity of our oral tradition has been found in an 1816 Washington, D.C. newspaper which recounts the incident (Marschalk 1816). A transcript of the newspaper account is provided in Exhibit 3.

Jacqueline Matte has served as the primary historical researcher for our people. Over a twenty-year period, she collected every reference, published or unpublished, related to our ancestors. Each piece of this information has been sent to the BAR, some of it repeatedly, in the anticipation that gaps in chronology, incomplete documentation, and unanswered questions could be expected for a non-literate people. Those gaps, however, were used offensively by the BAR to deny recognition rather than to leave open the analysis for further consideration.
While we do not discredit the value of genealogical records, the BAR has not taken into account that our earliest ancestors were not literate in English. It is unreasonable to expect that they would have kept extensive genealogical records of themselves in a language they did not know. Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota Sioux, Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado) has commented on this very problem in the federal recognition process, and specifically in reference to the MOWA Choctaw stating,
“Much of the confusion is due to the insistence that Indian communities meet criteria which, if it had been applied in the past, would have disqualified the vast majority of presently recognized groups” (Deloria 2002:10).
He refers to the “catch-22” in the federal recognition process. If our ancestors had assimilated, they would have been more likely to have left the types of written documentation the BAR requires to demonstrate Indian ancestry. However, such assimilation, by the BAR rules, would disqualify a community as a legitimate Indian tribe.
A recently discovered 1960 letter written by U.S. Representative Frank Boykin also demonstrates the veracity of our oral history. An excerpt follows below:
I’ll take care of him when he gets here, because we have a lot of wild Indians. You will remember that Aaron Burr was captured there on our game preserve at McIntosh in 1806; and then a little later, chief Geronimo, that great fighting chief, was captured here. Well, we sent them all to Oklahoma, after having them in captivity here a long time. Well, I still have a lot of them and they work for us. They can see in the dark and they can trail a wounded deer better than some of our trail dogs (Boykin 1960).
Boykin’s description of the MOWA Choctaw is that they are descendants of Indians who escaped removal and remained in the area that we currently inhabit. Although Boykin’s use of the term “wild Indian” is insulting, it is, nevertheless, an indisputable description of us as an Indian community.

b. The BAR Applied Radically Different Standards in Evaluating the MOWA Choctaw and the Petitions of Other Tribes, Particularly in Terms of Oral History
The BAR has applied radically different standards in evaluating the petitions of the MOWA Band of Choctaw and other tribes. We have chosen to draw comparisons between the petition of the Jena Band of Choctaw with our own since they were evaluated within months of each other and both are Southeastern Indian groups with Choctaw ancestry. The BAR applied a higher standard for the MOWA Choctaw than the Jena, in some cases, requiring the MOWAs to provide information that was described as impossible to obtain for the Jena. They were particularly inconsistent in evaluating the oral history of these two groups. Similar types of information derived from oral history were accepted for the Jena and rejected for the MOWA Choctaw. In one instance where a discrepancy between oral history and census data existed for the Jena Choctaw, oral history was deemed more reliable. However, the exact opposite conclusion was drawn for the MOWA Choctaw for similar circumstances. We should be clear that we are in no way questioning the legitimate Indian status of the Jena band of Choctaw. Rather, we are making the point that we feel that in all fairness, the same standards should have been used in evaluating our petitions.
One example of this type of discrepancy in the BAR’s evaluation of the MOWA Choctaw and Jena Choctaw petitions involves the importance of oral history in establishing ancestral links. For the Jena, the BAR recognized that their earliest Choctaw ancestors would have logically had Choctaw rather than Anglicized names and established a linkage between 1830 Choctaw based on the oral history of their 1880 descendants among the Jena. The following citation from the Jena petition is lengthy, but important for it makes clear that the federal government acknowledged the impossibility of linking Choctaw names to anglicized names and further, argued that it was “fair and reasonable to assume” that 1880 persons living in traditional Choctaw territory who claimed descent from Choctaw ancestors through oral history, were, indeed, Choctaw:
After one commissioner visited Mississippi for several weeks, the Dawes Commission produced a roll of the Mississippi Choctaws and submitted it to the Department of the Interior in March 1899. Later in the year, however, the Commission asked that the roll be withdrawn and returned it. The roll contained 1,923 names (Dawes Commission 1899, 78; 1900, 18, 10; Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1899, 122; 1901, 157-158). The Commission had identified a Mississippi Choctaws all of the full-blood Choctaws who had appeared before it. The Commission noted that it was impossible to prove that an individual’s Choctaw ancestors had made a good-faith effort to comply with the provisions of Article 14 of the treaty after 1830. The facts were not known to those living 60 years later, the Choctaws with English names could not be traced back to ancestors with Indian names, the Government’s records were inadequate, and the investigations made after the treaty had demonstrated that Agent William Ward had refused to register Choctaws who sought to comply with the treaty’s terms. The Mississippi Choctaws, the treaty contended could not be reasonably expected to show that their ancestors had complied with the provisions of the treaty. It was “fair and reasonable to assume,” however, that the Choctaws who had remained in Mississippi had intended to declare their intention to do so and to use the treaty to assure themselves of a homestead ([Dawes Commission 1899, 78-79] from TR-Jena 1994:21). (Emphasis added).
We provided the BAR with similar documentation in the form of an 1851 petition signed by our Choctaw ancestors that was submitted to the Commissions of Indian Affairs on our behalf by John Seawell (mayor of Mobile) and Felix Andry (See Exhibit 1 references to Indians of South Alabama of the Choctaw Nation 1851 and Choctaws in Mobile). The BAR rejected this evidence on the grounds that 1851 Choctaw names could not be linked to Anglicized names, although this was described as an unreasonable and even “impossible” expectation for the Jena Band of Choctaw:

Evidence was presented by the petitioner to indicate that some Choctaw Indians remained in Southern Alabama between the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in 1830 and the Civil War. However, no evidence was presented by the petitioner to indicate that either the Reed or the Weaver/Rivers/Byrd family associated as colleagues or witnesses with Felix Andry, who was married to a Choctaw woman named Nancy and who submitted claims to the Federal government on behalf of the Choctaw remaining in Alabama (TR-MOWA 1994:5).
It should be noted that one of the progenitors of the MOWA Choctaw described in our petition to the BAR has been traced to a person with an Anglicized name, Chief Tom Gibson (a.k.a. Eli-Tubbee, Elah, Tubbee, or Elatatabe). He lived in Washington County, Mississippi Territory (presently Washington County, Alabama) until 1813 when the influx of whites caused him to move to Killistamaha (English Town) clan of the Six Towns located in southeastern corner of the present boundary of the state of Mississippi, just miles from the current southwest Alabama location of our MOWA Choctaw community. John Gibson, James Gibson, and Betsy Gibson were in Mobile area in 1850 as shown in U.S. government correspondence and 1880 census. However, the BAR discounted this information because the 1860 census described her probable place of birth as Georgia, her father’s North Carolina, and her mother’s Virginia (TR-MOWA 1994:75-76). The BAR concluded that the link is “based on oral tradition only” (TR-MOWA 1994:75) rather than acknowledging that the census information itself was ambiguous.


Historian 08-18-2005 10:09 PM

Part 5
The conclusion drawn here is particularly troubling given that when the Jena proposal contained ambiguous census date, oral history was described as more reliable than census data,
“The Dawes Commission testimony suggests that tribal members born before 1872 were born in Mississippi, while those who were younger than that were born in Louisiana during the 1880’s. Census data on individuals’ place of birth does not support this conclusion, but the census is less reliable than personal testimony” (TR-Jena 1994:16).
In multiple instances, the BAR discounts our oral history as legitimate evidence. In the first example below, it is belittled by stating that our petition “alleges” a family connection. In the second example, even sworn court testimony is treated as allegation and discounted because we were expected to produce additional written documents to support the testimony.
“The MOWA petition alleges, also on the basis of oral tradition, that a George W. Reed, supposedly the son of Hardy Reed and a Creek woman whose maiden name was Elizabeth Tarvin, was the brother of Daniel Reed, as were Amos Reed and Squire Reed, but provides no documentation for the assertion, and the BAR researchers located none” (TR-MOWA 1994:31).
“According to the witness in the 1920 trial, Mrs. Rush testified that Rose Reed, who had died in 1878, had told her that her mother was a “Choctaw squaw.” This hearsay testimony was not documented by any contemporary evidence” (TR-MOWA 1994:6).
The oral history of the Jena is treated with more respect and regarded as legitimate in terms of both historical dates and social relationships,
“In the oral history of group members, William Bill Lewis is remembered as the group’s leader from the time of his arrival from Catahoula Parish about 1917 until his death about 1933…as the eldest male among the Choctaw residents of the Jena area after the death of Bill Lewis, Will Jackson was expected to play the role of community leader…”(TR-Jena 1994:30).

Another example of information that was accepted for the Jena Choctaw and rejected for the MOWA Choctaw is the presence of Indian Schools. The Jena Choctaw petition states,
“Local authorities and private individuals made efforts to create a school specifically for the Indian population. During the 1930’s the Penick Indian School operated with some funding from the Federal Office of Indian Affairs” (SUC-Jena 1994:4).
We provided the BAR with virtually identical information about a separate, federally funded Indian school for the MOWA Choctaw. In our original petition, we provided evidence of federal funding being sought in 1934, the same time period identified for the Penick Indian School of the Jena Choctaw (see timeline). Moreover, as previously described, the Indian school for the MOWA Choctaw ancestors was established 100 years earlier than that of the Jena Choctaw. In addition, since 1965, we have received federal funding through the Title IV and Title IX Indian Education Programs (Exhibit 4: Federal Agencies Recognizing the MOWA Choctaw, Department of Education).
Another extraordinary example of the BAR applying wholly different criteria to the Jena Choctaw and the MOWA Choctaw is in their evaluation of virtually identical events involving a Choctaw family moving into the community around 1900. For the Jena Choctaw, the addition of the Choctaw Lewis family in the early 1900’s is described as a positive event which allowed a dwindling Jena Choctaw community to remain viable. For the MOWA, the addition of the Choctaw Laurendine family is described as irrelevant because they did not marry into the community until the early 1900’s. The BAR description of the Lewises states,
“Before the arrival in LaSalle Parish about 1917 of William Bill Lewis and his extended family from Catahoula Parish, the Trout Creek settlement may have shrunk to two families, those of brothers Will Jackson and Chris Jackson….At that time, the two Jackson families may have consisted of only eight people…The arrival of the Lewis family gave the Trout Creek settlement the potential to remain a viable community” (TR-Jena 1994:28).
But the description of the MOWA Choctaw states,
“The Mississippi Choctaw Laurendine family did not, apparently settle in Mobile County until after the Civil War….No Laurendine descendants married into the petitioning group until after 1900…”(TR-MOWA:87).
The inconsistency is incredible. The BAR completely dismisses the intermarriage of the Choctaw Laurendine family into the ancestral MOWA Choctaw community as anomalous because it did not occur until around 1900. However, for the Jena Choctaw, the intermarriage of the Choctaw Lewis family around 1900 is viewed as critical to the very existence of the Jena Choctaw today.
c. The BAR Placed little value on oral history as the traditional American Indian means of transmitting heritage.
Finally, it is disappointing that the BAR, as an Indian agency, places so little value on oral history. For all American Indians, oral history is the traditional Indian way of transmitting our heritage from generation. Disregarding these traditions demonstrates disrespect for our venerated elders and more generally, disrespect for Indian cultural traditions. Moreover, the very existence of our oral history, passed down through generations to multiple descendants could not be been motivated by any other logical reason except as a means to preserve our heritage. Cedric Sunray’s “MOWA Tribal Council Presentation” put it well,

“When elder after elder recounts the same story in a relatively similar fashion…how can we discount it? How could an entire group of elderly people be convinced to lie and falsify such a long story? They would need to go against their own collective beliefs, have meetings to get their stories ‘on the same page’ and then, with a straight face, lie to anthropologists and BAR officials. No one could possibly believe that the senior population of the MOWA community organized to this level with the intent to mislead the BAR” (Sunray 2002:15).
3. The BAR failed to evaluate written documentation in its historical context
a. The BAR failed to recognize the widespread American Indian resistance to the Dawes Roll. The BAR equates the Dawes Roll (and similar registers) as a Native American census, failing to recognize both the widespread Native American Resistance to the Dawes Act, and the fraud and corruption in the Miriam Report of 1928 which led to its repeal.
b. The BAR failed to recognize racism and racial designations applied to American Indians in Alabama. The BAR has characterized the documents identifying MOWA Choctaw ancestors with Indian heritage as ambiguous. We have presented clear documentation that our MOWA Choctaw ancestors were described as Indian. However, the BAR describes this evidence as ambiguous pointing to terms such as “free person of color” and “mulatto” that have sometimes been applied to them. Such an attitude demonstrates a lack of awareness of not only historical racial categories in the region, but more importantly, it indicates a lack of awareness of the racism and prejudice that our people have experienced.
c. The BAR applied an unreasonable standard for the level of documentation required for non-literate antebellum American Indians. The requirement of the BAR for the MOWA to present extensive antebellum evidence is an unreasonable standard for an American Indian people who were not literate in the language. Applying such a standard indicates a clear failure to appreciate the cultural, historical, and linguistic history of the Indians who escaped removal in 1830.
4. The BAR deviated from BIA protocol in evaluating the MOWA Choctaw Petition.
a. By the BIA’s own admission, the Federal Recognition process is a confusing, ambiguous, expensive, and time-consuming process (Bureau of Indian Affairs 2001:3-4). One consequence of the confusion and delays is that we presented our petition under the set of guidelines in effect at the time but our petition was not evaluated until seven years later. The rules for federal recognition were changed just months before the BAR evaluated our proposal. We believe our petition should have been evaluated in a timely manner. Further, given that the BAR did not evaluate our petition within the recommended two-year time frame, that our petition should have at least been evaluated under the guidelines in effect when we submitted our proposal.
b. The BAR deviated from BIA protocol in requiring pre-1900 documentation. Much of the criticism in the 1994 BAR Technical Report is directed at their evaluation of our providing insufficient antebellum documentation of our ancestry. As we have already argued, we strongly disagree with this conclusion. But leaving that aside, as a matter of procedure, the requirement for antebellum documentation deviates from protocol. By the BIA’s own admission, the meaning of “historical” has been ambiguous and inconsistently applied for tribes seeking federal recognition. The BIA clarified the time frame in 1997 to mean “since 1900.” However, in the Final Determination, written after the BIA clarified the appropriate time frame, the BAR continued to apply an antebellum standard. We find it particularly unfair, frustrating, and inconsistent that the BAR applied outdated standards in the Final Determination given that our original petition was required to meet standards that had been changed only months before.


Historian 08-18-2005 10:12 PM

Part 6 (end)
c. The BAR deviated from the BIA protocol in failing to provide an objective evaluation of the MOWA Choctaw petition. The BAR failed to provide an objective analysis of our petition. We base this on (1) the adversarial tone of the BAR report; (2) evidence of racial bias by the BAR evaluator; (3) politics. Our experience has made it clear that the federal recognition process is rife with politics and bias. We were not evaluated objectively. Kevin Gover, the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs who signed off on the negative determination of our petitin perhaps puts it better than we can. He is quoted in the Hartford Advocate as saying,

“The tribal recognition process should be ‘fair, open, objective, and neutral…our present system lacks these features and we need an impartial commission’…Today the tribal recognition process is ‘dehumanizing’ and ‘insulting’…”imagine have to prove to the government who you are.” (Miksch 2003, quoting Gover).

Concluding Remarks:
With the exception of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, virtually everyone who has come into contact with our people recognizes that we are Indian. We have multiple letters of support from professionals that are all willing to provide expert testimony under oath. As previously described, we already have established relationships with numerous branches of the federal government who recognize us as Indian, even to the extent of our being given an Indian racial code for the purpose of compiling governmental statistical data. But more importantly that all of the letters and government documents that repeatedly substantiate our American Indian heritage, we simply are who we are.
Wilford “Longhair” Taylor, Tribal Chief,
MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians

Wojapi4Me 08-19-2005 07:59 AM


Originally Posted by Historian
Concluding Remarks:
With the exception of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, virtually everyone who has come into contact with our people recognizes that we are Indian.

Except the other recognized Choctaws...I read this entire thing yesterday, and if they have all this evidence, they need to put it out there because they sure didn't the first time around. The final finding from the BIA on this group was the only one I've ever read that was so emphatic in stating that this group is not a tribe and its people are not even Indian. That, plus the fact, that the other recognized Choctaw tribes do not think so either and oppose this group, sure puts doubt in my mind.

Historian 08-26-2005 10:56 AM

If the state of Alabama has recognized the Mowa Choctaw as being Indian, then I'm not sure why there is a problem with Federal recognition.

1badazzndn 08-26-2005 12:58 PM

I grew up with a lot of peeps from that tribe. We used to go to a lot of the same powwows. I didnt know they werent federally recognized until i got old enuff to understand that process n all. I wish the best for them

Historian 08-26-2005 04:49 PM


Originally Posted by Singerdad
Except the other recognized Choctaws...I read this entire thing yesterday, and if they have all this evidence, they need to put it out there because they sure didn't the first time around. The final finding from the BIA on this group was the only one I've ever read that was so emphatic in stating that this group is not a tribe and its people are not even Indian. That, plus the fact, that the other recognized Choctaw tribes do not think so either and oppose this group, sure puts doubt in my mind.

I recently asked a member of the Mowa Choctaw about the question concerning the support of other Choctaw tribes in this Federal recognition process, and this is the response I received today:

"I have heard the opposite. I read on the internet that several other bands were in favor of it, and recognize the tribe already. I personally know members of the Mississippi Band (Choctaw) and the Poarch Band Creeks that are great friends with the Mowa Choctaw, but the leadership doesn't seem to be representative of the entire band. I read an article that showed that in their effort to be recognized, both the Poarch Creeks and the Mississippis Choctaw requested, and got, support from the Mowa Choctaw, and pledged their support in return."

Historian 08-26-2005 04:57 PM

This is more information I just received from yet another Mowa Choctaw friend.

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this note finds everyone well. I’m writing to ask for your help in a very important matter. After a quarter century of struggle and bureaucratic foot-dragging, my family’s people, the MOWA band of Choctaw Indians, are up for federal recognition. We were officially recognized as a tribe by the state of Alabama in 1979, and approved for federal recognition by the US Senate in 1991, but then the BIA arbitrarily denied our petition for acknowledgement. Our case is well documented and we have been appealing it ever since. Our elected chief, Wilford “Longhair” Taylor testified before the House Committee on Resources in March of 2004 as to the BIA’s flawed and capricious handling of our case. On July 28, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Mobile) introduced HR 3526, the MOWA Recognition Bill into the House, where it was referred to the House Committee on Resources. Congress is currently in recess, but is scheduled to return to work the first week in September. At that time, the Committee is expected to vote on the bill. If the bill is approved by the committee, it will then be introduced on the House floor for debate and possible vote. The committee process is crucial to the bill’s final approval. This is where all of you come in!

In order to get our recognition bill over this major hurdle, we need to let the Resources Committee know that there is public support for the bill. Our people don’t have money to hire lobbyists, so they are counting on a grassroots effort to make this happen. Written letters, phone calls, and personal e-mails (in that order) have been proven to have the greatest impact in Washington. I want to ask everyone to write a letter or call the Committee members and their local representative to express their support for HR 3526. For those of you who are short on time, I’ve included a sample letter- feel free to cut and paste! I’ve also listed the contact information for the Committee and a link to the House of Representatives website where you can find your local representative’s information. Attached to this message is a copy of the bill and a list of the Committee members.

The passage of this bill means a great deal to our people. Native Americans are the only group in the US who have to prove their identity to the government, a government that has spent centuries trying its best to erase that very identity. While we don’t need the government to tell us who our relatives are, federal recognition would afford us some important legal rights. In our case, it would give us the right to hold our land in trust. Our people would be able to access needed social programs. Most importantly for our future, our young people would be eligible for more college scholarships and better access to employment. Over the years our people have given the US doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, soldiers and citizens. We are excited and hopeful that this congressional process will lead to recognition of those contributions and a respect for our rights as a people. Thanks so much to all of you for helping us move one step closer to finally achieving our goal of federal recognition!


Analiese Richard

If you want to send an e-mail to the entire committee, use this link: resources.committee@mail.house.gov

You can also contact the entire committee through the Chair:

Richard Pombo, Chairman
House of Representatives Committee on Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2761

This site will take you straight to your local State Representative, all you need is a zip code!




August 25, 2005

Dear Rep. X,

I am writing to you to express my support for HR 3526, the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians Recognition Bill, which now stands before the House Committee on Resources. If approved, HR 3526 would afford federal tribal recognition to the Choctaw Indians of Mobile and Washington counties in Alabama, who have organized under the acronym MOWA to denote their present geographical location. The MOWA Choctaw are descendants of the native people who occupied the area prior to European conquest and who have continued to live there and practice their way of life despite the 1830 Indian Removal Act. They were recognized as a tribe by the State of Alabama in 1979 and were approved for federal recognition by a US Senate committee in 1991. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs subsequently denied the tribe’s petition for federal acknowledgement in spite of the ample documentation and extensive expert testimony presented in favor of the tribe’s federal recognition. HR 3526 would correct this grave injustice and grant the MOWA Choctaw the federal recognition they deserve and have struggled for over the course of more than two decades.

Among experts in Anthropology and Native American law, the MOWA case is regarded as a textbook example of the inconsistency and arbitrary application of

the BIA’s recognition process. The process was designed to take two years, but BIA mismanagement has caused the MOWA Choctaw to wait twenty-three years for a ruling. In the end, the BIA denied the tribe’s petition for acknowledgement on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to establish the group’s continuous existence as a distinct self governing community from the nineteenth century on. The BIA argued that the oral histories gathered from tribal elders were not credible evidence of the tribe’s existence. However, the tribe presented ample oral and written documentation (much of it derived from government and military documents) which was backed by expert testimony from renowned anthropologists. To add insult to injury, during the same time period the BIA approved a recognition petition by the Jena Choctaw whose petition was evaluated according to wildly different standards. As MOWA Choctaw Chief Wilford “Longhair” Taylor said in his testimony before the Committee on Resources in March 2004, “the oral histories of our venerated elders were discounted as ‘allegations’ while the oral histories of the Jena Choctaw were described as even more reliable than written records. Identical types of written documentation that we were required to produce for the BIA were characterized as an impossible and unreasonable expectation for the Jena Choctaw.” This inconsistent application of recognition criteria has resulted in a grave miscarriage of justice. Many experts (as quoted in Chief Taylor’s testimony) have characterized this case as emblematic of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ inefficient, unprofessional, and capricious approach to the recognition process. Well-known Native American legal scholar Vine Deloria Jr. said concerning the case, “The Federal acknowledgement process today is confused, unfair, and riddled with inconsistencies. Much of the confusion is due to the insistence that Indian communities meet strange criteria which, if applied to all Indian nations when they sought to confirm a Federal relationship, would have disqualified the vast majority of presently recognized groups…The MOWA Choctaws have a typical profile for Southeastern Indians. Their credentials are solid and the historical data that identifies them as Indians extends back to the days when they were integral villages in the Choctaw Nation....the fragmentation of the Five Civilized Tribes before, during and after Removal makes their history a fascinating story of persistence and survival but certainly does not eliminate them from the groups of people that should rightfully be recognized as Indians.” In a similar vein, Dr. Richard W. Stoffle, Ph.D., an anthropologist from the University of Arizona, wrote the following to the tribe in response to the BIA’s denial of their petition for federal recognition, “I can only express my deepest disappointment in the BIA’s decision. As someone who has reviewed your petition at length and has talked with your elders, there is no just argument against recognizing your status as an American Indian tribe… After working for 27 years with more than 80 American Indian tribes, it is my considered opinion that the MOWA Choctaw people are a persistent tribal society. It is difficult for me to understand how that point could have been missed by the BIA.”

As a concerned citizen, I also find the BIA’s treatment of the MOWA Choctaw case difficult to understand. This tribe deserves a fair and just review of their claim to federal recognition. As a (Member of Congress/Chair of the Committee on Resources/Member of the Committee on Resources), I ask you to do your part to support HR 3526. Over the course of their history, the MOWA Choctaw have contributed much to the United States. Now it is up to you to finally grant the MOWA Choctaw their rightful place on the list of federally recognized tribes.

Sincerely Yours,



THANK YOU SO MUCH EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!

Historian 08-29-2005 07:17 PM

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this topic?

Badmutha 08-30-2005 11:45 AM

The State of Alabama is Clueless

Originally Posted by Historian
If the state of Alabama has recognized the Mowa Choctaw as being Indian, then I'm not sure why there is a problem with Federal recognition.

The State of Alabama also recognizes the Northeast Alabama Cherokees and the Echota Cherokees as Cherokee tribes, despite the fact that they are not. It takes more than have a few documentable ancestors to be a Cherokee tribe.
If these groups were legit, the EBCI, UKB and CNO would all welcome them as fellow Cherokee sovereigns. But these three tribe all question the legitimacy of these people, especially since some of them charge money for membership.

If Alabama is wrong about these "Cherokee" tribes, could it not also be possible that they're wrong about the MOWAs?

Historian 08-30-2005 07:33 PM

While I would agree that "anything" is possible, I just wonder how probable it would be that the State of Alabama would be wrong in situations so different from each other, it would be like comparing apples to oranges, especially given the historical background of the Mowa Choctaw.

Anyone else have any input?

gubmintcheeze 09-03-2005 05:22 AM

I briefly scanned over this but however convincing the wording and argument may be I am very skeptical. I'm Okla and whatever the folks back in MS may think of us is another issue...but I know we share an absolute history. I did indeed support the Jena band because I felt/feel the same is true as far as traceable history and ancestory. I have to agree with badmutha on this issue. Look at the Cherokee wolf clan of tennessee. They charge money (for something..but it all boils down to membership rights) to be involved in their activities! And, tennessee doesn't even recognize their/any tribe yet they are pushing for it and going against a more organized commission of affairs. Now, I know this is a different state they are talking about and the point...I might have missed it... but how many people are in this MOWA that has been talked about, and what are they trying to gain from this recognition? To gain access to better healthcare and scholarships and hold land in trust?????? Shhhhaaawww....I musta missed it....

ac_miss 09-05-2005 02:56 AM

Wait...Jena Band are federally recognized??? Or are they just state recognized? Hmmm...

Historian 09-05-2005 01:33 PM

According to the 2000 U.S. Census

Mowa Choctaw, AL - 124

Apache Choctaw, LA - 23,459

Clifton Choctaw, LA - 476

Jena Band Choctaw, LA - 59,984

Mississippi Band Choctaw, MS - 5,190

Oklahoma Choctaw, OK - 224,472

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