The Mdewakanton Sioux Tribe has suggested that the National Congress of American Indians should establish a headquarters in Washington DC and they have suggested an available modern building on the street where international embassies are located. An “Embassy of Tribal Nations” here might improve the national government’s recognition of tribal sovereignty; it could also provide a center for tribal leaders who come to Washington for negotiations. This idea has been floating around for thirty years, but now money seems to be available.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – A Minnesota group is reviving the idea of having an American Indian embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which owns the Mystic Lake Casino, has put up $1 million in challenge grant to buy a building on Massachusetts Avenue, which is known as ”Embassy Row.” The goal is to raise $12 million to buy the building to house the National Congress of American Indians – the nation’s oldest American Indian advocacy organization.
Supporters said having an Embassy of Tribal Nations in the country’s capital will help recognize the reality of Indian sovereignty.
Vernon Bellecourt and other American Indian Movement leaders from Minnesota floated the idea when they occupied the BIA in Washington in 1972.
Bellecourt said he is glad to see it being revived, as long as ”it does something for Indian people and it’s not just another building with a name.”
So far, the idea has received the biggest support in Minnesota. The Prairie Island Sioux Community, owners of the Treasure Island Casino, and former BIA chief Dave Anderson, founder of the Minnesota-based Famous Dave’s BBQ chain, have each contributed $50,000 toward the cause.
The building in question is a modern five-story office building, which is now the home of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, next to the Embassy of Chile.
Having the building could at least provide American Indian leaders who come to Washington with an office, said Jackie Johnson, executive director of the American Indian Congress. Right now, the organization leases offices above the Luna Grill Diner, sharing a block with a psychic reader and a tattoo and body-piecing business.
”It’s a tremendous financial leap for a historically underfunded nonprofit,” Johnson said of the effort to buy a building.
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Vice Chairman Glynn Crooks said that while he understands that tribes across the nation have pressing social, health and education needs, there’s enough wealth in Indian country to create an embassy of tribal nations.
”I know there are many tribes that aren’t able to give that much, but I also know that there are a lot of tribes that can,” he said.
American Indian Congress President Joe Garcia, who would be the de facto ”ambassador,” called the Minnesota tribe’s gift ”a huge step in securing a home in Washington.”
He said that for too long, Indian concerns have been represented in Washington mainly by the BIA, an agency that falls under the Interior Department.
”It’s amazing that you can have every other country represented in Washington, but not the people who were here to greet the ‘first visitors,”’ Anderson said. ”It would be historic.”
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