As part of Native American Heritage Month, today Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) along with Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large) introduced two bills seeking to strengthen Native American identity and honor longstanding agreements with recognized tribes.
“Where you can legally assert your heritage is important both to personal identity and to protecting and preserving our collective history,” said Councilmember Allen. “These are simple bills that reinforce the District’s commitment to recognize and support Native American tribes whose history predates much of US history.”
First, the Native American Birth Recognition Amendment Act of 2019 would allow anyone enrolled in a Native American tribe that is recognized by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, the District government, or a state government to include on a birth certificate a child’s tribal enrollment and request a replacement birth certificate that notes the individual’s tribal enrollment.
Currently, Native Americans who are or were born in DC cannot record their tribal identity on a birth certificate, effectively erasing their identity. The Piscataway Indian Nation and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe are not recognized by the federal government, but they have recently been recognized by Maryland, and both tribes issue tribal identity cards. The bill would allow the tribes to make their own determination of who can claim tribal identity—which will give potential members an incentive to go through the enrollment process. Increasing enrollment and allowing birth certificates to include tribal identity may also help ensure a more accurate count during the upcoming census.
Second, the 1666 Articles of Peace and Amity Recognition Amendment Act of 2019 would allow members of the Piscataway Indian Nation and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe to receive a free fishing license. The 1666 treaty between the Maryland Colony and the Piscataway people guaranteed that the native peoples in this region would be allowed to continue to hunt and fish and crab freely on their traditional land. The District is part of their traditional land, and the native peoples have always fished along the Anacostia River—and along all of the District’s waterways. This would still allow DOEE to track how many people are fishing in the District, insofar as anyone who fishes recreationally in the District actually gets a license, while reducing barriers for the native peoples.