Natives Discussing An Embassy In DC.
-- April 21, 2006 by: The Associated Press 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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