CONSUMER CONFIDENTIAL

Tribal question a matter of dollars

Pope was mystified at first that this had become a thing several years after the fact. Then he had an "aha" moment.

"The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma," Pope declared. "They were upset that they didn't get to participate in making the bags."

But why would the Oklahoma Shawnees lodge a complaint with the feds about the Ohio Shawnees?

"We don't get along," Pope answered. "They want to operate a casino in Ohio and they're trying to push us out of the way. It's about who gets to say they're a Shawnee and who doesn't."

For his part, he said, his group wanted nothing to do with gambling.

"I don't like the graft and corruption that follow casinos around," Pope said.

I called the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, which operates a casino on the Oklahoma- Missouri border, and reached the group's leader, Chief Glenna Wallace.

"We do have an interest in setting up gaming in Ohio," she acknowledged. "It's a well-known fact that we've spoken to some towns in Ohio about this."

But Wallace insisted that, to the best of her knowledge, no one from her tribe had contacted the government to complain about the Ohio Shawnees' pouches.

"That's not the way we operate," she said.

I couldn't turn to the Circle of Tribal Advisors for help in understanding the situation because the organization disbanded in 2006 as events marking the Lewis and Clark bicentennial came to a close.

So I turned to the government's Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

Meridith Stanton, the director of the agency, said she couldn't provide details of the case, such as who'd complained about the Ohio Shawnees' tribal legitimacy, because an investigation was still pending.

But Stanton observed that most complaints about the status of Indian handiworks come from other Indians.

"The Ohio Shawnees had said they were members of a state-recognized tribe," Stanton said. "We checked with the Ohio attorney general. They weren't."

That, too, was news to Chief Hawk Pope. He said Ohio legislators passed a resolution in 1980 recognizing the tribal status of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band. Multiple references to the resolution and the group's state-sanctioned status can be found online.

So I contacted the Ohio attorney general's office and pointed it toward the state legislature's "Joint Resolution to Recognize the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band, as adopted by the Senate, 113th General Assembly, Regular Session."

Was there a problem with that?

Yes, replied Leo Jennings, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

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