Rule change on federal tribal recognition spurs hopes of Native Americans in Louisiana bayous
LAFITTE, La. – Giovanni R. Santini has spent decades trying to prove he's an American Indian, and folks in his bayou town no longer doubt he's a proud member of Louisiana's 17,000-strong Houma tribe.
Not so for the federal government. For decades, efforts by the Houma to become a federally recognized native American tribe have failed — much like those of dozens of other groups nationwide.
But this could change.
In June, the Obama administration hit the reset button on how a tribe becomes recognized by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. The biggest difference is that a tribe now will have to prove its existence and cohesion starting only in 1900 — and not from historical times to the present — offering hope for the Houma to be acknowledged as a tribe.