Bill to create state commission for Native Americans advances
By HARRISON HAAS
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Thursday, March 18, 2010
The creation of a statewide Commission of Native American Affairs is one step closer to formally
being recognized following a vote by the state House of Representatives favoring of its formation.
With a vote of 201-132, the state House passed House Bill 1610, a bill that would create the
Commission recognizing all Native Americans at the state level. The next step in the process will
require a subcommittee from the Senate to review the bill, which is expected to take place
sometime in the next month or two.
If passed through the Senate, the New Hampshire Intertribal Council will have 60 days to give Gov.
John Lynch a list of names of who it believes would represent the Commission in a fair and just
manner. From a list of 15 names, Lynch will appoint five members that will be added to the
seven-member commission, with each member serving a three-year term. The commission would
meet four times a year.
Alton resident Paul Pouliot, who is Sagamo of the Pennacook-Abenaki People, was present during
the initial public hearing held last month on the bill. He said right now he is uncertain which
subcommittee will be hearing the bill before it goes before the Senate, but once it is made public
he will know which group of senators will be hearing the bill, something that might give him an
indication of if it will make it to the Senate floor.
He said if the bill does pass in the Senate, the commission would be beneficial to all natives in the
state. Pouliot said it would be a steppingstone for N.H. natives seeking assistance in federal
programs. "This is a good thing for the state if the commission if formed," Pouliot said. "In the long
run, I think it will be beneficial to the state."
Some people have opposed the bill, saying it's "politically incorrect," while others have been in full
support of the bill. Pouliot said he has heard some representatives saying they didn't want the
commission, but overall he has received positive feedback.
There are only nine states nationwide, including New Hampshire, that do not have some form of an
established Native American commission. Rhode Island is the only other New England state without
If the Native American Affairs commission is created it will give these New Hampshire residents a
representative voice as a minority population for the first time in state history. The commission will
also represent the increasingly diverse population of Native Americans from tribes across the
country that have or are moving into the state.
"If the bill goes forward, we have some opportunities to bring some federal revenue in to the state
in the areas of education and health," Pouliot said. "I think it's an opportunity to be competitive with
other states in funds that are specific to natives."
Sherry Gould of Sutton, who is also of Native American descent, is the director of Wijokadoak INC.,
an organization that serves as a resource for Abenaki people and other Native Americans living in
New Hampshire and Vermont. Gould is in favor of the bill because she said it will represent all
Native Americans as a whole, rather than individual groups.
"The commission will help provide a clearinghouse," Gould said. "The commission can help
understand federal laws and requirements. It's really about understanding these federal
regulations that governing native people and having people being in complacence."
Gould said people in the state need to have education about any complicated issues and
understand the issues they may be presented.
In 2007, Gould said the N.H. Intertribal Council approached the governor about forming a
commission which would recognize Native Americans at the state level. Things ended up falling
through the cracks and there wasn't any attention on the commission until Representative Dan
Carr from District 4 in Cheshire advocated for the new house bill.
"This was the logical follow-up," Gould said. "I have no doubt that it will get through the Senate and
to the governor."