State Rep. Christina Sappey (D-158) is calling on House members to co-sponsor legislation that would establish the Commission on Native American Affairs in Pennsylvania.
The proposed commission would create criteria to recognize Native American tribes and establish an application process for certification. All requests for official recognition would eventually be submitted to the Governor, who could then issue an executive order recognizing the Pennsylvania Native American status of the petitioning group.
“We have a duty and responsibility to foster awareness, understanding and appreciation of the numerous, important contributions of Native Americans to our Commonwealth,” Sappey said in a March 28 House memorandum. “That’s why I plan to introduce legislation establishing a formal procedure for recognizing groups indigenous to Pennsylvania.”
The state recognition could qualify some tribes for federal and state support. Four federal agencies – the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services – are authorized to provide funding for state-recognized tribes.
Sappey said it is important to “avoid misrepresentation” of Native American heritage.
The bill is a companion piece to a proposal by State Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-10).