Attorney: Richard A. Guest
NARF represents the Pottawatomi Nation of Canada, a band of descendants from the Historic Pottawatomi Nation, which from 1795 to 1873 signed a series of treaties with the United States. These treaties provided for the payment of certain annuities. The ancestors of the present-day Canadian Pottawatomi fled to Canada following the signing of the final treaty and were never paid their annuities as promised.
The American Pottawatomi bands recovered the payment of these annuities in the Indian Claims Commission (ICC), but the Pottawatomi members who now reside in Canada could not bring a claim in the ICC. In 1993, NARF brought suit on behalf of the Pottawatomi Nation in Canada in the Court of Federal Claims, by way of a congressional reference bill, to seek redress. The Nation and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement in principle and the Court of Federal Claims accepted the settlement in September 2000, and recommended the settlement to Congress in January 2001.
Attempts to pass legislation approving the settlement agreement through Congress have stalled on several occasions. In April 2002, Senator Daniel K. Inouye first introduced a bill in the 107th Congress — S.2127 “For the Relief of the Pottawatomi Nation in Canada for Settlement of Certain Claims Against the United States.” The bill was passed by the Senate by unanimous consent in September 2002, but did not pass the House prior to the end of the session. The bill was re-introduced by Senator Inouye during the 108th, 109th, 110th, and 111th Congresses, but the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to take any action on the bill. During the 112th Congress, Senator Inouye re-introduced the bill and the Chairman Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee “hotlined” the bill through Committee. However, with the untimely death of Senator Inouye on December 17, 2012, the bill was never voted on by the full Senate and died at the end of the session.
Senator Inouye was the sole sponsor of this legislation, and it is unlikely that the Pottawatomi Nation in Canada will be able to secure another Senator or Congressman as a sponsor. NARF is working with the leadership for the Pottawatomi Nation in Canada to determine the best course of action moving forward.