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Indian Tribes Hit Up For Donations

Poverty-stricken Oklahoma tribes gave Democrats $107,000 in hopes of getting land back

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 10) -- Two impoverished Oklahoma Indian tribes donated more than $100,000 to the Democratic Party in 1996 in hopes of getting the Clinton Administration to return land seized long ago, two newspapers reported today.

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The Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer said in today's editions that for their $107,000, the leaders of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Indians met at the White House with President Bill Clinton, ate at Vice President Al Gore's home and were given floor passes to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

But they made no progress in getting back their land, 7,500 acres cut out of their reservation in 1869 to make way for Fort Reno. The military fort is long-closed and the land is being used by the Agriculture Department for a small research program it doesn't want to give up.

The tribes would like to make the fort into a tourist attraction and open up a truck stop or outlet stores on the site.

In the June meeting with Clinton, the Indians said the president promised nothing, but asked a staff member if the White House had a file on the issue, which left them encouraged.

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But nothing happened, and tribal officials say Democratic fund-raisers are trying to get more money from them. They say Mitchell Berger, a fundraiser for Gore, told them that they "were players in 1996," but that the tribes were "not responding in '97."

And they charge that Nathan Landow, another fund-raiser for Gore, told them that if they did not sign a contract with him to represent them in Washington, and give him royalties on businesses they put on the land, he would make sure their proposal went nowhere. Landow denies the claim.

The Indian leaders pulled the $107,000 from welfare funds the tribes had set up to help out with heating or hospital bills. The 11,000 Indians in the two tribes suffer from chronic 80 percent unemployment.

"We're trying to learn to work all the angles. We have to," Archie Hoffman, the tribal business council's secretary, told the Post. "We got great hopes we're going to get our land back this year."


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