The Council of Native Americans (abbreviated CNA) is a political organization convened by individual Native American tribes in the United States and Canada for the purpose of consolidating political power into one “voice” and protecting Native American interests in the United States, additionally providing an opportunity for tribes to network, organize and determine an overreaching political policy and system of governance.
The natural and economic disasters of the early 21st century hit the United States especially hard, forcing a mass exodus of survivors inland and an increased demand on natural resources. Native American tribal reservations, the majority of which were located farther inland, found themselves holding a double-edged sword. Their own populations had thrived during and after the catastrophe, and they suddenly found themselves the custodians of some of the most pristine land and untapped natural resources remaining in the country; however, with little ability to protect themselves, individual tribes soon found themselves targets of squatters, unscrupulous mineral and energy companies, state governments under pressure to find solutions that sometimes included ignoring laws and compacts regarding Native American reservations, and an impotent Bureau of Indian Affairs stripped of funding and unable to protect Native American interests at the federal level.
Fed up with this treatment and faced with the possibility of individual tribes actually being pushed off their reservations, representatives of 110 of the 310 recognized reservations met at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico in October 2042 and convened the First Native Convention. At this convention the representatives drew up a charter for a centralized council and appointed a chief, mission statement and means for obtaining and distributing funds for Council purposes. Representation has since grown, and now there are a total of 270 tribes represented from the United States and 15 from Canada.
The Council of Native Americans is structured as a loose confederacy with two main branches. The Grand Chief functions as the head of the council’s executive branch and is in charge of the Council’s various administrative duties. Additionally, he functions as chairman of the Gathering, although he does not have a vote on the Council floor himself. The Grand Chief has the authority to spend funds as necessary to fulfill Gathering directives and additionally is in charge of ambassadors to the United States government and other foreign bodies. He is elected to a four-year term by members of the Gathering and may be reelected indefinitely. He does not have veto power.
The Gathering has one representative from each tribe — current Gathering membership is 285. Authority for spending of funds by the Grand Chief originates here, as well as decisions to pursue specific policy directions. Members of this body are referred to as Councilors. Decisions are reached through a simple majority. It is left up to individual tribes how they choose to appoint their Councilors. The Gathering has the authority to levy taxes from the tribes and pursue punitive action, including fines or revocation of membership.
The CNA does not have a judicial branch. Disputes between tribes are handled through arbitration appointed by the Grand Chief.
The CNA is involved heavily in legal advocacy designed to protect the rights of individual tribes. They have backed a significant number of civil court cases. One of the most notable cases was the Supreme Court case Seminole v. Florida where the Seminole Tribe of Florida sought an injunction against the state’s use of eminent domain to seize tribal land. Arguing on behalf of the claimant, CNA lawyer Jon Little Bird argued that because reservation land was recognized as sovereign from the states, individual states could not lawfully appropriate land for use under eminent domain even under a state of emergency. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the Seminoles, establishing precedent protecting reservation lands from seizure even under emergency circumstances.
The CNA is responsible for introduction of H.R. 6213, the Native American Medical Privacy Protection Act which was passed by a 221-208 vote largely along party lines and signed into law by President Frederick Dawson in March 2046.
Bear-who-Runs-on-Ice, referred to commonly as Bear, is the Councilor for the Atqausk Iñupiat. He is seen as a particularly influential member at the Gathering.
Jon Little Bird currently heads the CNA’s legal advocacy department under direction from the Grand Chief. Though he is not an appointed Councilor of the Gathering, he is considered to have significant influence with the body.
Noah Crow’s Eye was appointed by the Oconaluftee Cherokee tribe in 2045 to be their Councilor. He is considered one of the Gathering’s “elders” and tends to be someone frequently approached for support by other members seeking passage of certain directives.