NMI: Chamorros, Carolinians are Native Americans, too
Tuesday, 24 November 2009 00:00 By Raquel Bagnol - Reporter
THE commonwealth government wants federal officials to include Chamorros and Carolinians in the Native American Programs Act of 1974.
CNMI American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program coordinator Geri Willis said the inclusion of the Chamorros and Carolinians will allow the commonwealth to tap more federal grants and programs.
“There are lots of opportunities and grants available there but it’s not explicit in regards to Chamorros and Carolinians,” Willis said.
She said the law defines “Native American Pacific Islander” to be an individual who is indigenous to a United States territory or possession located in the Pacific Ocean, and includes such individuals while residing in the United States.
Willis said the Administration for Native Americans, a federal agency serving all 562 groups of Native Americans, recognize the CNMI.
But “according to the 1974 NAPA, the commonwealth does qualify under the definition and this is a federal law,” she said.
This is why it needs to be amended, she added.
She said a lot of citizens in the CNMI will not check a box in grant applications if they are asked whether they are Native Americans.
“This will create a huge impact to the CNMI,” Willis said, referring to the local people’s inclusion in the legal definition of a “Native American Pacific Islander.”
“This means that citizens can get scholarships if they go to the states for college because they are listed by definition under [the law],” Willis said.
She has met with some individuals in Washington, D.C. recently who have started researching about the issue.