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Posted at 04:25 PM ET, 07/24/2012

Turkey, Native Americans: An odd pairing in a failed bill


Friends of Native Americans: Worshippers at Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan mosque. (OSMAN ORSAL - REUTERS)
History is littered with odd couples: Oscar and Felix. Anna Nicole Smith and that old guy. Add to that list Native Americans and... Turkey?

That unlikely pairing was the star of a totally perplexing bill that failed on the House floor Monday night that would have made it easier for American Indian tribes to do business with the country of Turkey.

Why Turkey, one might ask? An excellent question! Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the bill’s sponsor, explains the ties that bind the disparate populations that live half a globe apart: “There’s a deep interest,” he said on the House floor last night. “There has been for hundreds of years.”

Turkey, he noted, was the only country to send a delegation to a recent Native American economic-development conference, and there are scholarships for native Americans at Turkish schools.

Well, then. Mystery solved...sort of.

And what kind of business might the Turks want to do with the tribes? Well, that’s also a good question, only getting a precise answer proved rather difficult.

In press releases, Lincoln McCurdy, president of the Turkish Coalition, said it’s all about “new commercial activity.” And John Berrey, chairman of Oklahoma’s Quapaw tribe, hailed “new global partnerships.”

Such as?

The bill makes mention of leasing land for “grazing” or farming or other, unnamed commercial purposes. Cole’s office referred us to the Turkish Coalition to provide specific examples, and a spokesman suggested that a Turkish solar-energy company was interested in leasing tribal land for a plant and that a construction company wanted to build infrastructure.

At any rate, the legislation failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to pass a bill under suspension of House rules, after it got caught up in some skirmishing from various ethnic lobby efforts. The Armenian Caucus didn’t like it. The Hellenic Caucus didn’t either. Seems the idea of a single country being given the fast-track to opportunities with the tribes didn’t sit well with them--although Cole pointed out that though the purpose of the bill was to encourage Turkey-Native American business, he had added language stating that any WTO country could participate.

And it seemed that the tribes were already getting the sovereignty they’ve been seeking in a bill adopted by both the House and Senate giving tribes greater control over leasing and development on their lands.

The bill left many folks on the Hill scratching their heads... and it looks like they can keep on scratching.

By  |  04:25 PM ET, 07/24/2012

 
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