WALKERTON — State representative Tom Dermody was applauded for his efforts to secure state recognition of the Hawk Band of Metis Indians Saturday at a ceremony on the tribal grounds in the Walkerton and Koontz Lake area.
“People of many nations have come together today in the sacred circle,” Rev. Terry “Redhawk” Harris said during the ceremony. “Tom (Dermody) told me, ‘I will get this done. I don’t take no for an answer. I work for the people.’”
The Hawk Band numbers about 1,300 adults and their children, according to the information presented in the resolution. Nationwide, the number of people who claim Metis heritage is estimated to be close to 30 million.
“Terry made a point to look me directly in th!e eyes and say this was important to all of you,” Dermody said in remarks made in the center of the ceremonial arbor. “He said, ‘We need to have Indiana’s recognition.’ I saw the passion, I heard the passion in his voice. I gave him my word.”
Harris thanked Demody for his help in securing state recognition, which he said had been a long process, stretching out for a decade. The state of Indiana is the first state to grant recognition status to the Metis, which means “mixed blood”, and applies to an ethnic group that claims both Native American and European or Asian lineage.
In the resolution introduced by Dermody and supported in the Senate by his father-in-law, James Arnold, the state acknowledges the Metis people, specifically the Hawk Band, as “among the first settlers of Indiana and salutes the people of the Hawk Band for their many contributions.”
These contributions include documenting the historical, cultural and spiritual heritage of the Native American and Metis people; educating their own children and those in the community about Metis heritage and traditions and fostering respect among generations and for the environment.
The Hawk Band’s recognition status is considered to be a starting point for groups in other states to achieve the same, Harris said. Some of the states represented at the ceremony included Michigan, Colorado and Arizona. Once the state recognitions are obtained, the Metis can petition for federal recognition.
No Native tribe in Indiana is federally recognized.
(This is an abbreviated story on the Metis Recognition ceremony held Saturday, May 18. The complete story is featured in the Monday, May 20 edition of The Pilot News.)