A new report alleges that the Small Business Administration facilitated the distribution of millions of dollars reserved for businesses owned by people of color to White people claiming membership in tribes that experts say don’t exist.
Since 2000, more than $300 million reserved for businesses with majority people of color ownership have been paid from the federal government and several states’ coffers to companies of owners who claimed to be Indigenous, but were actually White, according to a Los Angeles Times report published Wednesday (June 26). These certifications and contracts were meant for people of color who could prove economic and social disadvantage because of race or ethnicity.
“It’s infuriating,” Rocky Miller, a state lawmaker in Missouri and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, told the Times. “They’re enriching themselves based on a nonexistent recognition.”
The Times found that 12 of the 14 business owners who claimed to be Native Americans when applying for certification to participate in programs run by the Small Business Administration (SBA) said they were members of groups that “have no government recognition and are considered illegitimate by recognized tribes and Native American experts.”
The three groups are the Northern Cherokee Nation, based in Clinton, Missouri.; the Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri, based in Mansfield, Missouri.; and the Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory, based in Columbia, Missouri.
“It’s taking those resources not just from our community, but from all communities of color,” said Rebecca Nagle, Cherokee Nation citizen and community organizer told the Times. “It’s really problematic.”
The publication reached out to the SBA for comment:
The SBA did not specifically address The Times’ findings that the contractors’ ancestors were identified as white in government records available for review. The agency said it “takes allegations of fraud very seriously and routinely refers such matters” to its inspector general.