indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Familiar problems aired at recognition hearing
Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee opened hearings into the federal recognition process on Wednesday although debate centered more on the $18.5 billion tribal gaming industry than anything else.

Critics from Connecticut came armed with familiar charges of corruption and cronyism at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But they offered scant new evidence that tribes and their wealthy backers are unduly influencing the process.

Tribal representatives, meanwhile, sought to direct attention to the struggles they face in their quest to gain federal recognition. Lengthy delays are common, they said, citing waits of up to 20 years for an answer from the BIA.

The clashing voices meant there was little agreement on potential improvements to a system often called "too slow, too costly and too opaque," observed Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the committee's chairman. He said he plans to hold additional hearings on the subject in hopes of developing fixes.

McCain said he was concerned that outside interests are pouring millions into tribal recognition petitions in hopes of opening casinos. "Isn't there something wrong with that picture?" he asked.

But Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the committee's former vice chairman, urged the panel to avoid a "rush to judgment" in examining the process. "It is not about gaming," he said

Seven witnesses from Connecticut argued otherwise in over 40 minutes of testimony during the two-hour hearing. "When Indian gaming came along, all of a sudden you find huge financial backing," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut).

Richard Velky, the chief of the recently recognized Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Connecticut, didn't deny his tribe is supported by the wealthy founder of the Subway restaurant chain and others. "That's been in the newspapers back home continuously," he told McCain, who asked about the tribe's backers and their plans for a casino.

"This process is not an easy process," Velky added. He blamed the high cost of the effort on opponents from the state who have mounted legal challenges, introduced bills and hired lobbyists in hopes of overturning the BIA's favorable decision for the tribe and another tribe whose status is under appeal.

Kathleen J. Bragdon, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, also said tribes are being forced, mainly by the BIA, to document their petitions with more and more evidence. "An adequate report 25 years ago was 100 pages long," she testified. "Today it would be several thousand."

The discussion highlighted the one issue that the tribal, state and federal witnesses could agree on. They all said the BIA needs more resources to handle recognition petitions.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) referred to a bill he introduced to increase the BIA's recognition budget from about $1 million to $10 million and to provide financial assistance to tribal groups and interested parties. "We're not here on an anti-Indian mission," he said.

Otherwise, there were few solutions in common among the camps. While the Connecticut delegation called for a complete overhaul of the process, the Interior Department's two witnesses gave different accounts.

"While this process has been harshly criticized for its lack of transparency, based on my office's experience, it is, relatively speaking, one of the more transparent processes in DOI," testified Mary Kendall, the deputy Inspector General. She later said her office doesn't believe the recognition regulations need to be codified into law because the process is already "working" as intended.

R. Lee Fleming, the director of the BIA's Office of Federal Acknowledgment, said changes have already been made to streamline the process without resorting to new laws or major regulatory enhancements. Since January 2001, he said the agency has completed 17 decisions: nine proposed findings, six final determinations and two reconsidered final determinations.

Fleming, however, did support a law to impose a "sunset" on the process. This would require all tribes seeking recognition to submit an application by a certain date.

Kendall also said her office is concerned about issues that are not directly related to recognition. She supported legislation to limit ex-Interior officials from going to work for tribes after they leave office and said that Congress could strengthen lobbying rules.

As far back as the 1990s, members of Congress have introduced bills to reform the process. One bill by Retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), the former chairman of the committee went so far as to strip the BIA of its recognition duties and hand them to an independent commission.

Yet these and other efforts, including some by McCain, have consistently failed. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-California), the chairman of the House Resources Committee, is also wading into the debate.

McCain didn't say when the next recognition hearing would be held but said the final word wouldn't rest with the BIA. "Congress retains the ultimate authority and responsibility to recognize and deal with Indian tribes," he said.

Written Testimony:
Oversight Hearing on Federal Recognition of Indian Tribes (May 11, 2005)

Only on Indianz.Com:
Federal Recognition Database (July 2004)

Related Stories:
Schaghticoke chief to testfy at recognition hearing (5/5)
McCain hearing stacked with recognition critics (5/3)
McCain to address federal recognition concerns (04/22)
Recognition handed to a 'not well informed' Cason (04/01)
McCain takes on controversial topics in 109th Congress (03/07)
BIA says recognition bill would lower standards (02/11)
Bill addresses slow-moving recognition process (02/07)
Famous Dave Anderson: 'The bureau needs to change' (2/4)
BIA critic calls on Bush to fire Dave Anderson (12/16)
BIA admits mistake in handling of recognition case (12/09)
Probe finds no wrongdoing in BIA recognition case (09/01)
BIA bashed over federal recognition decisions (5/6)
Dodd calls on Anderson to resign over broad recusal (5/6)
Anderson recused on all federal recognition matters (5/5)
BIA critical of main components of recognition bill (04/22)
Martin predicts hot summer on gaming, recognition (4/16)
Challenges await Anderson on federal recognition (02/26)
Date for House hearing on recognition not set (02/13)
Tribal foes in Conn. want to stop flow of money (02/10)
GAO asked to investigate Schaghticoke recognition (2/9)
Jeff Benedict: BIA out of control on tribal recognition (2/9)
Column: Federal recognition all about 'big wampum' (2/9)
House Resourcess to hold recognition hearing (2/6)
Gover praises BIA for not bowing to pressure (2/2)
Lack of evidence addressed in recognition bill (02/19)
Sweeping recognition reform bill offered (02/07)
At BIA, no recognition of new tribes (2/5)
BIA recognition still hard to prove for some (01/22)
McCaleb delivers aggressive recognition plan (10/03)
BIA role in recognition decisions under review (06/13)
BIA Budget: Doing more with less (3/26)
Bush budget cuts funds for new tribes (3/20)
McCaleb takes on recognition (3/15)
Inside the BIA, plenty of drama (3/4)
Ashcroft urged to charge BIA officials (3/1)
Solutions sought for 'hijacked' recognition (11/9)
Solutions sought for 'hijacked' recognition (11/9)
Gover: Recognition study 'cooked' (11/1)
Reforming federal recognition (10/26)
Gover takes on recognition (10/25)
McCaleb to listen 'closely' to recognition experts (8/9)
McCaleb decision sure to draw scrutiny (7/31)
BIA pushed to provide 'answers' on tribes (7/26)
McCaleb endorses BIA on recognition (6/14)
Gover's 'activist' legacy escapes McCaleb (6/13)
BIA has small goal for big problem (5/22)

Copyright 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Cherokee Nation chief apologizes for attending live pigeon shoot (10/1)
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Telling the indigenous story with public art (10/1)
DOI puts another $1M from lands sales into Cobell scholarships (10/1)
9th Circuit bars use of tribal conviction in domestic assault case (10/1)
2nd Circuit rebuffs tribal online lenders in dispute with New York (10/1)
Crystal Willcuts: A tribute to my mother who was lost to cancer (10/1)
Seneca Nation man launches campaign for mayor of Salamanca (10/1)
BIA ends comment period on reform to federal recognition rule (10/1)
African-American lawmakers accuse Pamunkey Tribe of racism (10/1)
Officials claim Oklahoma owed $30M in Impact Aid for schools (10/1)
FCC will consider petition to outlaw R-word on public airwaves (10/1)
BLM struggles to manage wild horse population as herds grow (10/1)
Opinion: North Fork Rancheria casino brings boost to economy (10/1)
Report places economic impact of US gaming industry at $240B (10/1)
Shinnecock Nation gaming partner cut $250K monthly payment (10/1)
Column: Seminole Tribe poised for continued growth in gaming (10/1)
Native Sun News: Agency weighs uranium mine near sacred site (9/30)
Jim Abourezk: South Dakota tribes can put Rick Weiland in office (9/30)
Cherokee chief participated in live pigeon shoot for Sen. Inhofe (9/30)
Navajo vice president returns home after near fatal spider bite (9/30)
North Dakota tribe sees big problems as energy industry grows (9/30)
Andre Cramblit: Another year brings challenges for our people (9/30)
Jack Duran: State's 'shocking' attack on Big Lagoon Rancheria (9/30)
Navajo Nation Council to select a new leader after resignation (9/30)
Editorial: Long delayed trust fund settlement for Navajo Nation (9/30)
Keepseagle plaintiffs oppose use of $380M to create foundation (9/30)
Opinion: Working with New Mexico tribes to protect sacred sites (9/30)
Pueblo man chosen as chair of VA minority advisory committee (9/30)
Woman sues over fall at Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe business (9/30)
Seminole Tribe makes another attempt to join banking business (9/30)
Mohegan Tribe purchases more wood pellet production facilities (9/30)
Ponca Tribe takes down old headquarters and readies new home (9/30)
Native Mob gang leader sentenced to 43 years in federal prison (9/30)
Three indicted for murder of man from Northern Arapaho Tribe (9/30)
Rivals funded DC trips to oppose Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/30)
American Gaming Association includes tribes in economic report (9/30)
Editorial: Vote yes to support North Fork Rancheria gaming deal (9/30)
Editorial: Florida shouldn't take a gamble with casino expansion (9/30)
Tim Giago: All Indian people ask is for America to honor treaties (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tribes take on IRS and win battle over taxation (9/29)
Mark Trahant: Indian vote could bring a surprise in South Dakota (9/29)
Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act signed into law by Obama (9/29)
Obama signs law for settlement with Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (9/29)
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: Transforming the spirit of suicide (9/29)
Migizi Pensoneau: Behind the scenes at a Washington NFL game (9/29)
Donna Ennis: Ancestor starting asking about trust fund in 1900s (9/29)
Steven Newcomb: Indigenous conference yields power to states (9/29)
Kyle Mays: Rejecting narrowminded views of indigenous studies (9/29)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.