indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Steven Newcomb: Federal Indian law based on invented reality (2/11)
Miami Nation agrees to forfeit $48M from online lending business (2/11)
Colville Tribes issue citation for death of rare owl on reservation (2/11)
Anti-government leader arrested as takeover nears conclusion (2/11)
Obama seeks another increase for Indian Health Service budget (2/10)
Six of 12 Indian Health Service area directors in 'acting' capacity (2/10)
Lakota Country Times: Indian lawmakers oppose drug testing bill (2/10)
Vince Two Eagles: The rez of the story about treaty-making in US (2/10)
Kristi Noem: Indian Health Service remains in state of emergency (2/10)
Chase Iron Eyes: Real sovereigns don't disenroll their own people (2/10)
Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans fought for their survival (2/10)
Albert Bender: Tribes should reclaim land from unratified treaties (2/10)
John Lavelle: Supreme Court weighs key tribal sovereignty issue (2/10)
Women take top three leadership positions at Menominee Nation (2/10)
Northern Arapaho Tribe seeking to repatriate remains of students (2/10)
White Mountain Apache Tribe considers change to blood quantum (2/10)
Blackfeet Nation citizens still talking about constitutional reforms (2/10)
Sweat lodge at Army post helps with PTSD treatment for veterans (2/10)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes welcome return of land (2/10)
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders win big in New Hampshire vote (2/10)
Prairie Island Indian Community unveils $19M gaming expansion (2/10)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community approves upgrades at casinos (2/10)
Seminole Tribe's gaming compact takes a step forward in Florida (2/10)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation insists on pursuing Connecticut casino (2/10)
National campaign launched to stop tribal disenrollment epidemic (2/9)
President Obama seeks $2.9B budget for Bureau of Indian Affairs (2/9)
Office of Special Trustee budget request remains steady at $140M (2/9)
Bureau of Reclamation emphasizes tribal water rights settlements (2/9)
Lakota Country Times: Indian health at center of Medicaid debate (2/9)
Mark Trahant: Native candidates fall behind in the big money wars (2/9)
Vi Waln: Arrogance keeps Keystone XL plans alive in South Dakota (2/9)
Charles Kader: Haudenosaunee territory will always be Indian land (2/9)
Mike Myers: Indigenous teachings still guide our ways of life today (2/9)
Albuquerque Indian Center faces closure without additional money (2/9)
Leader of Bois Forte Band promises fight against substance abuse (2/9)
Coushatta Tribe wins ruling in long-running dispute with contractor (2/9)
Pamunkey Tribe looks to a stronger future with federal recognition (2/9)
Isle de Jean Charles Band to relocate with help of $48M HUD grant (2/9)
Nambe Pueblo hopes small casino stands out in a crowded market (2/9)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe sends fewer gaming funds to communities (2/9)
Tribes in Connecticut still working on process for potential casino (2/9)
Girls basketball team proudly wears Navajo hairstyle during game (2/8)
National Indian Gaming Commission slated to get a third member (2/8)
Senate committee to host roundtable on Tribal Law and Order Act (2/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee postpones field hearing into EPA (2/8)
Senate designates National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week (2/8)
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.