National | Federal Recognition

BIA plans separate meets for recognized, non-recognized tribes





The Bureau of Indian Affairs is planning to hold separate meetings for recognized and non-recognized tribes as part of its push to reform the federal acknowledgment process.

The BIA will hold six meetings in July to discuss the proposed regulations. But non-recognized tribes are being asked to attend the "public" meetings while recognized tribes get a separate "consultation" session.

"Tribal consultations are generally open only to representatives of federally recognized Indian tribes," according to a press release. "Public meetings are open to everyone."

The separate sessions are being scheduled even though Larry Roberts, the deputy assistant secretary at the BIA, previously admitted that few federally recognized tribes attended a series of meetings in July 2013.

"I would say general attendance of federally recognized tribes have been relatively low," Roberts said at an August 6, 2013, meeting, according to the transcript from that session. "A handful in Oregon, a handful in California, Michigan. So it’s been primarily the public and non-federally recognized tribes that have attended these sessions."

That August 6 meeting in Louisiana, however, appeared to be different. It drew a significant number of federally recognized tribes from the South and Eastern regions and the transcript shows it became contentious at times.

Chief B. Cheryl Smith of the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, whose Louisiana-based tribe gained recognition through the BIA in 1995, at one point suggested the meeting needed some special protection.

"Indian tribes are not going to respect that kind of talk or comments if they cannot act in a formally civilized brother and sister forum," Smith said, according to the transcript. "And I would suggest that you have some security in here."

Emotions were also running high at the time due to the death of Earl Barbry, the longtime chairman of the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, whose federal recognition was finalized in 1981. His funeral took place on the same day as the meeting -- both events were held at the tribe's casino.

Relevant Documents:
Proposed Rule | Press Release | Comparison Chart (comparing current rule to proposed rule) | Response to Comments on June 2013 Discussion Draft | Frequently Asked Questions

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