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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Recognition briefing paper at heart of latest feud
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

When Wayne Smith joined the Bureau of Indian Affairs three years ago, he was tasked with fixing the federal recognition process. A hard job, no doubt, considering the agency was under heavy fire for decisions made during the Clinton administration.

Smith, who was the number two at the BIA, knew that the process had become a bit too adversarial. Like his predecessors, he noticed that the staff in charge of sorting out who was eligible for federal status sometimes clashed with political appointees like himself.

So one of the ideas he developed was to change the way the staff worked with the assistant secretary of Indian affairs, a position then held by Neal McCaleb. Instead of giving the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" recommendations that were the source of disputes, Smith said the staff would provide the pros and cons of extending recognition to a particular tribe.

"I'd like to see [the staff] more in a relationship of an advisor to the assistant secretary," he said on the Native America Calling radio program in October 2001.

Kevin Gover, the Clinton administration's assistant secretary whose recognition decisions are controversial to this day, said on the program that the proposal was "ideal." During his three-year tenure that ended in January 2001, he fought with the staff over recommendations he saw as too restrictive.

And so with little fanfare, Smith's suggestion was incorporated in the process. And until recently, no one paid much attention to it.

That all changed this week when the Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, filed a formal appeal of the BIA's decision to acknowledge a tribe in his state. In the appeal, he referred repeatedly to an internal memo that Smith's replacement, Aurene Martin, used before she made the final determination in favor of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

The January 12 memo, called the "Schaghticoke Briefing Paper," was prepared by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment, the new name for the staff Gover had battled. Over the course of five pages, the document laid out the pros and cons of recognizing the tribe despite holes in the evidentiary record.

"Should the petitioner be acknowledged even though criteria of political influence and authority is absent or insufficient for two substantial periods, and, if so, on what grounds?" the staff wrote before laying out possible options -- and the consequences of following each one. A second issue, regarding an internal tribal dispute, was also identified.

"You can go this way, here's the good and bad of that. You can go that way, here's the good and bad of that," is how Smith described the process more than two years ago.

All those bad things are now being amplified by Blumenthal, who contends the memo represents everything that is wrong with the BIA. "The baldly result-oriented nature of the decision making process followed in the final determination is revealed in the 'Schaghticoke Briefing Paper,'" he wrote in the 197-page appeal.

The entire process takes center stage today as the House Government Reform Committee tries to get a handle on it. Members of the panel are sympathetic to critics of the beleaguered agency.

"Recent recognition actions by the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs on acknowledgement petitions filed by Connecticut tribes have raised questions about the objectivity and transparency of the recognition process," the Republican-led committee said in a background statement this week.

Theresa Rosier, who played a role in the Schaghticoke decision and was given the briefing paper along with Martin, will testify on behalf of the BIA. R. Lee Fleming, the director of the recognition office, will accompany her.

Earl Devaney, the Department of Interior's independent inspector general who released a report critical of the Clinton administration's handling of recognition, will also testify.

The rest of the witness list is heavy on Connecticut. In addition to Blumenthal, the leaders of three municipalities who are fighting tribes seeking recognition, will appear. Only one tribal leader, Marcia Flowers, the chairwoman of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, is expected to testify.

Smith, who was fired in May 2002 over allegations of influence-peddling, will get his say too. In recent articles published in The Village Voice, he has been critical of the influence of casino money on the BIA. Gaming companies, or those seeking to get into the business, are bankrolling tribal recognition petition, often to the tune of millions, a situation decried by Jeff Benedict, the head of the Connecticut Alliance Against Casino Expansion, who is also on the witness list.

The hearing will be broadcast on the Internet. A video link can be found at http://reform.house.gov/GovReform/AboutUs/multimedia.htm. It will begin at 10 a.m.

Relevant Documents:
Schaghticoke Briefing Paper (January 12, 2004)

Relevant Links:
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation - http://www.schaghticoke.com

Related Stories:
BIA critical of main components of recognition bill (04/22)
BIA official warns of Congressional maneuvering (04/16)
Report: Martin bent rules to recognize Conn. tribe (3/12)
Challenges await Anderson on federal recognition (02/26)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation: 'Today is our day' (1/30)
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 'throwing away a history of people' (12/06)
McCaleb delivers aggressive recognition plan (10/03)
BIA role in recognition decisions under review (06/13)
McCaleb ruling holds promise for state tribes (06/25)
McCaleb makes recognition history (6/25)
BIA project consumes recognition resources (06/12)
BIA recognition staff fails pressure test (05/31)
Striking Out: 'I think you get the picture' (4/17)
Getting there, 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)
Deadline nearing for Chinook Nation (11/5)
Gover: Recognition study 'cooked' (11/1)
Reforming federal recognition (10/26)
Gover takes on recognition (10/25)

Copyright 2000-2004 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:
Transcript: President Obama speaks in Native village of Kotzebue (9/3)
Native Sun News: City faces possible suit from Lakota 57 parents (9/3)
Lakota Country Times: Sinte Gleska University to expand campus (9/3)
Tim Giago: Republicans show hypocrisy on the 14th Amendment (9/3)
Ivan Star: 'English education' obliterated culture and language (9/3)
Gyasi Ross: Obama's checkered record on Native environment (9/3)
Parents of Lakota 57 respond to not guilty verdict in Rapid City (9/2)
Grand Ronde Tribes to disenroll 86 descendants of treaty signer (9/2)
Lakota Country Times: New food bank on Pine Ridge Reservation (9/2)
Mark Trahant: FCC invents new law for tribal lands in Oklahoma (9/2)
Native Sun News Editorial: Republican attacks on Hillary Clinton (9/2)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux Tribe needs to establish 'virtual' school (9/2)
Steven Newcomb: The religious basis of Doctrine of Discovery (9/2)
Frank Bibeau: Ojibwe people assert treaty rights in Minnesota (9/2)
Carly McIntosh: Feeling love from elders at naming ceremony (9/2)
Winnebago Tribe reports results of primary election for council (9/2)
President Obama set for visit to Native communities in Alaska (9/2)
Alaska Native students being left behind in their own backyard (9/2)
Opinion: Alaska will lose appeal in BIA land-into-trust lawsuit (9/2)
Native children being removed at alarming rates in Manitoba (9/2)
Crow Tribe opens apartment complex for homeless veterans (9/2)
Mississippi Choctaw leader faces challenge in election drama (9/2)
Mohegan Tribe elects incumbents and newcomer for council (9/2)
Donald Trump wanted a casino with Seminole Tribe in Florida (9/2)
New Mexico tribes proposed casino in downtown Albuquerque (9/2)
Construction worker dies at site of Jamul Indian Village casino (9/2)
Lakota Country Times: Not guilty verdict after Lakota 57 trial (9/1)
President Obama meets Native leaders after landing in Alaska (9/1)
Rhonda Pitka: Alaska Natives put priority on subsistence rights (9/1)
Transcript: Obama remarks following Native leaders roundtable (9/1)
94-year-old Alaska Native elder greets Obama with Denali song (9/1)
Politicians in Ohio oppose return of Alaska Native name for peak (9/1)
Passamaquoddy Tribe takes a step toward marijuana cultivation (9/1)
Center for Native American Youth seeks new executive director (9/1)
Supreme Court takes up petition in Kialegee Tribal Town dispute (9/1)
NCAI pushes for court rehearing in tribal labor sovereignty case (9/1)
Education Department awards $50.4M in grants to tribal colleges (9/1)
Native Sun News: Teens attacked on Rosebud Sioux Reservation (9/1)
Clara Caufield: Cheyenne brothers and sisters share language (9/1)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Shutting down a new generation of hate (9/1)
Jennifer Fielder: Tribes struggling to break free from bondage (9/1)
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.