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
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...

Latest Headlines:

Bad River Band demands federal investigation into fatal shooting of 14-year-old
Tribes see opening under Trump to reshape agency that targets lending industry
Native Sun News Today: Lakota mother fights to keep her daughter's dream alive
Victor Swallow: Historic store was a vibrant part of the Oglala Sioux community
Gyasi Ross: Native child gunned down by police officer on his own homelands
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate concerned about spill of oil from Keystone Pipeline
Mississippi Choctaws hail vote against new casino as they await official tally
Tribes still in the dark as Trump administration moves to roll back Bears Ears
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs adds tribal water rights hearing to schedule
Albert Bender: The original genocide continues with the Dakota Access Pipeline
Native Sun News Today: Tribal activists renew fight against Keystone XL Pipeline
Ivan Star Comes Out: We should be asking ourselves 'What's next?' at Whiteclay
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe distances film from Hollywood producer accused of assault
Morongo Band distributes 10,000 turkeys in annual tradition for Thanksgiving
Chemehuevi Tribe expects to complete work on second gaming facility in 2019
Tribes report mixed slot machine returns as they press Trump team on casino
Ponca Tribe secures victory in long-running battle over restoration of homelands
Winnebago Tribe asserts self-determination in hopes of fixing troubled hospital
Comanche Nation sees setback in effort to stop new Chickasaw Nation casino
Alaska Native corporation welcomes action on bill to open lands to development
Doug George-Kanentiio: Thanksgiving represents an indigenous gift to the world
Mark Trahant: Republicans target health care and education to pay for tax cuts
Native Sun News Today: Military service inspires Lakota veteran to bring change
ProPublica: Trump appointee resigns after report on troubled Indian loan program
Bill to end discrimination against indigenous women closer to passage in Canada
Quapaw Tribe calls for resignation of vice chairman following criminal indictment
Senior Trump administration official resigns after scrutiny of Indian loan program
Bureau of Indian Affairs makes changes to loan guarantee program amid scrutiny
Arne Vainio: For over 50 years, I blamed myself for my father's death by suicide
Secretary Zinke among those excited to take part in #RockYourMocs this year
Native Sun News Today: Homeless veterans in South Dakota share their stories
Dakota Access opponents aim to hold law enforcement accountable for tactics
Mississippi Choctaws headed to polls to vote on plans for new gaming facility
President Trump taps Bush-era official as Health and Human Services Secretary
Lawmakers easily approve tribal land bill as Supreme Court weighs major case
House panel advances bill to replace 'Eskimo' and 'Aleut' terms in regulations
Native Sun News Today: Rosebud Sioux Tribe finally welcomes war hero home
Tim Giago: There are always two sides to every story -- even in Indian Country
Mark Trahant: More Native American candidates need to run for public office
Mary Annette Pember: Try something new for Native American Heritage Month
Cronkite News: Hunters may be called into reduce bison herd at Grand Canyon
'An Indian man is on the mall' -- Statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear is unveiled
Native Sun News Today: Food sovereignty in action on South Dakota reservations
Cronkite News: San Carlos Apache Tribe struggles to deal with mountains of trash
DVIDS: White Mountain Apache soldier proud to represent her tribe in the military
Bad River Band seeks answers after police officer shoots and kills 14-year-old boy
Tribes hit roadblocks as Trump team refuses to sanction new gaming agreements
Pascua Yaqui Tribe announces expansion projects at gaming facilities in Arizona
Appeals court won't revisit historic decision in Muscogee Nation boundary case
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact survives legal challenge
House subcommittee schedules hearing on tribal self-determination and land bills
Sen. Mike Rounds: Indian Health Service fails to live up to its trust responsibilities
Tim Giago: How 'Wizard of Oz' remains connected to the genocide of our people
Brian Lightfoot Brown: Grandmothers are the backbones of our tribal communities
Native Sun News Today: Lakota woman removed from grave by adoptive mother
Native Sun News Today Editorial: A salute to Native Americans who proudly served
Bad River Band 'deeply saddened and troubled' by shooting of boy by police officer
Gregory Ablavsky: President Trump continues dark chapter with treatment of tribes
>>> 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.