Commentary: Consensus on reforms to federal recognition
"The worldwide American Indian Workshop took place on March 25, 2010 and included a video-conference, which I moderated between ethno-historians and attorneys in the Czech Republic, and Indian chiefs at Columbia University in New York City.

The consensus from the conference was to take a radical and new approach to Federal Recognition of Indian tribes. At the conclusion of the conference I asked myself, "Was this conference the genesis of modern Indian law for tribes?

Since 1978, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has been charged with determining the credibility of Indian tribes’ request for federal recognition, through its Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA). Since the process began in 1978, 45 tribal applications for federal recognition were processed by the OFA, 16 tribes obtained recognition and 29 tribes were denied recognition. There are over 200 tribal applications currently pending with the BIA. The average wait time for a decision from the OFA is 29 years.

There are seven criteria that must be met by a tribe seeking federal recognition through the BIA. The OFA has teams of three professionals to evaluate each tribe. The teams consist of a genealogist (non-degree), historian and anthropologist. The standard applied by the evaluation team is “reasonable likelihood."

The academics in Prague made short work of the seven criteria used by the OFA and focused on the fact that the standards were not consistent with current academic standards and specifically failed to recognize the significance of kinship models. The Ethno-historians deemed emphasis on blood quantum, rather than kinships by the OFA, as a basic flaw that would conclude subjectively excluding tribes that should be recognized. The panel also discussed the need for qualified experts to determine federal recognition rather than bureaucrats with little or no academic qualifications. A formal recommendation will be made by the panel setting forth the basic academic qualifications such as: doctorate degree, peer review publications and expertise in specific tribal history as opposed to general knowledge about Native Americans."

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James F. Simermeyer: Experts agree: Bureau of Indian Affairs needs change (The Fiat Lux 4/4)