National | Federal Recognition

OIG report slams Larry Echo Hawk for handling of Tejon case





Former Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk put the Tejon Tribe of California back on the list of federally recognized entities without following any sort of "discernible process", the Office of Inspector General at the Interior Department said in a report that was released on Tuesday.

Echo Hawk , who left the Obama administration in April 2012, said the tribe was left off the list by mistake. The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a press release announcing his decision yet he told the OIG that he "did not get deeply involved in the details of the decision."

That left most of the decision making to his chief of staff, Paul Tsosie. When asked why the Tejon Tribe was singled out for attention, he said its leaders had “pressed their issue forward," the report stated.

“This was one of the tribes that was calling me off the hook. So I was, like, saying: ‘Just give them an answer,’” Tsosie, who also left in April 2012, told the OIG, according to the report.

Normally, tribes that want to gain federal recognition go through the BIA's Office of Federal Acknowledgment. In fact, several other groups claiming descent from the historic Tejon Tribe have submitted petitions to the agency.

However, Echo Hawk's decision only applied to one group led by Chairwoman Kathy Morgan. According to the OIG, one of the other groups is led by a relative of Morgan's, who could be eligible for membership in the newly restored Tejon Tribe.

Get the Story:
Interior Dept. official questions recognition granted to Tejon tribe (AP 4/30)

DOI Inspector General Report:
Investigative Report of the Tejon Indian Tribe (April 2013)

Related Stories:
Inspector General Reports: Larry Echo Hawk, Jeanette Hanna (4/30)
Tejon Indian Tribe to start preparing for future as newest tribe (1/4)
BIA places Tejon Indian Tribe back on list of recognized tribes (1/3)