Editorial: BIA fails to explain need for federal recognition reform

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs

California newspaper calls on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to withdraw its Part 83 federal recognition reforms:
Under current regulations, American Indian tribes are granted federal recognition and sovereign-nation status if they can demonstrate that they are an established social community with roots that date back to 1789, when the U.S. government was formally established.

The proposed regulations would require tribes to demonstrate only that their roots date back as far as 1934, when tribes were first recognized by the federal government as independent political entities.

The anti-gaming group Stand Up for California contends the change could result in the recognition of 34 Indian tribes in California and the development of 22 more casinos. Currently, there are 68 Indian groups in the state awaiting word on their applications for federal recognition.

Some local government officials are also concerned that the change would give tribes that have already be denied federal recognition another chance to receive sovereign-nation status and to build casinos.

Government officials contend the rule change would further constrain the input of local governments in an application-review process that, as demonstrated by recent petitions involving local tribes, is largely cloaked in secrecy.

With those concerns in mind, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution opposing the rule change, arguing that any rules changes “must not compromise the integrity of the (Indian Affairs) Bureau’s decisions to recognize a group as an Indian tribe nor should it eliminate a county’s voice in the federal acknowledgment process.” The public comment period is slated to end Sept. 30.

Get the Story:
Editorial: Don’t relax standards for tribes, casinos (The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat 8/1)

Another Opinion:
Editorial: Retain recognition rules (The New London Day 8/1)

Federal Register Notices:
Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes (July 30, 2014)
Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes (May 29, 2014)

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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