Republicans call for BIA investigation
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SEPTEMBER 22, 2000

At a press conference on Thursday, Representative Frank R. Wolf of Virginia and several Republican members of the House called for a full government investigation of the BIA's federal recognition process and a six-month halt to decisions made by the Bureau.

"There have been just too many questions raised about the ethical and legal boundaries which are potentially being crossed when it comes to evaluating a tribe's claim for federal recognition," said Wolf. "We need to halt this process and fully investigate the legitimacy of these claims for tribal recognition."

Wolf is currently opposing a bill that would extend federal recognition to eight tribes in his state. He believes recognition would lead to unwanted gaming.

But he said he became concerned with the issue only after reading a recent report about the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, whom he claims received "substantial amounts of land" without ever having to prove their relationship to the historic Pequot tribe.

In a letter to the General Accounting Office (GAO), Wolf outlined several issues he and the other members of the House would like investigated. Included are the consistency of the acknowledgment process, how third parties participate in the process, and whether or not the BIA has adequate resources and expertise to carry out the process.

Additionally, the House members want the GAO to show if the tribes recognized the BIA actually meet the federal acknowledgement guidelines.

Wolf also wrote a letter to Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt, asking him to suspend all recognition decisions for six months, while the GAO investigates the process. Last week, however, the BIA turned down a similar request by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

With an average of 1.3 petitions evaluated by the BIA a year, its not immediately clear that a six-month moratorium on decisions would have an effect on the process. The BIA recently extended by six months a public comment period on two Pequot tribes in Connecticut.

Additionally, the BIA has delayed its ruling on the petition of the Golden Hill Paugasett Tribe of Connecticut. A decision was originally expected in October.

Besides Wolf, the other House members calling for a GAO investigation and a moratorium are Chistopher Shays of Connecticut, Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Nancy Johnson of Connecticut, and Jack Metcalf of Washington.

Read Wolf's Correspondence:
Letter to the General Accounting Office (Wolf 9/21)
Letter to Bruce Babbitt (Wolf 9/21)

Relevant Links:
The General Accounting Office -

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Lieberman wants BIA to start again (Tribal Law 09/05)
Recognition decision delayed (Tribal Law 08/25)

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