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This rule revises regulations governing the process and criteria by which the Secretary acknowledges an Indian tribe. The revisions seek to make the process and criteria more transparent, promote consistent implementation, and increase timeliness and efficiency, while maintaining the integrity and substantive rigor of the process. For decades, the current process has been criticized as “broken” and in need of reform. Specifically, the process has been criticized as too slow (a petition can take decades to be decided), expensive, burdensome, inefficient, intrusive, less than transparent and unpredictable. This rule reforms the process by, among other things, institutionalizing a phased review that allows for faster decisions; reducing the documentary burden while maintaining the existing rigor of the process; allowing for a hearing on a negative proposed finding to promote transparency and integrity; enhancing notice to tribes and local governments and enhancing transparency by posting all publicly available petition documents on the Department's Web site; establishing the Assistant Secretary's final determination as final for the Department to promote efficiency; and codifying and improving upon past Departmental implementation of standards, where appropriate, to ensure consistency, transparency, predictability and fairness.


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