BIA expected to finalize changes to federal recognition process

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs / Twitter

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is expected to finalize Part 83 reforms to the federal recognition process in the next couple of months.

The rules have been in development for nearly two years. The comment period closed at the end of September 2014 and more than 350 responses and about 2,000 form letters were received, The Connecticut Mirror reported.

The reforms make two significant changes to the existing process. Petitioning groups only have to provide documents dating back to 1934 -- as opposed to time of first contact -- if the changes are adopted.

The proposal also allows groups that already went through the process to re-apply. But a controversial provision allows interested parties to object, which might make it impossible for state-recognized Connecticut tribes to gain recognition.

Tribes in the state, along with the National Congress of American Indians, have asked the BIA to drop the provision. Even Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), who has been a critic of the existing process, believes it's unconstitutional.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Assistant Secretary Washburn addresses federal recognition reforms at about 20 minutes into the question and answer

Washburn hasn't said whether the provision, along with other controversial changes, will be included in the final rule. He was asked about the reforms at a House Subcommittee Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs hearing last week.

"We want it to be a rigorous review and that is not something that's negotiable," Washburn told lawmakers. "We aren't going to make it less rigorous.

Get the Story:
Blumenthal: Effort to block recognition of CT tribes faces challenges (The Connecticut Mirror 3/23)

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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