House subcommittee to hold hearing on BIA recognition reform

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

The House Subcommittee Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs will hold a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the Part 83 reforms to the federal recognition process.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs developed the changes in response to concerns about the slow-moving and cumbersome nature of the process. It takes decades to resolve recognition petitions as submissions grow to hundreds of thousands of pages.

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

"We want it to be a rigorous review and that is not something that's negotiable," Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, told the subcommittee at a hearing last month when the issue came up. "We aren't going to make it less rigorous.

The title of the hearing, however, appears to point to a more sinister motive. The subcommittee plans to examine whether the reforms might allow the BIA to "create" tribes.

Over the years, some lawmakers -- primarily Democrats -- have introduced legislation to reform the recognition process. But the bills haven't gotten very far amid reluctance by Republicans to take on a highly controversial issue.

The hearing takes place at 4pm in Room 1324 of the Longworth House Office Building. A witness list hasn't been posted online.

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "The Obama Administration’s Part 83 Revisions and How They May Allow the Interior Department to Create Tribes, not Recognize Them.” (April 22, 2015)

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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