Pressure on recognition not reflected in budget
Facebook Twitter Email

President Bush's new budget doesn't include funds to help newly recognized tribes join the family of tribal nations, Bureau of Indian Affairs officials confirmed this week.

It also doesn't increase resources for the troubled federal recognition program, they added. A proposal by former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb to double the funding to $1.8 million and triple the staff to 33 has languished amid competing priorities and internal disputes over how to spend the BIA's larger pot of money.

Although the exact breakdown won't be available until the BIA releases its so-called "green book" of detailed expenditures, the funding gap was evident in the outline released on Monday. The division that oversees new tribes and processes federal recognition petitions won't be seeing any increases in fiscal year 2004.

That leaves tribes whose federal status will be finalized in the coming months without the funds that others who followed the BIA process in the past have received. So far, this only applies to the historic Eastern Pequot Tribe of Connecticut, whose recognition was affirmed by McCaleb last summer.

But it is a repeat of the 2003 budget, which still hasn't been cleared by Congress. The green book disclosed the $335,000 slash, leaving the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington without.

The cut has been a trend since the end of the Clinton administration. In fiscal year 2000, $510,000 was provided to newly recognized governments, an amount which fell to $343,000 in 2001, to $335,000 for 2002 and $0 for this year.

It's not as if there haven't been any finalized decisions. Before he left office, former assistant secretary Kevin Gover reaffirmed the status of two tribes in California and one in Alaska. None have received federal funds.

Tribes are considered "new" for at least three years before they share funds with the 560-plus federally recognized tribes. The Snoqualmie Tribe of Washington and the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Potawatomi of Michigan joined the larger group this funding year.

Tribes need the funds in order to carry out daily government functions. In fiscal year 2004, the Bush administration has requested $777.6 million in tribal priority allocation funds, an increase of $2.1 million for trust-related activities.

According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), the TPA account doesn't meet Indian Country needs. The shortfall has dropped over the years, however.

Relevant Documents:
BIA Budget | Departmental Offices [for OST] | Trust Budget Overview | DOI Budget [from OMB]

Department of Interior Fiscal Year 2004 Request:
Budget in Brief (DOI February 2003)

Related Stories:
Trust programs see historic increase (2/4)
Troubled Indian programs prompt GAO criticism (01/31)
BIA recognition still hard to prove for some (01/22)
McCaleb latest in long line of DOI departures (11/25)
McCaleb changed, yes, but little else did (11/22)
McCaleb delivers aggressive recognition plan (10/03)
BIA role in recognition decisions under review (06/13)
Dropping performance blamed on weak leadership (04/08)
BIA Budget: Doing more with less (3/26)
Bush budget cuts funds for new tribes (3/20)
McCaleb takes on recognition (3/15)
Inside the BIA, plenty of drama (3/4)
Ashcroft urged to charge BIA officials (3/1)
Solutions sought for 'hijacked' recognition (11/9)
Gover: Recognition study 'cooked' (11/1)
Reforming federal recognition (10/26)
Gover takes on recognition (10/25)
McCaleb to listen 'closely' to recognition experts (8/9)
McCaleb decision sure to draw scrutiny (7/31)
BIA pushed to provide 'answers' on tribes (7/26)
McCaleb endorses BIA on recognition (6/14)
Gover's 'activist' legacy escapes McCaleb (6/13)
BIA has small goal for big problem (5/22)
Federal recognition battles continue (5/10)