McCaleb to listen 'closely' to recognition expert
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In what could spell bad news for a number of tribes under consideration for federal recognition, new Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb on Wednesday said he plans to rely "pretty closely" on his staff to determine who is and who isn't a legitimate tribe.

"Unless I believe that their research is flawed or that there is some other compelling reason that they haven't taken into consideration," McCaleb plans to follow the recommendations of his staff, he said on Native America Calling. His predecessor, Kevin Gover, has been criticized for doing just the opposite.

"These are genealogists, historians and anthropologists that a looking into this," McCaleb added. "I'm a civil engineer -- I'm going to listen pretty closely to what they have to tell me."

Having spent a little over a month as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, federal recognition is one of the areas that outsiders, Indian and non-Indian alike, will be paying close attention to in the coming months. Last week, he stepped into the debate and when he signed a proposed finding against acknowledgment of the Muwekma Tribe of California.

By doing so, he followed the recommendations of the Branch of Acknowledgment and Research, the bureau staff that handles recognition petitions. They found that the tribe failed to submit critical evidence to establish their legitimacy as an Indian tribe.

In a number of recent cases, the staff said the same of several petitioning groups. In the eyes of researchers, the Little Shell Chippewa of Montana, the Eastern Pequot Tribe of Connecticut, the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribe of Connecticut and the Chinook Nation of Washington did not submit sufficient evidence to warrant a proposed finding in their favor.

With the exception of the Chinook, whose decision was final, McCaleb will be making decisions on the remaining tribes. He will also make decisions on the Nipmuc Nation of Massachusetts and the Duwamish Tribe of Washington.

Although the documents on the latter two tribes have not been made public, critics of Gover and his top aide Michael Anderson charge the tribes failed to meet federal standards as well.

McCaleb's position on recognition doesn't necessarily mean doom for any of the tribes in the process, though. Understanding his duties as Assistant Secretary, he is still leaving room to do exactly what Gover has been blasted for doing.

"Its my responsibility to read all the information they [the BAR staff] provide me as objectively and thoroughly as I can and determine if there is a valid reason to go beyond their recommendations," he said.

McCaleb will be issuing a final determination on the two Pequot tribes in December. The state of Connecticut is urging him to reject the tribes.

Get Recognition Documents:
Little Shell Chippewa | Eastern Pequot | Paucatuck Eastern Pequot | Chinook Indian Tribe (1997)

Relevant Links:
Branch of Acknowledgment and Research -

Related Stories:
In The Hoop: Amen, Neal McCaleb (8/8)
Conn. AG urges denial of Pequot Tribes (8/3)
Towns submit Pequot documentation (8/2)
Muwekma Tribe denied recognition (7/31)
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)
Recognition reforms might not have an effect (2/7)

Blasts from the Past - Indianz.Com Recognition Classics:
Recognition findings a departure (8/16)
Decisions put Gover in the middle (08/16)
Gover wants BIA out of nastiness (05/25)
Town: Gover a 'mockery' (5/25)