Background on Nipmuc Duwamish recognition
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The Nipmuc Nation
Recognized as an historic tribe by the state of Massachusetts in the 17th century, the Nipmuc Nation filed its intent to petition (#69) for federal recognition in 1980, two years after the Bureau of Indian Affairs began following an official acknowledgment policy.

Subsequently, the Webster/Dudley Band of the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck Indians split off and filed its own petition (#69b) for acknowledgment in 1996. Both the Webster Band, with a reported 250 members, and the Nipmuc Nation, also known as the Hassanamisco Band with 1,500 members, are acknowledged by the Massachusetts Indian Affairs Council as tribal organizations.

Promised a decision for several years, the BIA's staff of researchers did not get around to completing its review until late last year. A preliminary finding was expected by Thanksgiving but former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover delayed it, saying attorneys within the Department of Interior were still reviewing it.

A day before the promised December 15 finding, however, Gover suddenly withdrew from the process. He said he might work for a law firm with connections to one or both of the petitioning groups. The groups have professed no knowledge of any ties to Gover.

Handing the matter to his top aide Michael Anderson, the finding was not reported complete until January 19, the last full day of the Clinton administration. It would have been published in the Federal Register within the next week but President Bush immediately issued an executive order upon assuming office to suspend all executive agency decisions which had not been finalized.

The Duwamish Tribe
The Duwamish Tribe filed its intent to petition (#25) in 1977. The tribe was among a group in Washington who had been seeking recognition for a number of years but until official criteria were adopted, each had been approved, such as the Stillaguamish Tribe, on an ad-hoc basis.

In 1996, former Assistant Secretary Ada Deer issued a preliminary finding against acknowledgment of the 500-member tribe. By doing so, Deer followed recommendations of the Branch and Acknowledgment and Research (BAR) that the tribe did not satisfy three out of seven mandatory criteria.

Following a public response period, Deer's decision was to updated with a final determination. The document never came as the BIA kept extending the comment period, finally closing it in March 1998.

On January 19, Acting Assistant Secretary Michael Anderson reversed Deer's finding and issued a final determination to acknowledge the tribe. The action was not without precedent -- the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut (#38) turned an initial negative finding into a positive one with additional evidence.

But like the Nipmuc petition, Anderson's finding was grounded by the Bush administration. McCaleb's document is to be published in the Federal Register on October 1.

What Next
Once the document is published, the Nipmuc Nation, the Duwamish Tribe and interested parties have 180 days to provide comments on Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb's proposed finding.

Pending any delays or modifications to the response period, each tribe will have 60 days to respond to comments provided as well as continue to submit additional evidence in support of their petition. After a review period, McCaleb will issue a final determination of acknowledgment, which will become effective after 90 days.

Legal challenges to the final determination are possible.

Today on Indianz.Com:
McCaleb reverses recognition decisions (9/28)