Federal Recognition Proposal Praised -- Except for CT's 'Third Party' Veto
Indian country has welcomed a set of proposed regulations to reform the federal recognition process, but a provision that would hand third parties veto power to quash a tribe’s request for reconsideration of its petition is raising an outcry that political influence from Connecticut politicians is once again tainting the process.
Interior’s Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (ASIA) Kevin Washburn announced the publication of the proposed regulations Thursday (April 22). The proposal follows up on draft regulations issued last June that were widely applauded in Indian country as the best thing to happen in decades to a system that’s been described as “broken, long, expensive, burdensome, intrusive, unfair, arbitrary and capricious, less than transparent, unpredictable, and subject to undue political influence and manipulation.”
“We’re real happy about [the proposed regulations]. It’s taken us longer than we thought, but these things are always difficult and we’re using a lot of process and that always takes a lot of time,” Washburn told ICTMN in an exclusive interview.
The proposed regulations maintain the most significant changes in the draft concerning the toughest two of the seven mandatory criteria a tribe must meet to be acknowledged – proof that it has had maintained continuous political authority over a distinct community of members from historical times to the present. The proposed new rule would require tribes to prove continuous political authority and community since 1934 instead of 1789, aligning the review with the federal government’s repudiation of the allotment and assimilation policies of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Another important change would give weight to tribes that have maintained state-recognized reservations since 1934 or for whom the federal government has held land in trust since that year. The proposed rules also eliminate the requirement that an external entity identify the group as Indian since 1900. The full proposal, other documents and a schedule of consultations are available on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) website.
The proposed new rules are intended to maintain the rigorous integrity needed to establish a nation-to-nation relationship between an Indian tribe and the federal government in a process that is timely, efficient and transparent.
National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Brian Cladoosby praised the proposal as “an important step in bringing our government to government relationship into the 21stcentury. For too long, tribes have been forced to seek recognition through a process developed during a time when every effort was made to make life for Native peoples more difficult. I look forward a nation-to-nation engagement to review these proposed changes with tribal leaders and the federal government.”
But the provision giving third parties veto power over tribes seeking reconsideration of their petitions would make it virtually impossible for Connecticut’s Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN), Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) and Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe to get reviews under the new rules in the state whose Indian-fighting tradition goes back to the very first attempted genocide of Turtle Island’s indigenous people -- the massacre of more than 400 Pequots at Mystic on June 5, 1637, during what is known as the Pequot War.
STN and EPTN leaders quickly condemned the third party veto.
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