Courtesy Kevin K. Washburn
Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn recently attended the morning session of a public hearing on proposed new rules for federal recognition.

Washburn Hears Frustration, Anger Over Third Party Fed Rec Veto

Gale Courey Toensing
8/4/14

Around 100 people attending a public session on the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ proposed new rules for federal recognition broke into spontaneous applause when Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Dennis Jenkins spoke against a controversial provision that would allow certain third parties to veto a tribe’s ability to re-petition for federal status.

“This [proposal] is not only morally reprehensible; it is also arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with the laws of the United States. … It is the worst kind of modern day genocide,” Jenkins said, as the crowd cheered, whooped and whistled.

Opposition to the third party veto provision, which was included in the proposed new rules under pressure from Connecticut politicians, turned out to be the hot topic of the day, dominating discussion during the BIA’s three-and-a-half hour public session held at the Mashpee Wampanoag’s new government offices and community center during the morning of July 29 (a closed formal consultation with leaders of federally recognized tribes took place in the afternoon). Not surprisingly, members of the three Connecticut tribes targeted by the proposed veto – the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN), the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) and the Golden Hill Paugussett (GHP) were on hand to listen and comment. The event was one of a series of public sessions and formal tribal consultations that have been held around the country on the proposed new rules. Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (ASIA) Kevin K. Washburn attended and ran the session.

Washburn published the proposed new rules in April, following up on draft regulations issued a year earlier that were welcomed in Indian country as repairing 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.”

RELATED: Washburn's Bold Plan to Fix Interior's Federal Recognition Proposal

But between the draft proposal and the formal proposed rule a new provision slipped in giving third parties that have been involved in litigation with tribes absolute power to prohibit such a tribe from re-petitioning under the new rules. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who led a campaign to quash the new rules soon after they were drafted, acknowledged that the third party veto was added in response to Connecticut politicians’ requests.

RELATED: Blumenthal Stirs Opposition to Federal Recognition – Again

RELATED: Federal Recognition Proposal Praised – Except for CT's 'Third Party' Veto

Blumenthal successfully opposed the GHP tribe, which was denied federal recognition in 2004, and led local, state, and federal officials in a campaign of political influence on Washington decision-makers to  overturn the federal acknowledgment of the EPTN and STN, which they did on Columbus Day in 2005.

RELATED: A lack of Interior fortitude

RELATED: Judge denies Schaghticoke federal recognition appeal

The public session opened with an honor song and Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell welcoming everyone. He praised Washburn for the proposed new rules, calling the ASIA “a champion – a strong champion – of Indian country and he’s doing a fabulous job.”

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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
This statement below sums it up folks, "Regarding third party participation, Washburn said when someone has invested lots of time, money and energy opposing a petition they develop an equity – “so you can’t ignore them even if you don’t think their cause is righteous.” ......................................................................................................................... That statement tells me the government considers the amount of an opposition to a tribe's petition for recognition paramount versus the facts a tribe presented for their case to be recognized. THIS is what's wrong in government! Anytime a deciding body chooses to overlook facts & instead look at the amount of money these 3rd party opposition groups are spending to derail federal opposition this is unjust, immoral & shows that those with the most money will be recognized! This is a slap in the face to true justice my friends. ......................................................................................................................... If this is the American way of justice folks then this is an abomination in the sight of the Creator! Justice that is had based on the amount of money someone has or doesn't have is unethical, immoral, evil & flat out wrong!
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