Washburn Extends Comment Period on Federal Recognition Regulations

Gale Courey Toensing
August 15, 2013


Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn has extended the period for comments on proposed changes to the federal recognition regulations to September 25.

The change extends the previous August 16 deadline by more than a month.

This extended period is in response to written requests as well as requests received at the tribal consultation sessions and public meetings held in July and August, Washburn said in a media release.

The redlined “Preliminary Discussion Draft” of potential changes to Interior’s process for acknowledging Indian groups as federally recognized tribes was released June 21.

“The discussion draft is a starting point in the conversation with federally recognized tribes, petitioners and the public on how to ensure that the process is fair, efficient and transparent,” Washburn said in a statement. “We are starting with an open mind and no fixed agenda, and we’re looking forward to getting input from all stakeholders before we move forward with a proposed rule that will provide additional certainty and timeliness to the process. In many parts of the discussion draft, we have made no fixed recommendations in order to have the benefit of that input in formulating a proposed rule.”

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This extended comment period is in response to written requests as well as requests received at the tribal consultation sessions and public meetings that Interior held around the country in July and August.

Soon after his appointment as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Washburn told Indian Country Today Media Network he intended to tackle the issue. “This is one [topic] I heard about unanimously—from on the Hill, from tribal leaders, from people within the department. There’s great dissatisfaction with. … the acknowledgment-recognition process and, honestly, that dissatisfaction has been [building for] 20 years or more. [Reforming it is] something we really do hope to accomplish, and we will accomplish it only with extensive tribal consultation,” he said.

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But the State of Connecticut, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, has already launched a campaign of opposition to the proposed new regulations in order to prevent the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation from possibly regaining the federal acknowledgment status that was reversed in 2005 after Blumenthal led a campaign by local, state and federal elected officials and an anti-Indian sovereignty group and its powerful White house-connected lobbyist, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR).

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The “Preliminary Discussion Draft” is a precursor to the rulemaking process and is intended to provide tribes and the public an early opportunity to provide input on potential improvements to the federal acknowledgment process. Once the rulemaking process begins, tribes and the public will have additional opportunities to provide comment.

The discussion draft is available for review here. Comments on the discussion draft may be submitted by e-mail to [email protected] (include “1076-AF18” in the message subject line) or by mail to Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs and Collaborative Action, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, NW., MS-4141-MIB, Washington, DC  20240 (include “1076-AF18” on the cover of the submission).