Q&A: Kevin Washburn on New Proposed Federal Recognition Rules
On Thursday, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced the publication in the Federal Register of proposed new regulations that will reform the 35-year-old process by which the federal government acknowledges Indian tribes and enters into a nation-to-nation relationship with them – a much-needed upgrade of a process that’s been described by both tribes and their opponents as broken and unfair. The publication of the proposed new rules follows the release last June of a draft of the proposed changes and, after another period of consultations and comments, will lead to final regulations being published and implemented. Washburn talked about the substance and process of the proposed new rules in an exclusive interview with ICTMN.
Congratulations on getting the proposed regulations out.
We’re real happy about it. 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.
We did the discussion draft and got lots of comments back. I think we had 350 comments though several organizations signed on to some of the comments so it’s 350 comments representing over 2800 commentators so we had to go carefully through those.
That’s an amazing lot.
Yeah, it really is. It’s good that people were engaged in it. It improves the product ultimately
Were most of the comments positive?
Yes, we had a lot of very positive comments. I think everybody’s happy that we’re taking this up and we’ve gotten a lot of kudos for taking it.
Did you basically keep the provisions that were in the draft proposal?
No, it’s been modified quite a bit in response to comments so we’ll be interested to see what the comments are on that. We’re going into a 60-day comment period where we expect to get more comments on the way we changed things primarily.
Does the proposed rule maintain the change requiring proof of community and political authority from1934 instead of 1789?
We have maintained that and we’ve also maintained that if a petitioner has maintained a state recognized reservation since 1934 or if we’ve held land in trust for a petitioner since 1934 that that would satisfy the political authority and community criteria.
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