'We’re doing it for overall what makes sense and how do we achieve fairness for as many groups as we can,' says Washburn.

Q&A: Kevin Washburn on New Proposed Federal Recognition Rules

Gale Courey Toensing

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.

RELATED: Federal Recognition Proposal Praised -- Except for Connecticut's "Third Party" Veto
RELATED: Washburn's Bold Plan to Fix Interior's Federal Recognition Process

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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Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
Lots of double talk here & dodging answering the questions by Mr. Blackburn. He talks alot, but answers very little. It's the unanswered questions & his way of NOT giving us straight answers that concern me. Sounds like this man has bought a load of hooey from a snake oil salesman: Bureaucratic nonsense to disallow granting our People their rights & standing due to the fact it's going to cost the various states taxes they so greedily crave & don't want to miss out on one red cent! ......................................................................................................................... We don't owe these greedy SOB's anything! THEY owe US! They so hastily wanted those treaties signed, but they sure as hell haven't honored most of the terms of those hundreds of treaties! The more time goes on the more things stay the same many times for our people where ever they may be. With the exception that these government entities are always trying to screw us over in new ways.