U.S. adopts new way to recognize Tribes


Last updated 7/31/2015 at 5:08pm


BIA Assistant Secretary Kevin K. Washburn announces new policy at Congressional hearing.

Washington, DC-The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has adopted a new policy in regards to how tribes can apply for federal recognition.

According to BIA's Assistant Secretary, Kevin Washburn, the federal acknowledgement process which was formally adopted in 1978, will no longer allow some tribes to gain recognition or affirmation of their status through other means. This new policy puts an end to that.

"The recently revised Part 83 regulations promote fairness, integrity, efficiency and flexibility," Washburn writes in the policy that was published in the Federal Register. "No group should be denied access to other mechanisms if the only avenue available to them is widely considered 'broken'".

The document doesn't offer details but the most recent tribe that gained recognition outside the Part 83 process came prior to Washburn's arrival at the BIA. In January 2012, former assistant secretary Larry Echo Hawk placed the Tejon Tribe of California on the list of federally recognized tribes.

Echo Hawk did so without following any sort of "discernible process," stated the Office of Inspector General at the Interior Department in a 2013 report. By that time, the former head of the BIA had left President Barack Obama's administration.

In January 2001, President Clinton's administration "reaffirmed" the status of the King Salmon Tribe of Alaska, the Sun'aq Tribe, also in Alaska, and the Lower Lake Rancheria in California. The BIA at that time had said they had been mistakenly left off the list of recognized tribes.

Even though questions were raised about those decisions, the new policy won't affect them.


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