The Department of the Interior has released the final form of new rules that streamline the process for recognizing Indian tribes. This is the first time the rules have been revised in the 40 years they have existed. The department has been working on the rules since President Barack Obama first took office.
They make it likely that more tribes, perhaps as many as 100, will be recognized, although in Connecticut, officials are sighing with relief because tribes that have been denied recognition previously won’t be able to petition again.
However, some members of Congress want to inject the legislative branch into the process. A proviso preventing the rules from going into effect has been attached to a bill funding the Interior Department.
According to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn, head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the rules are more transparent, timely and consistent than the old rules.
In a statement, Jewell said, “Since the beginning of President Obama’s administration, the department has worked with tribal and government leaders on improving the federal acknowledgment process, which has been criticized as inconsistent, slow and expensive. This administration takes very seriously its important trust and treaty responsibilities to Native Americans and Alaska natives.”
The old rules had been criticized as being “broken” by many tribal critics, and tribes were consulted extensively in the rewriting process, as were state officials.