Congresss passes a law to make it easier for tribes to attain recognition, then FAILS those tribes by not recognizing them? And they make changes to recognition, so that other Natives can be excluded? The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians were recognized at the Temecula Band of Indians. How is it they got to change their name and there are tribes still waiting in the process?
Years after the Chickahominy Indian Tribe of Virginia filed a petition for federal acknowledgment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in 1996, the then-head of the agency told a group of tribal members that many of them wouldn’t live long enough to see their tribe officially recognized.
At a hearing last month, Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins told the members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, “This proved to be prophetic of several of the tribal chiefs and other tribal members who attended that meeting in 1999 have been buried since then,” he said.
The Chickahominy Tribe, which has been seeking federal acknowledgment for 16 years, is still waiting for a decision, but long waits are the rule, said tribal leaders and Indian law experts representing unrecognized tribes at the Oversight Hearing on Federal Recognition: Political and Legal Relationship between Governments. The hearing’s stated goal was “to examine the process of recognizing tribes through the Administrative and Congressional Processes.”
The panelists variously described the BIA’s Federal Acknowledgment Process (FAP) as broken, long, expensive, burdensome, intrusive, unfair, arbitrary and capricious, less than transparent, unpredictable, and subject to undue political influence and manipulation, and noted that Congress has done little to improve things.
The administrative process established in 1978 “was intended to streamline federal recognition and make it consistent,” said committee chairman Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). “Unfortunately, that process…has failed to accomplish that goal.… Congress has not recognized a tribe through legislation—can you imagine?—in over a decade!” (Congress recognized the Loyal Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma in 2000.)
Congress’s apparent reluctance to recognize tribes is baffling in view of the fact that Congress itself passed the Federally Recognized Indian Tribes List Act of 1994, which established that tribes can be federally recognized by an act of Congress, a court ruling or the BIA.
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