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Saturday, July 21, 2012
Dept. Of Interior Fails to Show for Congressional Hearing. BIA is Missing In Action In CA Tribal Rights Abuses
WASHINGTON – What if Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, held a hearing on federal recognition of tribes and no one came? At least no one from the federal agency that handles tribal recognition issues? That’s what happened on June 27, when Young called a meeting of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, titled, “Authorization, standards, and procedures for whether, how, and when Indian tribes should be newly recognized by the federal government,” and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and all staff underneath him declined to show up. The slight was made all the more stinging when two weeks later, on July 12, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, chaired by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, held a hearing on the same issue, and Interior sent an expert witness.
Questions come fast and furious: Are we seeing the era of political hardball clash with the usually bi-partisan efforts on Indian policy? Is Interior so desperately understaffed on Native policy issues that it couldn’t find anyone to send to Young’s meeting? Does Young have bad breath?
Regardless of the answers to any or all of those questions, Young is mad, and he believes politics are at play. “Unfortunately, it’s become clear to the Congressman that the Department of the Interior [DOI] is playing politics with tribal federal recognition—especially when you consider how many times DOI has stonewalled not only Rep. Young’s Subcommittee, but the House Natural Resources Committee as a whole,” said Luke Miller, a spokesman for Young.
“Congressman Young has always held the belief that Congress has the final say when it comes to making federal tribal policy,” Miller added. “It does seem as if DOI’s reluctance to work with our subcommittee is rooted in their belief that they—the executive branch—have primary authority over federal tribal policy.”