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Old 04-26-2004, 05:34 PM   #1
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Overhaul of federal recognition process is unlikely for this year

Overhaul of federal recognition process is unlikely for this year

Posted: April 26, 2004 - 1:48pm EST
by: Jerry Reynolds / Washington D.C. correspondent / Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON - A bill to reform the federal process for recognizing tribes ran into bleak prospects at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing April 21. The Department of Interior opposed it and committee chairman Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, S. 297’s sponsor, rated its chances at 50-50.

With only 72 working days left in the 108th Congress, the Colorado Republican was still less optimistic after the hearing. In remarks to reporters, he described the bill’s chances of even making it to a vote as "iffy."

But the hearing yielded important perspectives on the federal recognition process. Kevin Gover, former head of the BIA and currently a professor in the Arizona State University College of Law, described the bureaucratic ploy of "staff capture" as a severe problem at the Branch of Research and Acknowledgment, which oversees the process of applying for federal recognition as a tribe. Gover said that when he asked BAR for summaries, he got thousand-page stacks of paper - a firing offense in the private sector, but at BAR a strategy for defying supervision. "By creating an avalanche of paper, the BAR effectively overwhelmed the office of the Assistant Secretary."

Among other reforms, S. 297 would create an independent board to assist the secretary in assessing recognition applications.

Also on the committee’s agenda was a pre-hearing business meeting that passed amended versions of a probate reform law, S. 1721, and of S. 344, the bill that would recognize a Native Hawaiian governing entity as a first step toward federal recognition of Native Hawaiians as a political entity. The changes to S. 344 were especially noteworthy: transfers of any land or resources to the Native Hawaiian governing entity would now be subject to negotiation pursuant federal recognition. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, the bill’s leading sponsor along with fellow Hawaii Democrat Daniel K. Inouye, said he and Inouye have requested time to consider the amended bill from the Senate leadership.
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This article can be found at http://IndianCountry.com/?1083001814
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