Battles Brewing Over Proposed Tribal-Recognition Rules

Some members of Congress fear the new rules might open up new avenues for tribal casinos or lead to fresh fights over historic lands.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell testifies before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
National Journal
Billy House
See more stories about...
Billy House
May 22, 2014, 4:34 p.m.

The In­teri­or De­part­ment an­nounced Thursday its long-awaited new rules for grant­ing fed­er­al re­cog­ni­tion to Nat­ive Amer­ic­an tribes — but some law­makers are already seek­ing changes.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress and of­fi­cials on the state and loc­al levels have been war­ily bra­cing for the pro­posed rules. Many have been wor­ried about how far and wide they might open up new av­en­ues for tri­bal casi­nos. They also are wor­ried the rules might erode state tax bases and lead to new battles over his­tor­ic lands.

The new rules by Sec­ret­ary of the In­teri­or Sally Jew­ell and As­sist­ant Sec­ret­ary-In­di­an Af­fairs Kev­in Wash­burn would rep­res­ent the re­form­a­tion of a 35-year-old pro­cess by which the In­teri­or of­fi­cially re­cog­nizes In­di­an tribes.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment already re­cog­nizes 566 tribes — but only 17 of those have been re­cog­nized un­der this 35-year-old pro­cess, which the pro­pos­al is seek­ing to re­vise.

And, in fact, the pro­posed changes an­nounced Thursday keep and in­cor­por­ate a key fea­ture floated in a draft plan in June to provide re­cog­ni­tion to a tribe that can show “com­munity and polit­ic­al in­flu­ence/au­thor­ity from 1934 to the present,” rather than from as early as 1789 un­der ex­ist­ing rules.

The change would also elim­in­ate the need for a pe­ti­tion­er to demon­strate that third parties identi­fy them as a tribe from 1900 to the present.

Spe­cific­ally, the rule change relates to the “Party 83 pro­cess” un­der Title 25 of the Code of Fed­er­al Reg­u­la­tions, Pro­ced­ures for Es­tab­lish­ing That an Amer­ic­an In­di­an Group Ex­ists as an In­di­an Tribe.

“Pres­id­ent Obama be­lieves that re­form­ing the fed­er­al ac­know­ledg­ment pro­cess will strengthen our im­port­ant trust re­la­tion­ship with In­di­an tribes,” said Jew­ell in a state­ment.

But the fear from some law­makers and state and loc­al politi­cians was that the new lan­guage de­vised by the Bur­eau of In­di­an Af­fairs could res­ult in fed­er­al re­cog­ni­tion for lit­er­ally hun­dreds of tribes that for years have struggled and failed to re­ceive that status — and could give them all the priv­ileges that come with such re­cog­ni­tion.

Con­necti­c­ut of­fi­cials were among those who re­spon­ded in a luke­warm way to Thursday’s an­nounce­ment. In a joint state­ment, Con­necti­c­ut Gov. Dan­nel Mal­loy, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al George Jepsen, U.S. Sens. Richard Blu­menth­al and Chris Murphy, and Reps. Rosa De­Lauro, John Lar­son, Joe Court­ney, Jim Himes, and Eliza­beth Etsy called the pro­posed re­vi­sions “a step in the right dir­ec­tion.”

“However, we be­lieve ad­di­tion­al changes and cla­ri­fic­a­tions are ne­ces­sary to en­sure that Con­necti­c­ut’s in­terests are pro­tec­ted, and we will con­tin­ue to work for their in­clu­sion,” they said.

The state­ment did not spe­cify how they wanted it changed.

The Con­necti­c­ut of­fi­cials’ re­ac­tion comes amid con­cerns about its po­ten­tial im­pact on the state’s cur­rent gambling agree­ment with the Mashantuck­et Pequot and Mo­hegan tribes — which are already op­er­at­ing casi­nos there — and could fur­ther erode the state’s tax base.

The East­ern Pequot of North Ston­ing­ton, the Golden Hill Paugus­sett of Col­chester and Trum­bu­ll, and the Schaghticoke of Kent are re­por­ted to be among the tribes in that state that have been fight­ing for years to get fed­er­al re­cog­ni­tion.

Fed­er­al re­cog­ni­tion es­tab­lishes the U.S. gov­ern­ment as the trust­ee for tri­bal lands and re­sources and makes tri­bal mem­bers and gov­ern­ments eli­gible for fed­er­al budget as­sist­ance and pro­gram ser­vices. In short, this means the fed­er­al au­thor­it­ies would pro­tect their sov­er­eign status, their lands and tri­bal prop­erty, and their rights as a de­pend­ent na­tion.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×