Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs

Kevin K. Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs

BREAKING: Federal Recognition Reform Moves Forward

Proposed regulations to reform the cumbersome, opaque and sluggish process to federally recognize Indian nations have been published in the Federal Register, kicking off a 60-day comment period that will ultimately lead to final regulations being put in place.

Interior’s Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn announced the publication of the proposed regulations Thursday. The proposed regulations follow up on a draft proposal he issued last June that was widely applauded in Indian country as the best thing to happen in decades to a system that’s been described as “broken, long, expensive, burdensome, intrusive, unfair, arbitrary and capricious, less than transparent, unpredictable, and subject to undue political influence and manipulation.”

RELATED: Washburn's Bold Plan to Fix Interior's Federal Recognition Process

“We’re real happy about (the proposed regulations). It’s taken us longer than we thought, but these things are always difficult and we’re using a lot of process and that always takes a lot of time,” Washburn told ICTMN.

The proposed regulations maintain the most significant changes in the draft concerning the toughest two of the seven mandatory criteria a tribe currently must meet to be acknowledged – proof that it has had maintained continuous political authority over a distinct community of members from historical times to the present. The proposed new rule would require tribes to prove continuous political authority and community since 1934 instead of 1789, aligning the review with the federal government’s repudiation of the allotment and assimilation policies of the late 1800s and early part of the 1900s and eliminating the requirement that an external entity identify the group as Indian since 1900.

The proposed new rule is intended to maintain the rigorous integrity needed to establish a nation-to-nation relationship between an Indian tribe and the federal government in a process that is timely, efficient and transparent.

A full story and interview with Washburn will follow.

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