November 3, 2009

Senate Indian Affairs Committee to Review Federal Process for Tribal Acknowledgment

Washington DC –
U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, announced Tuesday the panel will hold a congressional oversight hearing at 2:15 PM on Wednesday, November 4. The hearing will examine Department of Interior efforts to repair the federal acknowledgement process for Indian tribes. It will also review proposals for improving the system.
Securing formal, federal tribal recognition is vital. It establishes a formal government-to-government relationship between the tribe and the U.S. government. Once federally recognized, a tribe has access to federal benefits and programs.
Yet, the acknowledgement process is broken and has been since it was established in 1978. Tribes routinely wait decades without getting a decision. Some tribes, including one tribe which will present testimony at the hearing, have been stuck in the federal acknowledgment process since 1978 with no decision. The prolonged process cost tribes funds urgently needed elsewhere, and denies tribes that are eventually recognized access to benefits and programs, often for decades.
Details follow:
WHO: U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Byron Dorgan, Chairman; Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Vice Chairman, and other members of the committee.
WITNESSES: George Skibine, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of Interior; Frank Ettawageshik, Chair, Federal Acknowledgement Task Force, National Congress of American Indians; John Sinclair, President, Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Havre, Montana; Ann D. Tucker, Tribal Chairperson, Muscogee Nation of Florida, Bruce, Florida; and Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, Director, Indian Legal Clinic, Tempe, Arizona.
WHAT: Congressional oversight hearing
WHEN: 2:15 PM, Wednesday, November 4, 2009
WHERE: 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
WHY: To review Department of Interior efforts to repair the federal acknowledgement process for granting formal recognition to Indian tribes.