By Gale Courey Toensing for Indian Country Today Media Network
. . . The mayor of Connecticut’s biggest city has written to the Bureau of Indian Affairs applauding the agency’s proposed new regulations for the federal acknowledgment process. The proposed regulations aim to reform a system that almost everyone has described as “broken” for the past two decades.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch objected to one item in the BIA proposal, however — a provision that would prevent the federal government from reconsidering the petitions of three tribes the state has recognized since the 17th and early 18th centuries when it started expropriating their lands. The provision would give third parties the power to stop tribes that have been denied recognition to seek reconsideration under the new regulations.
“If, as you say in your announcement released on May 22nd, that ‘Reform of the process is long-overdue’ and that a number of tribes were denied recognition under the current regulations, those tribes should be afforded due process under the revised provisions,” Finch wrote in a short letter to Interior Department Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn on September 30. That was the last day of the comment period, which Washburn had extended for 60 days from its original August 30 deadline.
“A third party should not receive veto powers concerning reconsideration. That is not a state’s rights issue or the province of an individual or corporation,” Finch continued. “Rather, the third party should be offered the opportunity to submit documentation in the acknowledgment process that documents why a petitioner has not fulfilled the criteria for acknowledgment. All parties should receive appropriate notice but the regulations must address the Federal relationship with the Native American tribe without the outright denial by a third party without necessarily evaluating the facts of the petitioner.”
Finch’s support for Indian nations is at odds with the state’s entire congressional delegation of two senators, five representatives, Gov. Dannel Malloy, State Attorney General George Jepson and a coalition of town mayors and selectmen – all led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who has been an Indian fighter for more than 20 years. . .