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US agency extends comment period on tribal rules

The U-S Interior Department is extending the period for people to comment on proposed changes to the rules for granting federal recognition to American Indian tribes, citing significant public interest in the matter.

Kevin Washburn, an assistant secretary with the department's Bureau of Indian Affairs, announced Friday the comment period has been extended by 60 days. 

 

The rules announced in May include a requirement that tribes demonstrate political authority since 1934. Previously, they had to show continuity from ``historical times.''  This could open the door for recognition of one faction of the Kent-based Scaghticoke Tribe. 

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen was among those seeking an extension. Despite changes made to the proposed rules, Jepsen's office claims they'll still have "serious consequences for Connecticut,'' making it easier for groups petitioning for federal recognition to gain the acknowledgement.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is also adding more consultations with tribes and public meetings.

The existing regulations overseeing the federal recognition of tribes were originally adopted in 1978. They've been updated once in 20 years.
  Washburn said the new rules are intended to make the process more transparent and efficient. He said the standards are no less rigorous.