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Fed Rec 101: How to Read and Post Comments on the Proposed Regulations

A quick how to guide to reading and posting comments on the proposed regulations during the Bureau of Indian Affairs comment period.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has set September 30 as the deadline to receive comments on proposed new regulations for federal recognition. This posting provides quick and easy links to information about the proposal, how to file comments and where to go to read comments that have already been submitted.

First, a bit of background. For the past two decades, everyone’s complained that the federal recognition process is broken – it’s too expensive, too slow, unpredictable and subject to political influence. When Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn was appointed in late 2012, he promised to tackle the issue.

“This is one [topic] I heard about unanimously—from on the Hill, from tribal leaders, from people within the department. There’s great dissatisfaction with…the acknowledgment-recognition process and, honestly, that dissatisfaction has been [building for] 20 years or more. [Reforming it is] something we really do hope to accomplish, and we will accomplish it only with extensive tribal consultation,” he said.

A draft of proposed new rules released in the spring of 2013 was hailed as the best thing to happen to the process for decades. The only fly in the ointment of the reform effort is opposition by Connecticut politicians led by former state attorney general, now senator, Richard Blumenthal, who don’t want any of the three state-recognized tribes to gain federal acknowledgment – regardless of whether they meet the criteria under the law – because another Indian casino in the state would void the gaming compacts with the super casinos, Mohegan Sun and the Mashantucket Pequots’ Foxwood Resort Casino.

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

RELATED: Federal Recognition Proposal Praised – Except for CT's 'Third Party' Veto

Consultations with federally recognized tribal leaders, public meetings with leaders of non-federally recognized tribes and others, and a comment period on the draft proposal took place last summer. The next step – the publication of a proposed rule – happened this spring and the pattern of consultations, public meetings and a public comment period repeated itself. All three events were extended because of the high interest in federal recognition. Consultations and public meetings ended September 5 and now written public comments must be received by the BIA by September 30.

For information about the proposed regulation

Go to the Bureau of Indian Affair’s Who We Are page, where you’ll find PDF files on:

Proposed Rule

Press Release

Comparison Chart (comparing current rule to proposed rule)

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Response to Comments on June 2013 Discussion Draft

Frequently Asked Questions

Presentation on the Proposed Rule

To read transcripts of the consultations and public meetings

Transcripts of the meetings are listed by location and date here.

Three ways to file comments

—By mail or hand delivery to: Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C. Street NW, MS 3642, Washington, C 20240. Include the number 1076-AF18 on the envelope.

—By email to Include the number 1076-AF18 in the subject line.

—And Online

Reading filed comments

To read the comments already filed on the proposed regulations, go here.

Once the comment period closes on September 30, all of the comments will be reviewed, adjustments, if any, will be made, and the final rule will be published in the Federal Register. That part of the process can take up to two years, Washburn said.