U.S. extends comment deadline on proposed federal-recognition rules changes

The U.S. Department of the Interior has extended the deadline for public comment on proposed changes in the federal-recognition process for Indian tribes.

Kevin Washburn, the department’s assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, announced Friday that “due to significant public comments and interest,” the Aug. 1 deadline for written comments has been pushed back to Sept. 30.

In addition, the department has scheduled two additional “tribal consultations” via conference call with tribal leaders, on Aug. 18 and 20, and two additional public meetings, also via conference call, on Sept. 3 and 5.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wrote last week to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to urge that the department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs extend the comment period and schedule a public meeting in Connecticut on the proposed rule changes. Malloy responded Monday to the department’s extension.

“While we are pleased that BIA has extended the comment period, we continue to believe that BIA should convene a public hearing in Connecticut,” the governor said in a statement. “Given the unique and profound effect this proposed rule would have on our state, Connecticut residents deserve an opportunity to express their views in person with BIA officials, and not just as part of a 50-state teleconference.”

State and local officials consistently have opposed the proposed changes, contending they would all but ensure federal recognition for a number of tribal groups, including three state-recognized tribes that have tried and failed to gain federal recognition: the Eastern Pequots of North Stonington, the Kent-based Schaghticokes and the Golden Hill Paugussetts of Trumbull and Colchester.

The BIA has been conducting public meetings on the proposed changes, with the nearest one to Connecticut taking place today in Mashpee, Mass.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

If you go

What: Public meetings via conference call

When: Sept. 3 and 5, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

How: To participate: call 1-888-323-4307, and use passcode 4823348.

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