The Indian gambling industry has flourished since the enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. Nearly 200 tribes generated about $10 billion in annual revenues in 1999 from their gambling operations. Because of weaknesses in the federal recognition process, the basis for tribal recognition decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is not always clear and the length of time involved can be substantial. Despite an increasing workload, the number of BIA staff assigned to evaluate the petitions has fallen by about 35 percent since 1993. Just as important, the process lacks effective procedures for promptly addressing the increased workload. In particular, the process does not impose effective deadlines that create a sense of urgency, and procedures for providing information to interested third parties are ineffective. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see: Indian Issues: More Consistent and Timely Tribal Recognition Process Needed, by Barry T. Hill, Director for Natural Resources and Environment, before the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Natural Resources and Regulatory Affairs, House Committee on Government Reform. GAO-01-415T, Feb. 7 (nine pages).
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of the Interior||1. To ensure more predictable and timely tribal recognition decisions, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BIA to provide a clearer understanding of the basis used in recognition decisions by developing and using transparent guidelines that help interpret key aspects of the criteria and supporting evidence used in federal recognition decisions.|
|Department of the Interior||2. To ensure more predictable and timely tribal recognition decisions, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BIA to develop a strategy that identifies how to improve the responsiveness of the process for federal recognition. This strategy should include a systematic assessment of the resources available and needed that leads to development of a budget commensurate with workload.|