the point of criticism regarding the Commission's vote to propose the 1990 Recognition Criteria to the State for adoption as state rules is
(1) to show the inherent defects in the 1990 Recognition Criteria,
(2) to account for the Commission's actions these past two years that led to the Commission ignoring public comments and a good rules proposal, then submitting a known defective rules proposal to the state, and
(3) to advocate action on an effective solution - the alternative proposal that has been proposed to the Commission for seven months now.
there is nothing "unfair" about criticizing a governmental agency's lack of forward movement on an old issue, or an agency's failure to recognize the inherent defective nature of an out-dated proposal. government is the political arena, the recognition criteria are a political issue, and commissioners are political appointees. when proper action is not taken in a timely manner, and when bad action is taken whenever, criticism should not only be anticipated, it should be welcomed. in fact, it's only through criticism that we learn of our own weaknesses, and only through criticism that we learn what needs to be fixed and made strong.
yes, the 1990 recognition criteria was approved by the Commission a year ago - 12 march 2005, but it was not submitted to the state Attorney General because of the controversy surrounding various elements in it, and because it was not corrected to fix the numerous problems that it contains.
yes, the Advisory Council on TN Indian Affairs (ACTIA) used the 1990 recognition criteria as its starting document. and ACTIA also used the two (2) public hearings (23 october 2004 & 30 april 2005) that the Commission itself held on the 1990 recognition criteria, resulting in a much-improved document submitted to the Commission for review seven months ago (8 october 2005). to date this document, and the hearings that generated it, have been effectively ignored by the Commission.
TDEC attorney Ed Harris advised the Commission in december 2005, "Don't waste the State's time if you're going to keep making changes to the criteria after it's been reviewed." - what did the Commission do? it submitted an inherently defective recognition criteria to the State that is in desparate need for a complete overhaul.
repeated hearings on the issue (20 may 2006 plus one more this summer after the Commission decides what changes to make and re-submits a revised criteria to the State for public comment) - with many past requests for changes (23 october 2004 & 30 april 2005) but no changes made, and repeatedly passing the defective 1990 recognition criteria (12 march 2005, 6 march 2006) - calls into question the competence of the Commission, not just among members of the indian community but also among legislative observers. this isn't criticism, it's political fact.
the ACTIA proposal contains the date "1900" in relation to "A history of the petitioning group from [year]", the same as federal recognition criteria, as approved by ACTIA in august 2005 and again in february 2006. the inclusion of the date "1796" (the year of Tennessee's creation as a US state) was an oversight carried over from using the Commission's own amendment and passage of the 1990 recognition criteria in march 2005.
another public hearing - the third, on a still-unchanged 1990 recognition criteria - is two steps backwards, to the same point we were two years ago, before the first two hearings. after this coming hearing in may, the Commission will have to decide, again, what to submit to the state, and then hold yet _another_ (fourth) public hearing to review the next proposal.
what would be truly beneficial is for the Commission to pay attention to the indian community's previous contributions at past hearings (including posting the testimony/minutes of those two hearings) and review the submissions by the indian community rather than shutting their ears, eyes and minds and going backwards to a defective recognition criteria. nobody is making the Commission look incompetent other than itself when it submitted defective rules to the state for review. the "us and we" gave our input to the Commission over the past two years, and it has been ignored. - should we expect anything different from more hearings?
this criticism is intended to be instructional and constructive. we are in the same position as we were two years ago: a defective 1990 recognition criteria on the table. the -only- difference is that one organization has taken the time to respond to the indian community's critique of the 1990 recognition criteria, drafted the major corrections, and submitted it to the Commission for review. and it was summarily rejected. ask yourself: - what does the Commission's rejection of public input at the past hearings and rejection of the only valid recognition-criteria proposal teach us? easy - it teaches us that the Commission is on a different path than the statewide indian community.
what is the resistance to the ACTIA proposal? that it's "too wordy"? that a version of it contained a typo? that the Commission didn't want to make its own amendments to it? that third-party genealogical certification of genealogies submitted to non-genealogists costs too much?
- the ACTIA Recognition Criteria is a rewrite of old problematic rules. it has slightly more words in it (142 or 6.1%) than the legislation that created the Commission. if a public servant, a political appointee, has a problem reading and understanding the 2223 words of the law that governs their state agency, or a problem reading and understanding 142 more words that better define who and what will be recognized as indian in the state of Tennessee, that person should not be a state commissioner representing indian people.
- 1189 words - 1990 Recognition Criteria
2365 words - 2005 ACTIA Recognition Criteria proposal
2223 words - 2003 TNCIA authorizing legislation
[legal references ("Authority", "Original rule filed ...") removed]
- typos can and should be fixed. they shouldn't prevent passage of a good proposal, nor should they be used as an excuse for not passing a good proposal.
- the Commission exists to improve things, and showed that it could amend the 1990 recognition criteria by adding a $20 fee. the Commissioners were completely capable of amending the ACTIA recognition proposal accordingly, but chose not to. - why? they don't say.
- the Commission is not composed of genealogical and historical experts, yet they are putting themselves in the position of determining genealogical and historical fact from fancy through the creation of recognition criteria. - should the indian community and the State accept neophytes and amateurs making determinations about genealogical and historical fact for which they have had little or no training? no. third-party certification of genealogical materials is the only way that i know of for the Commission, the people they represent and the State (all second parties) to trust that the Commission's decisions about tribes, organizations and individuals petitioning for recognition (the first party) are credible. yes, professional certification costs the petitioner, but it's either make the petitioners pay the financial costs up front, or kill the Commission in a year with a total lack of credibility. personally, i prefer keeping a credible Commission.
bottom line: we all should be working on improving the ACTIA-proposed recognition criteria, not the 1990 recognition criteria that the Commission submitted to the State that will never pass.