[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 15 (Thursday, January 23, 2014)]
[Pages 3859-3860]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-01353]



Bureau of Indian Affairs


Proposed Finding Against Acknowledgment of the Meherrin Indian 

AGENCY: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of proposed finding.


SUMMARY: The Department of the Interior (Department) gives notice that 
the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs (AS-IA) proposes to determine 
that the petitioner known as the ``Meherrin Indian Tribe'' (MTB), 
Petitioner 119b, is not an Indian tribe within the meaning of 
Federal law. This notice is based on an investigation which determined 
that the petitioner does not satisfy criterion 83.7(e) as set forth in 
the applicable regulations, and therefore, does not meet the 
requirements for a government-to-government relationship with the 
United States.

DATES: Comments on this proposed finding (PF) are due on or before July 
22, 2014. The petitioner then has a minimum of 60 days to respond to 
those comments. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this 
notice for more information about these dates.

ADDRESSES: Comments on the PF and requests for a copy of the summary 
evaluation which summarizes the evidence, reasoning, and analysis that 
are the basis for the PF should be addressed to the Office of Federal 
Acknowledgment, 1951 Constitution Avenue NW., MS 34B-SIB, Washington, 
DC 20240. The Federal Register notice is also available through http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/OFA/RecentCases/index.htm. Interested or 
informed parties must send a copy of their comments to the petitioner 
at Meherrin Indian Tribe c/o Wayne Brown, P.O. Box 274, Ahoskie, NC 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: R. Lee Fleming, Director, Office of 
Federal Acknowledgment, (202) 513-7650.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Department publishes this notice in the 
exercise of authority that the Secretary of the Interior delegated to 
the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs (AS-IA) by 209 DM 8.
    A Meherrin Indian Tribe organization formed in 1976 and obtained 
State recognition from North Carolina in 1986. In 1990, the group 
submitted to the AS-IA a letter of intent to petition for Federal 
acknowledgment as an Indian tribe. The Department received the letter 
of intent on August 2, 1990, and designated the group as Petitioner 
119. A part of Petitioner 119 submitted a separate 
letter of intent and partial petition documentation that the Department 
received on June 27, 1995. The Department designated the original 
petitioner as 119a and the subsequent petitioner as 
119b. This PF evaluates Petitioner 119b (MTB).
    Petitioner 119b initially claimed to constitute the 
descendants of Sallie M. (Smith) Lewis (b.ca.1844-d.1904) of Hertford 
County, NC. The petitioner identified her as ``the last full-blooded 
Meherrin Indian'' or ``Susquehanna'' Indian who migrated as an adult 
from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. The petitioner's 2011 submission 
of petition documentation identified a 1994 master's thesis as its 
official history. The thesis does not describe the modern-day members 
as descendants of Sallie M. (Smith) Lewis but as descendants of the 
Iroquois-speaking historical Meherrin Indian tribe that, it claims, in 
the mid-1700s left its reservation adjoining the Meherrin and Chowan 
Rivers in what is now Hertford County, NC, and continued to reside 
nearby on Potecasi Creek.
    For the purposes of this PF, the historical Indian tribe is the 
Meherrin Indian tribe that was last identified in North Carolina about 
1763. The Assistant Secretary has directed that, if an Indian tribe 
existed in 1789, the petitioner needs to demonstrate its ``continuous 
tribal existence'' from such a historical Indian tribe only for the 
period since 1789 (AS-IA 5/23/2008). The evidence in the petition 
record, however, does not demonstrate that the Meherrin Indian tribe, 
or a group that evolved from it, existed in 1789. In response to this 
PF, the petitioner may submit evidence to show it has evolved as a 
group from the Meherrin Indian tribe whose existence was last noted 
about 1763. Alternatively, the petitioner may provide evidence that a 
historical Meherrin Indian tribe, or another historical Indian tribe, 
existed in 1789, and that since 1789 the petitioner has continued the 
existence of that historical Indian tribe or has evolved as a group 
from that historical Indian tribe.
    The Department conducted a technical assistance review of the 
partial petition and issued Petitioner 119b a letter on March 
15, 1996, describing the petition's lack of evidence under all seven of 
the mandatory criteria. The petitioner provided additional petition 
documentation on August 22, 1997. The OFA advised the MTB that its 
continued lack of evidence demonstrating descent from the historical 
tribe--required under criterion 83.7(e)--meant that the Department 
could proceed to conduct an expedited review under 83.10(e) that would 
result in a finding against Federal acknowledgment. However, since the 
MTB governing body advised that its petition was complete, the 
Department placed Petitioner 119b on the ``ready, waiting for 
active consideration'' list on October 6, 1997. An OFA genealogist made 
a field visit in February 1998.
    The OFA conducted informal technical assistance with MTB 
representatives in Washington, DC, in February 2008. The Department 
placed the MTB petitioner on active consideration on November 1, 2010. 
The AS-IA's March 31, 2005, guidance directive provides for a 60-day 
period after notification that a petitioner will be placed on active 
consideration during which a petitioner may update and supplement its 
documented petition. The MTB petitioner submitted additional petition 
documentation within the extended 60-day period, which ended February 
14, 2011. On June 21, 2013, the AS-IA announced a ``preliminary 
discussion draft of potential revisions to Part 83.'' By letter dated 
May 31, 2013, the Department provided the petitioner the option to 
request a suspension of consideration of its petition during the 
process of revising the regulations or to continue under the existing 
Part 83 regulations. By letter dated July 13, 2013, received at OFA on 
July 22, Petitioner 119b requested to proceed with a FD under 
the existing regulations.
    The acknowledgment process is based on the regulations at 25 CFR 
part 83. Under these regulations, the petitioner

[[Page 3860]]

has the burden to present evidence that it meets the mandatory criteria 
in section 83.7. Petitioner 119b does not meet criterion 
83.7(e), which requires that the petitioner's members descend from a 
historical Indian tribe or tribes that combined and functioned as a 
single autonomous political entity. Pursuant to guidance issued in 
2008, the proposed finding is issued on the basis of Petitioner's 
failure to satisfy 83.7(e). See 73 Fed. Reg. 30146, 30148 (May 23, 
2008). If following an evaluation of the evidence and argument 
submitted during the comment period it is determined that the 
petitioner meets the criterion, then the Assistant Secretary will issue 
an amended proposed finding evaluating all seven criteria.
    The petitioner submitted a membership list, separately certified by 
its governing body in February 2011, identifying 203 adult and minor 
members. As required under criterion 83.7(e), the membership list 
furnished each member's full name (including maiden name), date of 
birth, and residential address, with minor omissions. The current 
members represent part of the larger group to which North Carolina 
provided recognition as a tribe in 1986. The evidence does not 
demonstrate that Sallie M. (Smith) Lewis or the historical landowners 
allegedly near Potecasi Creek were Indian, Meherrin Indian, or members 
of a Meherrin Indian or other Indian tribe. The petitioner has not 
documented, nor has the OFA identified, a historical Indian tribe, or 
tribes that combined, from which its members descend. The petitioner 
also has not provided sufficient evidence to verify descent from those 
individuals it asserted were Meherrin. The evidence in the record does 
not demonstrate that any of the petitioner's members descend from a 
historical Indian tribe. Therefore, the petitioner does not meet the 
requirements of criterion 83.7(e).
    Based on this preliminary factual determination, the Department 
proposes not to extend Federal acknowledgment as an Indian tribe to 
Petitioner 119b known as the Meherrin Indian Tribe. A report 
summarizing the evidence, reasoning, and analyses that are the basis 
for the PF will be provided to the petitioner and interested parties, 
and is available to other parties upon written request as provided by 
25 CFR 83.10(h). Requests for a copy of the summary evaluation should 
be addressed to the Federal Government as instructed in the ADDRESSES 
section of this notice. The summary evaluation and the Federal Register 
notice are also available through http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/OFA/RecentCases/index.htm.
    Publication of this notice of the PF in the Federal Register 
initiates a 180-day comment period during which the petitioner and 
interested and informed parties may submit arguments and evidence to 
support or rebut the evidence relied upon in the PF. Comments on the PF 
should be addressed to both the petitioner and the Federal Government 
as required by 25 CFR 83.10(i) and as instructed in the ADDRESSES 
section of this notice by the date listed in the DATES section of this 
    Commenters should be aware that personal identifying information in 
their comments--such as address, telephone number, or email address--
may be made publicly available at any time. Commenters may request that 
the Department withhold any personal identifying information from 
public review, but the Department cannot guarantee that it can do so.
    During the comment period, the Meherrin petitioner and the 
interested parties may request in writing that the AS-IA hold a formal, 
on-the-record technical assistance meeting as provided by the 
acknowledgment regulations at 25 CFR 83.10(j)(2). Such requests must 
include a proposed agenda of topics and must be received by the 
Department within 60 calendar days of the publication of this Federal 
Register notice.
    The regulations, 25 CFR 83.10(k), provide the petitioner a minimum 
of 60 days to respond to any submissions on the PF received from 
interested and informed parties during the comment period. After the 
expiration of the comment and response periods described above, the 
Department will consult with the petitioner concerning establishment of 
a schedule for preparation of the final determination (FD). The AS-IA 
will publish the FD of the petitioner's status in the Federal Register 
as provided in 25 CFR 83.10(l), at a time that is consistent with that 

    Dated: January 16, 2014.
Kevin K. Washburn,
Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2014-01353 Filed 1-22-14; 8:45 am]