Government watchdog questions tribe's recognition

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A government watchdog is criticizing an official's decision to grant a Central California American Indian tribe federal recognition, which gave it the right to federal benefits and a reservation where it could pursue a casino.

The federal Office of Inspector General said in a report Tuesday that it found no discernible process followed by then-Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk to recognize the Tejon Indian Tribe.

The tribe's headquarters are around Bakersfield. Tribal chairwoman Kathy Morgan said she had not yet seen the report.

The Office of Inspector General forwarded its findings to the Interior Secretary for "any action deemed appropriate."

In a January 2012 letter explaining his decision, Echo Hawk said tribes omitted from the recognition list because of an administrative error did not always have to go through the formal recognition process.