Tribal legitimacy questioned

Mar 16, 2004 6:01 AM

The legitimacy of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Connecticut was questioned by state officials last week when it was learned that the tribe did not meet the required standards but still received federal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A BIA staff memo that showed the agency’s director how to recognize the tribe even though it failed to meet all the criteria required for federal approval surfaced last week and was distributed by court order to all interested parties

Of course, these parties included both state and federal officials who have fought vigorously to prevent the Schaghticokes from being recognized to prevent them from building a casino in the Kent area. The state already is home to two of the world’s most successful casinos, Foxwoods Resort and the Mohegan Sun.

State Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal described the staff memo as "almost like a road map for committing robbery”¦these are the regulations you have to disregard.

He added, "This document comes about as close to a smoking gun as we have seen."

Federal recognition would give the 273-member tribe access to funding for education, health care and housing. But, the biggest complaint from state officials is the tribe’s intent to build a casino.

Opponents said the memo shows that the BIA knew the tribe lacked the required evidence of "political influence" for 64 years in the 19th and 20th centuries. The five page memo also noted that people who had not joined the tribe were on the tribe’s membership list.

Intently observing the activity is the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe. The bureau’s loosening of the rules could also substantially boost the chances for that tribe’s recognition.

But, in Blumenthal’s view, the discovery of the memo should help the state in its appeal of the Schaghticokes’ recognition.