The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) said "nyet" to the Nipmucs on Friday, probably ending the plans of the Indian Nation to build a casino in central Massachusetts with money provided by Lakes Gaming Inc. (LACO).
Also denied federal recognition, in addition to the Hassanamisco band of Nipmucs, was the neighboring Chaubunagungamaug band of Nipmucs, also of Massachusetts, and the controversial Golden Hill Paugussetts of Connecticut.
According to the federal decision, the larger Sutton-based Nipmucs could prove that only 11 of the more than 500 members descended from the tribe that was prominent in southern New England many years ago. And its sister tribe, the Dudley-based Nipmucs failed to show that it had maintained itself as a tribal entity over the generations.
Although the Nipmucs, who have been seeking recognition for the past 25 years, said they would appeal the decision, officials noted that appeals of this nature have consistently failed in the past. "We lost the battle but the war is not over," tribal council chairwoman Frances Richardson Garnett said at a new conference. An attorney for the tribe added, "What the BIA has done here is changed the rules in the middle of the game."
As for Lakes Gaming, the company indicated it had spent some $4 million in its effort to get its casino partner federally recognized.
The Connecticut decision was considered a victory for federal and state officials who had lobbied hard to discourage recognition of the Golden Hill Paugussetts. The BIA said the tribe’s petition failed to satisfy four of the seven criteria needed for recognition. They also failed to prove they descended from a historical tribe and that they continuously existed as a political and social community.
The tribe’s recognition efforts began in 1982 with the BIA rejecting its initial petition in 1996.
Repercussions are expected to result from the decision. The Paugussetts claim land of about 700,000 acres stretches from throughout Connecticut and into Westchester County in New York.