Connecticut Attacks Proposed Fed Rec Revisions, Fears Land Claims, Casinos

 By Christina Rose

. . . Malloy’s list of complaints states, “In Connecticut, reservations have been maintained simply because there are descendants of the groups for which the reservations were first established,” implying the tribal members are merely descendants.

Malloy complained that the new regulations favor the tribes rather than the state and that giving federal recognition to the tribes now would overturn previous court decisions.

Ruth Garby Torres, Schaghticoke, author of a chapter in the book, Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the United States: A Sourcebook, said that in her opinion, the state is afraid of gaming expansion based on outdated information. Torres said the Schaghticokes are well aware the Kent area is not appropriate for casinos and destructive planning. She said, “People are afraid of traffic, crime, disrupting the beauty of the area, the lack of control, building something without the town’s zoning influence. What is not being discussed is, that’s our land. We see the beauty, too! Why do you think we would do that?” . . .

Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/10/connecticut-attacks-proposed-fed-rec-revisions-fears-land-claims-casinos-155223


Velky to Washburn: Third Party Fed Rec Veto Is Unconstitutional

By Gale Courey Toensing

A proposal granting a third party veto power over a tribe’s effort to re-petition for federal recognition is unconstitutional, according to the chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

In a May 27 letter to the Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (ASIA) Kevin Washburn, Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) Chief Richard Velky said that the discussion draft of changes to the federal recognition regulations issued last spring was well received in Indian country. But not so with the proposed regulations announced in May, which included a new supplemental provision giving third parties that have been involved in litigation against tribes veto power over those tribes’ right to re-petition. Tribes would have to go to the same third party that fought its federal recognition at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals and/or in federal court to get their consent before re-petitioning. In Connecticut, which has fought indigenous sovereignty for almost 400 years, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none, Indian leaders say.

Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/09/velky-washburn-third-party-fed-rec-veto-unconstitutional-155211


Battles Brewing Over Proposed Tribal-Recognition Rules

From the National Journal

. . . The Connecticut officials’ reaction comes amid concerns about its potential impact on the state’s current gambling agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes—which are already operating casinos there—and could further erode the state’s tax base.

The Eastern Pequot of North Stonington, the Golden Hill Paugussett of Colchester and Trumbull, and the Schaghticoke of Kent are reported to be among the tribes in that state that have been fighting for years to get federal recognition. . .

Read more: http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/battles-brewing-over-proposed-tribal-recognition-rules-20140522


Discussion Draft – Chief Velky BIA Comments

In June of 2013, The Department of the Interiors Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs issued a Discussion Draft proposing revisions to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) process for federal acknowledgment of Indian Tribes (25 CFR Part 83).

The State of Connecticut disagreed with Assistant Secretary Kevin K. Washburn proposed new rule changes in a letter sent from Governor Malloy dated February 24, 2014.  Accompanying his letter was a three page explanation of the state’s opposition to the recognition of tribes by requiring that all involved third parties consent to a tribe’s application regardless of the historical facts that support the tribe’s petition for recognition (see Governor Malloy’s letter to President Obama).

On May 22, 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn announced publication of the proposed regulations.  As part of the revisions made in the proposed regulations,  the US government is attempting to block the recognition of tribes by requiring that all involved third parties consent to a tribe’s application regardless of the historical facts that support the tribe’s petition for recognition.

On May 27, 2014, Chief Velky commended Assistant Secretary Washburn in putting forth the new rule changes (see Chief Velky’s letter to Assistant Secretary Washburn). While objecting to a third party veto power over a tribe’s effort to repetition for federal acknowledgement, he believes the new rule changes do not comport with the due process and equal protection principles of our Constitution.  Chief Velky believes the Constitution does not provide for a state or its political subdivisions to exercise an absolute veto over the exercise of the constitutional authority.

On July 29, 2014, a public comment session was held at the Mashpee Reservation in Massachusetts in which tribal leaders voiced their opinions regarding the discussion draft for proposed revisions to the BIA process for federal recognition of Indian tribes (25 CFR Part 83). Video recordings of Chief Velky and Anthropologist Steve Austin can be viewed in the Press and Media tab.


Blumenthal Stirs Opposition to Federal Recognition – Again

By Gale Courey Toensing

It didn’t take long for the Connecticut official who was once called “the enemy of Indian country” to start stirring up opposition to proposed revisions to the federal acknowledgment process.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal organized a meeting in his Connecticut office on July 9 office to rouse local and state officials into fighting a “Preliminary Discussion Draft” of potential changes to the federal acknowledgment regulations. The draft was released just two weeks earlier by Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. It was enthusiastically received by tribal leaders and others at the National Congress of American Indian’s Federal Recognition Task Force during the organizations’ mid-year conference in Reno, Nevada, at the end of June.

The news that Blumenthal was working to undermine Washburn’s proposal was announced in a newspaper report datelined Kent, Connecticut, where the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has a 400-acre reservation and a pending land claim under the 1790 Indian Trade and Nonintercourse Act for some 2,000-plus acres, including hundreds of acres used by Kent School, a private prep school. “Town, school gird for fight: Legal battle looms on tribal recognition,” in the Republican American reported on a Kent Board of Selectmen’s meeting July 2 when First Selectman Bruce Adams shared a three-page document called “Talking Points – Proposal Will Change BIA Rules and Award Federal Tribal Status to Previously Denied Tribal Groups in CT” and announced he would attend a meeting the next week at Blumenthal’s office to discuss the proposed changes to the federal acknowledgment process…

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/19/blumenthal-stirs-opposition-federal-recognition-again-150496



WSJ: Connecticut, Tribes Collide on Federal Rule

Joseph De Avila authored a column in the Wall Street Journal on the Indian tribes of Connecticut and the potential BIA rule change:

“…Under one proposal being considered by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, a tribe could bypass other requirements of the complex federal-recognition process if it has held a state-recognized reservation since 1934. The current rules are tougher: Tribes need to document they have been a distinct community with political authority since first contact with European settlers. The change could ease federal recognition for the three Connecticut tribes, which have struggled to document a continuous history. Two of the three tribes have won federal recognition in the past, but lost it after the state appealed…”

Chief Velky is featured in the article. Continue reading here: WSJ_Tribes Collide on Federal Rule.



White House Council on Native American Affairs Begins Implementing President’s National Policy Initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today convened the inaugural meeting of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, launching President Obama’s national policy initiative to make federal agencies work more collaboratively and effectively with federally recognized tribes to advance their vital economic and social priorities.

“Today’s meeting underscores President Obama’s commitment to build effective partnerships with American Indian and Alaska Native communities and make the federal government work more efficiently to find solutions to the challenges facing Indian Country,” said Jewell. “I am honored to play a role in the President’s initiative to maximize federal efforts to support the tribes as they tackle pressing issues, such as educational achievement and economic development. The federal government’s unique trust relationship with tribes as well as the Nation’s legal and treaty obligations call for a priority effort to promote prosperous and resilient communities.”

Today’s discussions focused on initial efforts to implement President Obama’s executive order that established the White House Council on Native American Affairs. Joining Secretary Jewell at the White House meeting were Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The Council, which includes more than 30 federal departments and agencies, coordinates the Administration’s engagement with tribal governments and works across executive departments, agencies and offices to develop policy recommendations and expand efforts to leverage federal programs and resources available to tribal communities.

The Council, which will meet at least three times a year, will focus its efforts on advancing five priorities that mirror the issues tribal leaders have raised during previous White House Tribal Nations Conferences:

1) promoting sustainable economic development;
2) supporting greater access to and control over healthcare;
3) improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems;
4) expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and
5) protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments, and natural resources.

The Executive Order that established the Council also institutionalized the White House Tribal Nation Conference as an annual event. Held each year since the President came into office, the conferences have brought together leaders from all federally recognized tribes with Cabinet members and senior Administration officials.  President Obama has hosted the conference four times since 2009.

The President’s national policy initiative advances his Administration’s concerted efforts to restore and heal relations with Native Americans and strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship between the United States and tribal governments, bolstering the federal policies of self-determination and self-governance that will help American Indian and Alaska Native leaders build and sustain their own communities.

Pictures from today’s meeting are available here.


Hartford Courant Joins Blumenthal’s Anti-Indian Campaign

By Gale Courey Toensing

It’s the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. George Washington placed an ad in it to lease part of his Mount Vernon land. Thomas Jefferson sued it for libel and lost. Mark Twain tried to buy stock in it, but was rejected. It’s Connecticut’s largest daily newspaper. And now it’s joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other elected officials in a racist anti-Indian campaign against reforming the federal recognition process – all in an effort to stop additional Connecticut tribes from being acknowledged and opening casinos.
The Hartford Courant, which began as a weekly in 1764, published an editorial August 8 warning against a draft proposal of changes to the Interior Department’s federal acknowledgment process that Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn released June 21.

Blumenthal is leading the campaign in opposition to the reform effort in order to stop the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN) and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) from possibly regaining the federal acknowledgments they received in 2002 and 2004, respectively. The acknowledgments were overturned in 2005 after Blumenthal led a relentless and orchestrated campaign of opposition and political pressure involving local and state elected officials and an anti-Indian sovereignty group and its powerful White house-connected lobbyist, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR). An Indian Country Today Media Network editorial, “A Lack of Interior Fortitude,” describes “the force of outside pressure” and its impact across the country…



Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Seeks to Regain Rightful Status

By Gale Courey Toensing

A superior court judge has ordered a non-Indian man to leave the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation reservation in northwest Connecticut, where he has cut down dozens of trees and has damaged acres of land. In addition to evicting the man, the ruling also settles a long-running dispute over the tribe’s governance and leadership, affirming that the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, not a faction that calls itself the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe, is the tribe’s legitimate governing authority.

But equally important, says Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky, the ruling will help the nation in its campaign to regain federal acknowledgment. That recognition—granted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on January 29, 2004—was revoked in an unprecedented move by the BIA in 2005, after a relentless 18-month lobbying campaign by Connecticut politicians and the very powerful lobbyist for a group of wealthy anti-casino landowners, Barbour Griffith & Rodgers, and at least a dozen municipalities in the state. Connecticut Federal District Judge Peter Dorsey dismissed the tribe’s appeal of the reversal in 2008, based largely on the fact that he believed federal decision-makers who said they were not affected by the tsunami of political pressure put on them. That political influencing was so blatant and the reversal-process so notorious that one Indian law attorney in Washington recently called it “a shameful example of all that’s wrong with the federal recognition process.” . . .

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/05/31/schaghticoke-tribal-nation-seeks-regain-rightful-status-35230