06/25/14

Federal Recognition Proposal Praised — Except for CT’s ‘Third Party’ Veto

By Gale Courey Toensing

Indian country has welcomed a set of proposed regulations to reform the federal recognition process, but a provision that would hand third parties veto power to quash a tribe’s request for reconsideration of its petition is raising an outcry that political influence from Connecticut politicians is once again tainting the process.

Interior’s Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (ASIA) Kevin Washburn announced the publication of the proposed regulations Thursday (April 22). The proposal follows up on draft regulations issued last June that were widely applauded in Indian country as the best thing to happen in decades to a system that’s been described as “broken, long, expensive, burdensome, intrusive, unfair, arbitrary and capricious, less than transparent, unpredictable, and subject to undue political influence and manipulation.” . . .

. . . “By allowing the third party consent to decide the fate of the tribes, the third parties are no longer participants, but they’ve now become the judge,” STN Chief Richard Velky said. “I know ASIA Kevin Washburn is trying to do good for Indian country. I believe the BIA needs to make some changes, but this isn’t change we can believe in. This is political influence – corruption – by the state of Connecticut that went into the White House and got third party veto power over a tribe’s right to ask for reconsideration based on the merits of its petition under the revised regulations.” . . .

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/05/25/federal-recognition-proposal-praised-except-cts-third-party-veto-155024

 

 

 

06/23/14

Federal Recognition Process: A Culture of Neglect

By Gale Courey Toensing

. . .“The recognition process is a broken system that needs to be reformed,” Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and newly elected president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), said in his opening remarks at the conference. Cladoosby said he told Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently to fix the broken process. “I said, ‘Take the 19th and 20th century rules and regulations that are paternalistic and fit them for the Natives that we have today,’” he said. The federal acknowledgment process is critically important, Cladoosby said. “Put simply, federal acknowledgment empowers tribes to govern and provide the services and stability their people need in order to preserve their culture. The failure to acknowledge a historical tribe is a failure of the trust responsibility and contributes to the destruction of tribal culture.”

The conference focused on the challenges faced by unrecognized tribes and covered all aspects of federal recognition, including its history, the administrative process, current issues, and proposed new rules and regulations that would reform the process – a discussion presented by the BIA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Larry Roberts. Several tribal leaders, like Gumbs, and tribal representatives told their tribes’ stories.

The BIA’s own numbers tell its story. Since 1978 when the FAP was established 356 “groups” have sought federal acknowledgment. Of that number, 269 have not submitted documented petitions. Of the 87 that have submitted documented petitions, the agency has resolved 55 and 19 have been resolved by Congress or other means.

“Resolved” doesn’t mean the groups were given federal acknowledgment. Of the 55 resolved, 17 were acknowledged and 34 were denied. The remaining four had their status “clarified” by other means.

Although the number of unrecognized tribes was not pinned down at the conference, the Government Accountability Office identified approximately 400 non-federally recognized tribes in a study it conducted in 2012 on federal funding for unrecognized tribes. The study found that 26 non-federally recognized tribes received funding from 24 federal programs during fiscal years 2007 through 2010. Most of the 26 non-federally recognized tribes were eligible to receive this funding either because of their status as nonprofit organizations or state-recognized tribes.

State recognition didn’t help two Connecticut tribes – the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) or the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nations (EPTN) – hold on to their status as federally recognized tribes. Ruth Torres, an STN citizen, described the campaign of political influence that ultimately resulted in the unprecedented reversal of both tribes’ federal acknowledgment. . .

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/01/23/federal-recognition-process-culture-neglect-153206

 

 

 

06/22/14

BIA latest recognition proposal is blow to CT tribes

By Ana Radelat 

. . . But, in what Jones said was political pressure from Connecticut officials, the BIA changed a previous draft of the proposal to include language that says, in order to renew their claims, tribes whose bids for federal recognition have been rejected must receive approval from those who previously opposed their recognition.

That would make it very difficult for the Eastern Pequot of North Stonington, the Golden Hill Paugussett of Colchester and Trumbull, and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Kent, to make another application. Their bids for federal recognition were rejected and the entire Connecticut political establishment has, for years, opposed the tribes’ recognition and still does – strongly.

The BIA’s new proposed rules say “an entity that previously petitioned and was denied federal acknowledgment” including a reconstituted tribe or splinter group, can reapply only if “any third parties that participated as a party in an administrative reconsideration or federal court appeal concerning the petitioner has consented in writing to the re-petitioning” and the tribe meets other requirements in the proposed regulations.

“It’s clearly an indication of influence peddling,” Jones said of the restrictive language. . .

Read more: http://ctmirror.org/bia-latest-recognition-proposal-is-blow-to-ct-tribes/

 

06/11/14

CONNECTICUT STATE OFFICIALS OPPOSE LOCAL TRIBE’S BID FOR FEDERAL RECOGNITION

From FSRN – 

. . . The Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, DC, has issued a draft proposal that would make it significantly easier for tribes to win federal recognition — and all the benefits that go along with that. But Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy wrote to President Barack Obama requesting that three state-recognized tribes that have already lost their bids for federal recognition not be allowed to automatically qualify under the new rules, and the latest draft of the new regulations includes a provision that would give the state veto power over any application that is made by these tribes. The three tribes have cried political interference — again — and an expert on Indian law says they have a good case. Melinda Tuhus reports from New Haven.

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has 278 members and a 400-acre reservation in the northwest corner of Connecticut in the upscale town of Kent. Their ancestral lands comprised hundreds of square miles between the Hudson River in New York and the Housatonic River in Connecticut, featuring dense forests, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.

Chief Richard Velky says the tribe began its quest for federal recognition in 1981 and has hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation to show for its initially successful application. He says designation would give the Schaghticokes more autonomy than they currently have, along with other benefits like “housing for our elders, health care for our tribal members, educational programs.” Velky adds that a casino could also be an option, but that wasn’t the motivation for pursuing recognition. . .

Read more: http://fsrn.org/2014/06/connecticut-state-officials-oppose-local-tribes-bid-for-federal-recognition/

06/10/14

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

06/9/14

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

05/22/14

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

07/31/13

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.

07/19/13

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