03/27/15

In A Rare Moment, Blumenthal Agrees With Chief Velky

Gale Courey Toensing writes in Indian Country Today:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) rarely, if ever, agrees with Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky about anything having to do with federal recognition, but that rare moment has arrived.

Blumenthal, Connecticut’s former attorney general, now says that a third party veto provision he helped insert into the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ proposed revisions of the federal recognition rules is unconstitutional, the Connecticut Mirror reported. Velky said the same thing a year ago.

The provision would give third parties that were involved in litigation against tribes veto power over those tribes’ right to re-petition for federal recognition under the revised rules. A tribe 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 consent to re-petition. In Connecticut, which has fought indigenous sovereignty for almost 400 years, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none, Indian leaders say.

“I’ve argued, and so have other parties, that [the third party veto] raises very severe constitutional questions,” said Blumenthal, who has successfully fought federal recognition of Connecticut’s three state recognized tribes – the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN), the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN) and the Golden Hill Paugussett Indians (GHP)…

Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/03/27/blumenthal-flip-flops-federal-rec-third-party-veto-159772

10/9/14

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch Vouches For Reform Of Federal Recognition Process

Mayor Bill Finch | www.bridgeportct.gov

Mayor Bill Finch | www.bridgeportct.gov

By Gale Courey Toensing for Indian Country Today Media Network

. . . The mayor of Connecticut’s biggest city has written to the Bureau of Indian Affairs applauding the agency’s proposed new regulations for the federal acknowledgment process. The proposed regulations aim to reform a system that almost everyone has described as “broken” for the past two decades.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch objected to one item in the BIA proposal, however — a provision that would prevent the federal government from reconsidering the petitions of three tribes the state has recognized since the 17th and early 18th centuries when it started expropriating their lands. The provision would give third parties the power to stop tribes that have been denied recognition to seek reconsideration under the new regulations.

“If, as you say in your announcement released on May 22nd, that ‘Reform of the process is long-overdue’ and that a number of tribes were denied recognition under the current regulations, those tribes should be afforded due process under the revised provisions,” Finch wrote in a short letter to Interior Department Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn on September 30. That was the last day of the comment period, which Washburn had extended for 60 days from its original August 30 deadline.

“A third party should not receive veto powers concerning reconsideration. That is not a state’s rights issue or the province of an individual or corporation,” Finch continued. “Rather, the third party should be offered the opportunity to submit documentation in the acknowledgment process that documents why a petitioner has not fulfilled the criteria for acknowledgment. All parties should receive appropriate notice but the regulations must address the Federal relationship with the Native American tribe without the outright denial by a third party without necessarily evaluating the facts of the petitioner.”

Finch’s support for Indian nations is at odds with the state’s entire congressional delegation of two senators, five representatives, Gov. Dannel Malloy, State Attorney General George Jepson and a coalition of town mayors and selectmen – all led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who has been an Indian fighter for more than 20 years. . .

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/10/09/voice-reason-connecticuts-anti-fed-rec-wilderness-157266

08/4/14

Washburn Hears Frustration, Anger Over Third Party Federal Recognition Veto

By Gale Courey Toensing

. . . Around 100 people attending a public session on the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ proposed new rules for federal recognition broke into spontaneous applause when Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Dennis Jenkins spoke against a controversial provision that would allow certain third parties to veto a tribe’s ability to re-petition for federal status.

“This [proposal] is not only morally reprehensible; it is also arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with the laws of the United States. … It is the worst kind of modern day genocide,” Jenkins said, as the crowd cheered, whooped and whistled . . .

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/08/04/washburn-hears-frustration-anger-over-third-party-fed-rec-veto-156207?page=0%2C0

05/23/14

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

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05/19/13

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

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