I tend to try to ignore the business of politics, but when it crosses into New England Gaming, I have to have my say. Yes, our politicians are supposed to represent the people – unless, they were the original inhabitants. These people have to be federally recognized by their methods that they devise, depending on who’s bending their ear at the time.
Part 1 – Previous drafts that allowed of the Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations to recognize the Mashentucket Pequots and Mohegan tribes to be federally recognized, denied recognition to three tribes in CT – The Eastern Pequots, The Golden Hill Paugusetts, and the Shaghticokes.
Part 2 – But this spring, an early draft of the regulations suggested that three unrecognized but generally reputed to be tribal nations would now stand a good chance of winning coveted federal acknowledgment. The current standard of proof requires the tribes to show they have been a community since first contact with settlers. In Connecticut, that could go back to the 1600s. The proposed change would move that date up to 1934. The odds are better than ever for three state recognized tribes fighting for federal recognition, despite state and federal political leaders opposing it. “This could mean more tribal nations and more casinos!” politicians say. The Eastern Pequots in North Stonington, the Golden Hill Paugussetts in Colchester and Trumbull and the Schaghticokes in Kent are almost guaranteed federal recognition if the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs goes through with a draft proposal changing the dates tribes are required to prove they have been continually socially and politically active from.
Part 3 – Former Congressmen Robert Steele continues to malign the decision for the two CT casinos, implying the charity Vegas night loophole “seduced this small New England town” with it’s big bad casino. He continues to warn other New England areas, such as Springfield, MA – yet, Mr. Steele continues to push his book to make a living. Oddly enough, isn’t that what these down-trodden tribes are also trying to do?
Part 4 – the BIA changed a previous draft, due to pressure from Dan Malloy and other politicians, 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. An Eastern Pequot leader said Friday that his tribe plans to move forward with its attempt to win federal recognition, despite a provision in a new Bureau of Indian Affairs proposal aimed blocking that effort in Connecticut. “This was clearly a slap at the Connecticut tribes,” said James Benny Jones Jr., an Eastern Pequot tribal elder and the tribe’s lawyer.
Politics, politics, politics. When the largest two casinos in the western hemisphere (until recent years) opened, and revenue poured in, it was greeted as a great financial boost for CT. I’m sure Mr. Steele didn’t pay more than he needed in taxes to prove his anti-casino agenda. Most of CT turned the other cheek, enjoying the additional revenue. Foxwoods, for example, operated as a full casino with slots and table games in 1993. The casino agreed to pay 25 percent of their slot revenue to the state of Connecticut, a sum that amounts to almost $200 million per year, until the recession and casinos expansion from New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island began to erode this take. In the fiscal year ending June 2008, Foxwoods’ 6,300 slots handled more than $9.1 billion
BUT, the recent revision by the BIA, influenced by CT officials, makes it harder once again for the addition of tribal recognition in Connecticut.
It happened before – The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation achieved federal recognition in 2004 before political pressure and a court appeal brought a rare reversal one year later.
The BIA’s change to the previous draft of the proposal says that, basically, 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. But that would make it nearly impossible for CT tribes seeking recognitions for decades and beaten down by government each time. Now they have to back and ask the same nay-Sayers again?
What does it mean if those three tribes were able to be recognized? Sure, it will probably include a casino or two. But how about housing, education and health benefits of federal recognition would secure the future and longevity of these people.
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-petition.”
Highly unlikely, if you ask me.
That’s all for now.