Earlier in July, Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head tribal officials announced that they plan to convert an unfinished community center on the island into a gambling venue. Let’s be real, this is not a world-class casino proposal. The building, which spreads over 6,500 square feet, is located on Aquinnah Wampanoag reservation land, was intended to be a Class II Bingo hall.
But the tribe was ordered by a federal judge to stop the construction of a building located on Martha’s Vineyard. Why?
1) the tribe started construction work without acquiring the necessary building permit, and 2) under certain zoning restrictions, a casino venue is prohibited from being opened there.
Also, according to local officials, the tribe forfeited its right to offer gaming on their land when they signed a land settlement agreement in 1983, an act that subjects them to state and local laws.
In order to prevent the tribe from proceeding with its plan, Aquinnah officials had filed an injunction to the U.S. District Court. Scott D. Crowell, lawyer for the Aquinnah Wampanoag, argued during a Tuesday hearing on the matter that authorities’ jurisdiction over the tribe is limited. In addition, under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, (five years after the initial land settlement agreement) the tribe has the right to run a gambling property on reservation land and it cannot be denied that right or at least not by the town. In other words, they cannot ban the project.
When Native Tribes across the country are being allowed to thrive and raise the quality of life for their communities, why is New England seemingly so anti-Native American?
In May, the Department of the Interior suggested a batch of rule changes that would streamline the process. Connecticut has become ground zero for conflict between tribes seeking federal recognition and lawmakers who say this status would diminish local and state tax revenues, lead to land claims and expand Indian gaming.
For Native American tribes, federal recognition creates nation-to-nation relationships with the federal government that acknowledge their self-determination and tribal sovereignty. When they become federally recognized, tribes can establish their own zoning and land-use laws on their reservations. In general, these tribes are also exempt from local and state taxes; free of many state laws; and allowed to pursue big gaming such as high-stakes bingo, slots and casinos.
There are two federally recognized tribes within Connecticut—the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan Indian Tribe. The state recognizes the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, the True Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.
Within the last decade or so, two of Connecticut’s state-recognized tribes—the Eastern Pequot and the —gained federal recognition. But that didn’t go uncontested by the state: During his stint as Connecticut’s attorney general, now-Senator Richard Blumenthal fervently opposed federal recognition for both. And he won. Blumenthal wrote, “there was no Schaghticoke Tribe when colonists settled the area.” He did this despite the fact that Connecticut recognized and established a reservation for the tribe in 1736. Blumenthal and the state of Connecticut never contacted the Schaghticoke themselves. Not only that, but Blumenthal also demanded federal recognition be revoked from the Eastern Pequot—a tribe for whom Connecticut first established a reservation in 1683. Under pressure from the state of Connecticut, the Bureau of Indian Affairs rescinded federal recognition for both tribes.
Why does Connecticut seem so anti-tribal? It seems so simply hypocritical. Two tribes are given a pact to allow gambling so revenue can be a staple for the state’s budget, but other tribes who deserve the opportunity for quality of life improvements are ignored and dismissed, with rules changed in favor of the state government to control their destiny.
Anti-gaming lobby intentions I get. Anti-tribal lobby I don’t.
Mr. Steele, Senator Blumenthal, Govenor Malloy, people of Martha’s Vineyard,……could you please explain why the hypocrisy. I’m listening….
That’s all for now.