Connecticut Officials Praise Changes on Tribal Recognition

Connecticut's top elected leaders are declaring victory in their efforts to see that it does not become easier for local American Indian tribes to obtain federal recognition.

The Obama administration on Monday is announcing changes to regulations that have been criticized as cumbersome and lacking transparency.

Proposed new rules that were first issued in draft form two years ago were seen by officials in Connecticut as clearing the way for three groups that previously had been denied federal recognition to win the prized status.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and Connecticut's two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, said at a news conference Monday afternoon that recent revisions will prevent those groups from winning recognition and pressing claims for surrounding lands.

Connecticut has two federally recognized tribes, the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots.

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, based in Kent has been fighting for federal recognition and "will not be deterred by the grave omissions and errors" announced Monday, according to a statement from the chief.

Chief Richard Velky went on to say the following:

"While we appreciate the Department’s efforts, these rules fall tragically short of the promise to provide a transparent, timely, and consistent process that accounts for the unique histories of tribal communities. This outcome betrays the sacred trust and government-to-government relationship between our nation and its tribal sovereigns.

"In January of 2004, the United States Department of Interior issued a Final Determination supporting Federal Recognition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.

"Consensus among the Department’s highly trained staff was that the Schaghticoke petition was among the best and most thoroughly researched petitions ever reviewed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and satisfied all the mandatory criteria required for federal recognition.

"Former Interior Secretary, Gale Norton, in a personal affidavit, stood firm in the Department’s decision to extend federal recognition to the Tribe.

"The State of Connecticut has, since colonial times, continuously recognized the Schaghticoke as a distinct tribe with a separate land base provided by and maintained by the State. In 1736, the colony formally recognized the Tribe’s traditional lands along the Housatonic River extending trough Connecticut and New York. At statehood, fifty-two years later, Connecticut continued to affirm these claims and the Tribe continues to maintain its 400-acre reservation near Kent, Connecticut to this day.

"The Schaghitcoke Tribal Nation, lead [sic] by Chief Richard Velky is confident that the Schaghticoke's status as a sovereign tribal nation will be rightfully restored and justice shall prevail to the first Americans of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and to the great citizens of the State of Connecticut."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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