Washington – The Bureau of Indian Affairs on Thursday said a petition for recognition from the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe is missing four key elements that would allow the application to move forward.
“The department finds your recently submissions of material, together with [an earlier application for federal recognition filed in 1994] do not meet the requirements for a documented petition,” Lee Fleming, director of the BIA’s Office of Federal Acknowledgement, wrote in a letter to tribal Chief Alan Russell.
The Schaghticoke Indian Tribe said it had filed a petition for federal acknowledgement last week.
The BIA, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe petition, which it distinguished from another filed by the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation that was ultimately rejected, lacked certification from the group’s governing body, “a concise, written narrative” explaining how the tribe meets the criteria for recognition, supporting documents, and membership lists.
Tribal representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In signing off, Fleming wrote, “we look forward to receiving SIT’s documented petition under the 2015 regulations.” The BIA streamlined the federal recognition process last year.
If the SIT completes its petition, it will find strong opposition to its bid from the state’s political establishment.
“We oppose recognition, and we’re confident they do not meet the criteria for recognition,” said Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the effort “frivolous,” and said he would fight it.
In response to concerns from Connecticut’s politicians, when the BIA changed its regulations last summer it also barred tribes who have been denied recognition from reapplying.
This week, the BIA also sent letters to the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and the Eastern Pequots – two state-recognized tribes that lost their bid for federal recognition – telling them they can’t acknowledge “an entity that previously petitioned and was denied federal acknowledgement.”
The BIA said the only recourse for these tribes is to win an act of Congress giving them recognition.
The Schaghticoke Indian Tribe says it’s a different group from the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and is allowed to seek recognition under the new regulations.
If it were granted, the tribe could revive decades-old land claims.
The General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut gave the Schaghticokes about 2,500 acres of land, but the reservation shrank because of what the tribe says were illegal land grabs. Some of this disputed land is owned by the Kent School, the Town of Kent, Connecticut Light and Power (now Eversource) and other private entities.
The contentious issue has hounded Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams, forcing his town to pay legal fees for decades to fighting land claims. He was dismayed by the SIT’s plans.
“When does ‘no’ mean ‘no’?” Adams asked. “Is there ever going to be an end to this?”
Federal recognition would also open the door for federal grants and low-income loans. It would exempt reservation residents from state and local taxes and allow the tribe to open a casino.
In Connecticut, only two tribes have won federal recognition, also after protracted battles with the state’s political establishment concerned over land claims, losses of tax revenues and the establishment of casinos.
They are the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans, who have run casinos in the state since the 1990s.