Washington – The Golden Hill Paugussett tribe of Trumbull is preparing to seek federal recognition again, a classification that would bring the tribe special federal help and the right to open a casino and press land claims.
Steven Pruitt of the J.C. Watts Companies lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., is helping the tribe in its second attempt to win federal recognition.
“We’re working on a new application right now,” Pruitt said.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the tribe’s petition in 2004, saying the tribe failed to prove its members had descended from a historical tribe, or continuously existed as a political and social community. The small tribe, which says it has 100 to 200 members, has a small reservation in Trumbull and is recognized by the state.
In its new application, the Paugussetts will prove they are a historical tribe, Pruitt said, descendants of one of the Algonquin-speaking nations that emerged in the coastal areas of the Atlantic. He said the tribe is collecting additional information, with the help of consultants, from state records to help strengthen its case.
But the tribe faces a new hurdle in seeking federal recognition.
To try to block the recognition of new tribes in the state, Connecticut officials persuaded the BIA in 2015 to amend new rules so that tribes previously denied federal recognition are barred from re-petitioning.
“Allowing for re-petitioning by denied petitioners would be unfair to petitioners who have not yet had a review, and would hinder the goals of increasing efficiency and timeliness by imposing the additional workload associated with re-petitions on the Department…,” the BIA’s new regulations say.
Pruitt, who said the Paugussetts hope to file their new petition by the end of summer, said the tribe hopes to provide new information that would show the BIA erred in denying the tribe recognition. He also said the tribe is willing to challenge the BIA’s “no second chance” rule as unconstitutional.
To meet the new tests for federal acknowledgment, tribes must prove they have had a distinct identity since 1900, with continuous community and political authority. Petitioners also have to prove all of their members descend from a historic tribe.
The Schaghticoke Indian Tribe of Kent, one of two rival groups in Connecticut with the Schaghticoke name, also is preparing to make a bid for federal recognition.
Unlike the rival Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, which was denied recognition, the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe has never been rejected by the BIA because it never completed its application.
For now, the only federally recognized tribes in Connecticut are the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegans. Each runs a large casino in southeastern Connecticut and are hoping to jointly open a third off their reservations in East Windsor.