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Federal Recognition Changes Leave Connecticut Tribes Out in the Cold

Schaghticoke Tribal Nation

New rules on the recognition of Indian tribes appear to shut the door on three Connecticut tribes who have been petitioning for federal status for years. 

The Schaghticokes in Kent, the Golden Hill Paugussetts and the Eastern Pequots are not recognized as tribes by the federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a final ruling on the process for recognition. While it makes it easier for some tribes to prove their ancestry, tribes cannot use the existence of a state reservation as the sole basis for federal recognition.

The ruling also says that tribes which have previously been denied cannot re-petition.

Governor Dannel Malloy welcomed the ruling, saying an earlier draft form of the changes would have put Connecticut in a difficult position.

"If the proposed rule had stood as drafted, in essence, three additional tribal recognitions would have taken place in the state of Connecticut," he told a news conference. "This language in the proposed rule was particularly alarming and offensive to those of us in Connecticut, and it was threatening to us."

Senator Richard Blumenthal has been lobbying the Bureau to change its mind on the ruling — he said he was delighted with the final decision.

"A tribal group recognized as a tribe under federal law has sovereignty and rights that can defeat state law, property rights locally, zoning ordinances, local criminal jurisdiction," he said. "I respect federal sovereignty, and that's the reason that I felt so deeply that we had to resist this effort to dilute its significance."

Some towns had feared that recognizing more tribes in the state would lead to land claims, and to further casino development.

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