Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tribes In The Media: Federal Court Strikes Down Schagticoke Tribe's Petition For Federal Recogntion

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media series is an AP article on today's federal court decision that strikes down the Schagticoke Tribe's motion for a summary judgement that could have resulted in their federal recogntion. The Schagticoke Tribe is located in Kent, Connecticut and had their 2004 preliminary federal recognition decision reversed. The Schagticokes are recognized by the State of Connecticut:

AP Article
August 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday turned back the latest attempt by the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation to win federal recognition.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter Dorsey denied the tribe's motion for a summary judgment that would have granted recognition. Dorsey also granted government motions to affirm the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision to deny the tribe's petition.

In a 52-page decision, Dorsey rejected the Schaghticoke's argument that powerful political forces opposed to a third Indian casino in Connecticut helped reverse an earlier agency decision to acknowledge the tribe.

In its motion, the tribe detailed a March 30, 2004 meeting attended by three Republican members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. and then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

In a deposition, Norton said that Wolf and the Connecticut delegation - which included U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, and former Reps. Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons - pressed her to overturn the decision.

She said Wolf threatened to ask President Bush to replace her.

But Norton later testified that she did not take that threat seriously.

"Although one may be sympathetic to (the tribe's) suspicions that powerful political forces interfered with an independent review of their tribal recognition, the court must accept that the evidence presented at face value, in particular the testimony of the agency decisionmakers that they were not unduly pressured by particular politicians or the political climate at large," Dorsey wrote.

The tribe, which has a reservation in Kent, appeared to win recognition in January 2004 from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. But state and federal officials successfully appealed, arguing that the tribe had substantial gaps in evidence related to its social continuity and political governance.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the ruling shows the tribe's recognition claim was meritless.

"One by one, the judge has batted away the Schaghticoke claims, leaving no shred of legal or factual support," Blumenthal said. "While they may appeal to the federal court of appeals, this recourse would seem as futile and ill-founded as the effort rejected today, and we are prepared to fight it as vigorously as we did this one."

Messages were left seeking comment from the tribe.