Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chamber Of Commerce Holiday Gala At Mohegan Sun Set For Dec. 16

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The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut Foundation announced that it will hold its 25th Annual Holiday Gala on Tuesday, Dec. 16, at the Uncas Ballroom at Mohegan Sun.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, "All proceeds from the gala are donated to charities throughout the region. The gala begins with a champagne & hors d'oeuvres reception and silent auction at 5:30 p.m. Immediately following will be dinner and a live auction featuring auctioneer Sam Piotrkowski. The event is sponsored by Mohegan Sun. For more information, to donate items, or to register, visit or call 860-464-7373."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photos: Latest Stores To Open At Mohegan Sun

Photos: Holiday Decorations At Mohegan Sun Casino

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegan, Pequot Seek Change In Casino Drinking Hours

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article from The Day newspaper discussing the Mohegan and Mashantucket Tribe's effort to allow longer alcohol drinking hours at the two casinos.

Town officials worry about later last call at casinos
By Katie Warchut
The Day
November 27, 2008

When North Stonington First Selectman Nicholas Mullane heard there were informal talks about extending liquor sales at the casinos, all he could say was, “You gotta be kidding me.”

Officials from the towns who bear the biggest burden of casino traffic said Wednesday they would have concerns about any proposal to extend last call, which is now 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends, in accordance with state liquor laws.

A spokeswoman for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation confirmed Tuesday that the tribe, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, was discussing the possibility with state officials to help the casinos compete with facilities in other states and bring in more state revenues through slot machines and the alcohol sales tax.

The compacts between the state and the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan Tribe, operators of Mohegan Sun, commit the tribes to compliance with state liquor laws.

Mullane said he fears later drinking hours would mean more people drinking and driving, especially between the casinos, as people decide to try their luck at each one.

People already gamble all night and fall asleep at the wheel, he said, and alcohol would add another dangerous element to the mix.

”That's the worst thing they can do. I would not encourage or want to agree with anything like that,” Mullane said.

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon agreed that drinking and driving would place a greater burden on the small towns' emergency services, which rely predominantly on volunteers.

He said there might be more people drinking on their way to the casinos.

”What I think you'd see ... are people leaving bars and going to the casinos to extend the party,” he said.

So the potential for drunken driving could extend far beyond the towns immediately surrounding the casinos, as people come from the Hartford area or other states to drink later, Congdon said.

Congdon said he'd like to see data on the experiences other areas have had with casinos extending the hours of liquor service.

Ledyard Mayor Fred Allyn Jr. said his “initial reaction would be that it's never good to have 24 hours serving liquor.”

But he said the issue would have to be looked at carefully, and he would not oppose any proposal until he had further details.

State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance said police would enforce any new rules state officials set. The police's casino units constantly monitor traffic to prevent people from driving under the influence and causing confrontations, and they would continue to do that no matter how late liquor is served, he said.

County Officials Raid Cayuga Indian Smoke Shops In New York

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Deputies seized cigarettes from Cayuga Indian smoke shops in New York's Cayuga County and Seneca County

The deputies said they took the action last Tuesday because the Tribe wasn't paying state taxes on cigarette sales. A total of almost 18,000 cartons of cigarettes were confiscated. Based on excise taxes of $27.50 per carton, the total sales tax revenue would have been close to a half-million dollars.

Indian tribes in New York do not pay sales taxes but state officials have said they may change that because of the state's financial situation.

According to Seneca District Attorney Richard Swinehart, "This is as simple as a case can be. It is illegal to possess (untaxed) cigarettes. They possessed them."

The two counties asked the state police and the state's taxation department to help them in the raid but those agencies declined to take action. The state police was said to have offered backup service. The state has not forced the Indian tribes to pay sales taxes on its cigarette sales.

Swinehart said the counties had the right to seize the cigarettes because the Cayugas don't own any sovereign .and in either county. He cited a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said Indian tribes could not claim sovereignty on land not taken into trust as reservation land.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegans Talk To Sailors

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in the Groton Submarine Base's Dolphin newspaper that chronicles a visit to the base this November by Mohegan Indians.

Mohegan tribe and SUBASE Sailors celebrate heritage
By Navy New London Public Affairs
The Dolphin
November 26, 2008

GROTON, Conn. - The enduring attributes of Native American Heritage were highlighted and celebrated last Thursday, as Naval Submarine Base New London marked Native American Heritage Month with a special presentation at Dealey Center Theater.
"American Indians understand service and sacrifice," said Bob Soper, Chairman of the Council of Elders of the Mohegan Tribe.

Soper and a number of fellow elders and tribe members, including the Mohegan Honor Guard and the Unity of Nations drum group, joined base commanding officer, Capt. Mark Ginda, in the multi-faceted celebration. Tribal history, Mohegan songs and drumming, personal accounts, and sea stories all combined to elaborate on Soper's statement and provide perspective on the month.

"Native Americans represent a greater percentage within the Armed Forces than any other ethnic group," said Soper.

Recounting his own service in the Army National Guard, Soper noted that members of the Mohegan Tribe had long been defenders of freedom and served the Nation through the military.

Elder Stephanie Fielding spoke of her grandfather's service in the Navy. His assignment to Hawaii placed Fielding's grandmother and Fielding's mother, as a young child, at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Fielding's grandmother served as a volunteer ambulance driver for two days following the Japanese attack of that day.

Elder Marie Pineault spoke of Chief Harold Albert Tantaquidgeon who was tribe chief from 1952-1970. Tantaquidgeon was a three war veteran and served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean conflict. He was awarded the Purple Heart for being injured in combat after being shot down over New Guinea during the Second World War.

The Mohegan's long history of service in defense of the Nation can be traced to the tribe's first chief or "Sachem" Uncas, according to Medicine Woman Melissa Zobel.

Uncas led the Mohegans, or "Wolf People," in splitting from the Pequot Indians and Sachem Sassacus, who favored conflict with early European settlers in the 1600's.

"Uncas taught all in the tribe that cooperation is as important as tradition," said Zobel.

Uncas befriended the European invaders and forged an alliance on behalf of the tribe's well being and security. That alliance, as Zobel relayed, would ultimately require the Mohegans to help the English defeat the Pequots as well as continue to fight along side their English allies through a number of European as well as Indian conflicts. Through it all, while other Native American nations were lost, the Mohegans endured.

"He was someone who had a very definite vision of security for his people in very difficult times," said Zobel. "He's probably the single greatest hero in Mohegan history."

Such Native American heroism is what Ginda highlighted in the Navy tradition of a captivating sea story.

Ginda spoke of the gallant action of Fletcher-class destroyer, USS Johnston (DD 557), during the Battle off Samar, a part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf during the Second World War.

Johnston's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Ernest E. Evans, was of Cherokee Indian descent and born in Pawnee, Oklahoma. His heroism in leading his ship and crew in attacks on a greatly superior Japanese battleship and cruiser force materially contributed to the Navy's victory in the battle, and was recognized with his posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.

"These are the men and women and this is the heritage that we celebrate today," said Ginda. "It should make all us proud to serve."

In a touching conclusion to the afternoon's event, members of the Mohegan tribe passed out certificates of appreciation to attending Sailors, acknowledging their service and sacrifice.

"Tawbutni, Thank you," said Soper in Mohegan and English. "May the Creator keep you safe."

Note: Not all of the members of the Mohegan Color Guard were invited to the event.

Wampanoag Medicine Fire November 27-30

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The Wampanoag Medicine Fire will begin November 27 at 9 a.m. and last until November 30. The event will be held at 55 Acres 483 Great Neck Road in Mashpee, Massachusetts.

The Medicine Fire is a sacred cleansing fire that honors ancestors and is a time of unity and offering for native people. The fire's lighting ceremony will begin at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. People who attend are asked to bring enough food for themselves and a few others and a small amount of firewood. Sage, ceremony tobacco and other offerings will be provided. The fire is open to Indians and family members only."

Mohegans Pass On New Slots In Maryland

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The next state in the Eastern United States to get slot machines will be Maryland, however, the Mohegan Tribe said they are not in a position to bid on a gambling license there.

Maryland voters approved in November a law that will allow 15,000 slot machines to be spread out over five separate facilities.

The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's chief operating officer, Jeff Martmann, told a crowd at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, "We probably won’t participate in Maryland because of the political process and our balance sheet. Where we are now will prohibit us from participating in Maryland."

The Mohegan Tribe was rebuffed by Kansas and New York in their latest initiatives to open new gaming facilities. Kansas officials said they were concerned about the Tribe's ability to finance a casino. MTGA officials denied that a financing problem existed but three days after Kansas turned down Mohegan's bid for a casino, the Tribe announced it was halting the construction on their high-rise hotel.

An official from Penn National Gaming told the audience that state officials, including Maryland, will need to apply different criterion in its selection process of gaming companies. "They must favor the guy who can actually demonstrate he’s got the cash or he’s got committed financing."

The Mohegans have signed on to become casino managers and developers with two Indian tribes - the Cowlitz Tribe in Washington and the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin. The Menominees recently requested federal officials to stop reviewing their casino application for fear of the application being denied. At least $30 million has been spent by the Mohegan Tribe on these two Indian casino endeavors, not including the approximately $10-15 million per year that MTGA's corporate diversification department has been costing the Tribe.

The Tribe also recently leased land for "millions" in Western Massachusetts as a way to position itself should commercial gambling be approved in that state.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Kerzner Discusses Current Casino Environment

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an AP article on Sun International's current activities in the gaming world. Sol Kerzner, one of the priniciples behind the company that developed and once managed the Mohegan Sun, is the head of Sun International, a global casino and hotel company.

Kerzner rethinks hotel growth, staffing needs
Thursday November 20, 2008
By Adam Schreck
AP Business Writer
Thursday November 20

Hotel magnate Sol Kerzner parties in Dubai, but reassesses plans elsewhere as economy tanks

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Even as he toasts his new Atlantis resort in true Dubai style, hotel magnate Sol Kerzner said Thursday he is cutting jobs and shelving projects elsewhere as his empire grapples with the economic slump.

In an interview in the new coral-colored hotel overlooking the Dubai mainland, the head of Kerzner International said last week's sweeping layoffs at his flagship Bahamas resort were part of a broader retrenchment for the privately held company.

New projects have been put on hold, he said, and costs are being scaled back throughout the company as cash-strapped tourists rethink their holiday plans.

"Some countries and some regions are affected more so than others, but there's no question that everyone's feeling it to a greater or lesser extent. And we're not immune from that," Kerzner said, as Hollywood celebrities and other VIPs bronzed by the pool nearby.

Kerzner was in town for the gala grand opening of the second Atlantis resort in his stable. The project is a partnership with Dubai-based developer Nakheel, the state-owned creator of the palm-shaped island atop which the hotel sits.

The project is but one of several making up the real estate boom in this wealthy emirate, one of seven semiautonomous city-states comprising the UAE.

The companies spent $1.5 billion to develop the property, which includes an open-air aquarium and a water park billed as the Middle East's biggest.

They split the $20 million bill for Thursday night's launch party, which features a private concert by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue and a fireworks show that organizers say will be the world's biggest. Invited guests include Robert DeNiro, Janet Jackson, Lindsay Lohan and Charlize Theron.

Kerzner said the party -- which he described as a high-profile attention-getter designed to generate buzz about the resort -- was planned long before the global economy slipped into a tailspin.

The hotel "is a $1.5 billion investment. It would be a huge mistake not to launch it worldwide as effectively as we possibly can," he said.

"If I had it all over again and I understood that the timing was what it was, one might modify a couple of the things ... but not significantly," Kerzner added.

Still, the party comes at a tricky time for the global tourism industry and for Bahamas-based Kerzner International itself.

Occupancy figures from Smith Travel Research show hotel demand fell sharply around the world in September, the most recent month for which data is available.

Middle East and Africa demand was down 5.3 percent, a bit more than Europe but less the Americas. In Asia, occupancy rates plunged 12.4 percent. Analysts say October numbers could be even worse -- as early figures for Europe and the U.S. suggest.

"The deteriorating economic conditions have become so pervasive that it is affecting all areas of travel -- nearly all of which have an impact on hotels," Mark Lomanno, president of the travel advisory firm, said Thursday.

Kerzner last week laid off roughly 800 employees, or 10 percent of its work force, at its original Atlantis resort in the Bahamas because of low occupancy rates.

More modest layoffs have begun at the company's other properties as well, Kerzner said, without providing specifics.

"This is ongoing throughout the whole organization," he said.

Meanwhile, the company is putting all expansion -- aside from two nearly completed projects in Cape Town, South Africa, and Casablanca, Morocco -- "on hold," Kerzner said.

That includes a large joint venture Kerzner valued at $6 billion with casino operator MGM Mirage Inc. and a Nakheel affiliate on the Las Vegas Strip.

"We've taken the action that we have to take," he said. "This has been something I've communicated to our top folks, it's something that everyone is focused on: being as efficient, as cost-conscious as possible."

AP Business Writer Kristen Lee in New York contributed reporting.

Jury Convicts Former Passamoquoddy Leader, Finance Director

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A former Passamaquoddy Tribal governor and the Tribe's former finance director were found guilty by a federal jury in the misapplication of tribal funds and for making false statements to government agencies.

Former Indian Township Tribal Governor Robert Newell and former finance director James J. Parisi Jr., were found guilty of charges that included conspiracy to defraud and intentionally misapply tribal government funds and health care benefit funds and guilty of the misapplication of those funds between Oct. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2006.

Parisi's attorneys argued that he had no authority to act on his own and shifted money only at Newell’s direction. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Chapman Jr., who prosecuted the case.

Newell served as the tribal governor at Indian Township in Maine from 2002 to 2006. While the governing body for Indian Township is the tribal council, former governor Newell was the chief administrator. He was indicted last March by a federal grand jury after a 3-year investigation.

Of the nearly 3,400 Passamaquoddy tribal members on land that is divided by the St. Croix river that marks the boundary between Canada and the U.S., almost 1,400 members live in Indian Township in Maine.

Each man faces up to 10 years in federal prison, fines, and could be ordered to pay nearly $2 million in restitution to six federal agencies.

Mohegan To Host Reception And Participates In Human Rights Conference

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The Mohegan Tribe's director of environment protection, Jean McGinnis, will join an international forum on human rights in Pennsylvania and the Tribe's racetrack-slot parlor in Pennsylvania will host a reception for the group.

In addition to Jean, other speakers are to include Michael G. Kozak, senior director for democracy and human rights at the National Security Council and officials from 20 countries.

A goal of the conference is to advocate for human rights and religious freedom laws worldwide. The Washington D.C.-based Institute on Religion and Public Policy is hoping that the annual Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom can continue to be held in Pennsylvania's city of Scranton.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Native American Film Festival In R.I. On Nov 24-26

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The First People's Native American Film Festival will be held on November 24 through November 26 at the Edward King House in Newport, Rhode Island. Tickets are $9.00

Honoring Our Own Power, a nonprofit organization, is partnering with a Native American-owned film company called RichHeape Films to screen Native-made feature films.

According to the agency's literature, "Honoring Our Own Power has partnered seperately with WGBH/PBS' ReelNatives project to provide premier screenings of Native short films. Honoring Our Own Power has expanded collaborations to include the New England premier of "When Your Hands Are Tied" the film that includes former Governor of Nambe Pueblo (of Tewa Indians) Tom Talache, produced by Boccella Productions & The Harber Charitable Trust."

The film festival's program is listed below. To reserve seats, call 401-835-4806. The historic Edward King House is located at 35 King Street in Newport, R.I.

Monday, November 24th @ 6pm

Opening: Paulla Dove Jennings, Narragansett

ReelNative Short Films:
PEANTAM "Prayers" by Linda Morceau, Chief Woman Sachem of the Chappiquiddic Tribe (MA)
"Exile" by Robert Peters, Mashpee Wampanoag (MA)
Untitled, by Courtney Leonard, Shinnecock (NY) - currently being screened nationally at the National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC

Feature Film:
"Trail of Tears" by Rich Heape Films

Closing Short Film:
"Indigenous Invisibility" by Wanda Jean Lord, Cherokee/Choctaw

Tuesday, November 25th @ 6pm

Opening: Gary Goodman, Dine/Navajo

ReelNative Short Films:
"Survivor" by Bruce Curliss, Nipmuc (MA)
"Hope Bigger than 16 Seconds" by Keely Curliss, Nipmuc (MA)
"Caleb's Legacy" by Raquel Chapa, Lipan Apache/Yaqui/Cheroke­e

Feature Film:
"Our Spirits Don't Speak English" by Rich Heape Films

Closing Short Film:
"Indigenous Invisibility" by Wanda Jean Lord, Cherokee/Choctaw

Wednesday, November 26th @ 6pm

Opening: Gary Goodman, Dine/Navajo

1st Feature Film:
"Tales of Wonder" by Rich Heape Films

2nd Feature Film:
"When Your Hands Are Tied" by Boccella Productions & The Harber Charitable Foundation

Closing Short Film:
"Indigenous Invisibility" by Wanda Jean Lord, Cherokee/Choctaw

and special screening if available:
"Casino Indian" by Rebecca Levy, Pequot/Narragansett (CT)

Native Art, Jewelry, Music & Film Vendors:
Deborah Moorehead, Wampanoag - Art
Honoring Our Own Power - Films
Four Native Vendors spaces available at no fee (for more info call 401 835 4806)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wall Street Downgrades Mohegan Gaming Credit Rating

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Updated with Bloomberg News comment

The Associated Press reported this afternoon that the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's credit rating just got worse after a Wall Street credit rating company, Moody's Investors Service, downgraded its credit rating to a 'B1' rating, defined as lacking "characteristics of a desireable investment."

A lower credit rating means that MTGA will pay higher interest rates than it otherwise would pay on future debt borrowings.

According to AP, "Moody's said negative gaming trends in Connecticut and "significant" dividends paid to the Mohegan Tribe will hamper the company from lowering the debt-to-earnings ratio in the near-term."

Moody's also reduced the credit rating for Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and its special revenue obligation bonds. Moody's noted that "weakness in gaming trends in Connecticut and the Northeast will hamper the company from lowering its debt-to-earnings ratio over the next several years to a level appropriate to its former investment grade rating."

Bloomberg News' noted of the Mohegan downgrade, "Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the owner and operator of the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, received its second downgrade in six months from Moody's Investors Service. The new corporate peg is down two steps to B1, while the senior subordinated notes are three spaces lower at B3. The new Moody's rating is one grade below the downgrade issued last week by Standard & Poor's.

Today's Tribal Council Meeting Cancelled

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mohegan Sun Reports 9.1 Percent Decrease In October Slot Revenues

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Mohegan Sun reported a 9.1 pecent decline in its October slot machine revenue today while Foxwoods reported a 7.5 percent decline over the same period last year.

Mohegan Sun reported October slot machine revenues on the Connecticut Reservation of $65.4 million while Foxwoods reported slot revenues of $57.1 million. Both Tribes pay 25 percent of their slot revenues to the state of Connecticut.

Slot revenues from the Mohegan's Pocono Downs VLT slot parlor in Pennsylvania are not relected in these figures.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mohegan Sun's Financial Reports Expected In December

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The Mohegan Sun will report its October slot machine revenues Monday but the next glimpse at its profitability is expected in mid-December.

Last year, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority issued its earnings report for the three months of July through September and for the fiscal year on December 13, 2007. Two weeks after that, MTGA released its full set of audited financial statements, which also includes its balance sheet.

Should MTGA stick to that same schedule, it will be another month to see how MTGA performed for the three month period of July through September.

The last MTGA earnings (profits) report was issued at the end of July in which MTGA profits fell by 89 percent compared to the same period in 2007. The Tribal government, however, did not report that figure to tribal members in the Wuskuso newsletter. In fact, the reporting of the MTGA's quarterly earnings was taken away from Wuskuso staff and the writing of the Wuskuso article on MTGA's earnings was overseen by Tribal Council which misled tribal members by not reporting the actual profit decline.

The Tribe In The Media: Connecticut Sun Basketball Team Leaves Star Player Off Roster

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is a New Britain Heraldarticle on the player status of the Tribe's WNBA basketball team. The Tribe does not give Feather News the same media access as it does to non-Indian media outlets so we have to rely on an outside website for coverage of the team on the Reservation.

Sales Likely Done With Connecticut Sun
By Jim Fuller
Journal Register News Service
Friday, November 14, 2008

The divorce is not yet final, but it is safe to say that Nykesha Sales has played her last game with the Connecticut Sun.

Sales and the Sun left open the possibility that the six-time WNBA all-star could return after sitting out last season. But when the Sun gave out an updated “Connecticut Sun player status” to the media at a luncheon at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Sales’ name was nowhere to be found.

“We have moved on. There was some avenue where we would retain her rights and she would sign with us the next period,” Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault said. “Obviously, that has not happened. We have moved on to our younger players. I don’t even know if she wants to play. I haven’t talked to her in several months.

“She is not playing overseas right now. At some point when she officially decides to end her career, we would love to honor her here and do something special. But that is still her decision, if she wants to play. If she asked about coming back and wanting to play, we would have to have a discussion. Our younger players have played well and are getting better. They have earned the right to be the future of this franchise.”

The Sun have signed three of its five rookies from the 2008 season. Sandrine Gruda, Amber Holt and Ketia Swanier are under contract as are veterans Asjha Jones, Tamika Whitmore, Lindsay Whalen and Erin Phillips. The Sun own the rights to Barbara Turner, Kerri Gardin, Danielle Page, Evanthia Maltsi and Lauren Ervin, a third-round pick in the 2007 draft who is the only one not to have played for the Sun.

Connecticut has from Dec. 1-14 to make a qualifying offer to them or lose the rights. Jamie Carey is a restricted free agent, and Tamika Raymond and Svetlana Abrosimova are unrestricted free agents.

On Dec. 15, WNBA teams can begin talking to free agents while the free agent signing period begins Jan. 5.

Sales was at UConn’s practice on Friday, but she did not want to be interviewed.

“I’m not really sure what I am going to do,” Sales said.

More should be known on Sunday as Sales is expected to be on hand when the 1994-95 UConn national championship team is inducted into the “Hall of Honor” at halftime of the Huskies’ season opener against Georgia Tech.

Sales said she may speak more about her future on Sunday.

WNBA training camps are expected to start on May 17. The season will kick off on June 6.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Tribes In The Media: Mashpee Wampanoag Casino Plan Moves Ahead

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Cape Cod Times article describing developments in the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe's bid to build a casino in Massachusetts under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The former management partners of the Mohegan Sun (to whom the Mohegans are still paying about $70 million each year until 2014) are now the principles behind the Mashpee's casino efforts.

Mashpee Wampanoag Casino Moves Ahead
By Stephanie Vosk
Cape Cod Times
November 12, 2008

The Mashpee Wampanoag are preparing to take the next step soon toward becoming a gaming tribe.

A consultant hired by the tribe is expected to release a draft environmental impact statement in the next couple of months that lays out the tribe's plans for a casino and analyzes the impact of taking Mashpee and Middleboro land into federal trust.

For more coverage Release of the draft environmental impact statement will kick off another comment period in preparation for the final impact statement, which has to be crafted before the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs can decide whether to approve the tribe's land trust application.

The tribe believes it is on track to receive a land trust decision early next year, tribal council spokesman Scott Ferson said.

Public hearings on the land trust proposals were held in March, and interested parties were given the chance to comment on the tribe's plan to make 140 acres in Mashpee and 539 acres in Middleboro its initial reservation.

After the hearings, the Bureau of Indian Affairs received 175 written comments on the land trust application's environmental impact. Most of the comments focused on the proposed casino in Middleboro, including the impact on water, wildlife, traffic, and the socioeconomic character of the community, according to a preliminary report released by the environmental consultants Sept. 30.

The imminent release of the draft environmental impact statement is a sign to Middleboro Selectman Adam Bond, a casino supporter, that the process is moving forward.

"Whether the federal government is going to approve it or not, the process is going to go through," he said. "The ultimate result, I couldn't tell you."

Gaming rules a key factor

The tribe has proposed a full-scale resort casino for the Middleboro land, with a hotel, events center and retail complex. Another option calls for a second phase of development that includes a water park and second hotel.

Both proposals assume the tribe will offer Class III gaming, including slot machines and table games, which is illegal in Massachusetts.

The tribe maintains that it could build a Class II facility, full of so-called "bingo slots," without any approval from the state. But the development options that involve Class II gaming are significantly scaled-down projects, according to the consultant's Sept. 30 report.

Neither of the Class II scenarios outlined would include a hotel, and one would forgo the events center.

The draft environmental impact statement also will outline the proposed uses for the nine parcels of land in Mashpee that the Wampanoag want to put in trust. The tribe plans to expand the parcel where its council headquarters is located, possibly including more meeting space, parking and recreational fields.

The draft environmental impact statement will not address state environmental laws. "It's something that the state could ask for through a compact," Ferson said yesterday. "There is some expectation that the state may press that case, but, for the tribe, it's always been a federal application."

Alternative casino sites won't be considered in the draft environmental impact statement, because the Bureau of Indian Affairs only has the authority to respond to the specifics in the tribe's application, according to the consultant's Sept. 30 report.

Obstacles remain

In addition to preparing to respond to the draft environmental impact report, Rich Young, president of the gaming opposition group Casino Free Mass, is closely watching other factors that could keep a casino out of Middleboro, his hometown.

A case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, Carcieri v. Kempthorne, could prevent tribes recognized after 1934 from having land taken into trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The state of the economy also could have an impact, Young said.

Additionally, with a new administration coming under President-elect Barack Obama, including a new secretary of the Interior, it is unclear what kind of response the tribe's land trust application will get, he said.

"I don't think anything's a safe bet for the tribe right now," Young said.

Ferson said the Wampanoag aren't worried.

"President-elect Obama obviously has an understanding of the civil rights implications for tribes," he said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photo: 'The Gallery' Mall Considered For Foxwoods Philadelphia Slot Parlor

City Council Approves Zoning For New Foxwoods Philadelphia Slot Parlor Site

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The Philadelphia City Council approved special zoning yesterday for the latest site that could be home to a Foxwoods slot parlor in the city.

The Gallery Mall, located in Center City and just blocks from Philadelphia City Hall, is the latest location in the plans for a Foxwoods slot parlor. Up until recently, casino officials planned for a slot parlor on Philadelphia's Delaware River waterfront in South Philadelphia. City officials, including the mayor, were not in favor of that waterfront location and encouraged Foxwoods officials to consider an alternate site.

Foxwoods is one of two slot parlors approved for the City of Philadelphia under a 2004 slots law that allows up to 14 slot parlors in the state. Foxwoods will need approval of the Pennsylvania Gaming Board on its selection of The Gallery mall site.

Foxwoods must also submit a plan of development that will need further approval by the Planning Commission and City Council.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Tribe In The Media: Mohegans Involved In New 99-Year Land Lease In Massachussetts

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This installment of The Tribe In The Media is an article in The Republican stating that the Mohegan Tribe has signed a 99-year lease for 152 acres in Palmer, Massachusetts. The Tribe has indicated in the past that it would apply for a commercial casino license in Massachusetts should that state ever permit non-Indian gaming. According to a CBS Channel 3 (Springfield, Mass) report, "While Mohegan isn't authorized to build, no one's stopping them from planning. And that's what they're doing Wednesday night, facing town officials, explaining why they're moving ahead, even if the state is not. "We're spending several million dollars at this stage is reasonable for the risk and investment that proceeds," Paul Brody (vice president of development for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority) says."

Realty company representing Mohegan Sun casino signs 99-year lease with Palmer landowners
By Nancy H. Gonter
November 13, 2008

PALMER - A real estate company representing the Mohegan Sun casino has signed a 99-year-lease with the owners of 152 acres of land across from the Massachusetts Turnpike exit here.

Paul I. Brody, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's vice president of development, confirmed the lease was recorded Oct. 23 in the Hampden County Registry of Deeds with the East Longmeadow-based Northeast Realty Trust, but declined to stay how much money is involved.

The lease has a 50 year term with an option to renew for an additional 49 years, Brody said. There are provisions in the lease in the event casino gambling is not made legal in the state.

The next step is to see whether the state Legislature and Gov. Deval L. Patrick move forward with approval of casinos and whether one will be allowed in Palmer, Brody said.

Photo: Tribal Member Bill Leuze

Submarine Base Invites Mohegan Council Of Elders To Celebrate Indian Heritage Month

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The following appeared in The Dolphin newspaper's website today:

The "Naval Submarine Base New London will celebrate Native American Indian Heritage month through special programs and events, Thursday, Nov. 20. The Cross Hall Galley will host a special meal that will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu will consist of Native American Indian themed dishes: Pea, bean and potato soup, succotash, skillet squash, wild rice, baked sweet potatoes, pork and beef meat pie, salmon with berries and green onion, grilled buffalo steaks, rice pudding, pumpkin pie and fry bread. At 3 p.m. in Dealey Center Theater, members of the Mohegan Tribe Council of Elders will speak about Mohegan history and participation in the Armed Forces in a special presentation. The event will also include performances of native song, dance, and drumming."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Atlantic City Casino Revenue Down About 10% In October

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Revenues at Atlantic City's 11 casinos fell 9.9 percent in October, which was better than the 15.1 percent decline recorded by the casinos in September.

The eastern regional president for Harrah's Entertainment, which owns 4 of the 11 casinos in Atlantic City said in an AP story, "I truly don't think we've seen the worst yet."

Atlantic City is facing strong competition from the slot parlors in Pennsylvania, which began opening over the last two years, and from a worsening economy.

Slot revenue at the casinos for October was $235.9 million, down 12.7 percent, and table game revenue was $110.3 million, down 3.3 percent.

Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are expected to release their October slot revenue figures later this week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oneida Indian Nation To Have Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Float

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The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has become part of the holiday tradition in America. This year, the Oneida Indian Nation will have its own float that will be called the True Spirit of Thanksgiving and will represent the creation story.

According to the Oneida Nation, the "float will showcase the Indian Nation’s representation of the creation story with vivid characters, symbols and performers. The float will depict the tale of Sky Woman who one day came to rest on a Turtle’s back, depicted on the float by a giant Turtle symbolizing Mother Earth. A 30-foot tall White Pine Tree symbolizing the Tree of Peace grows from the turtle’s back, and climbs skyward, while its great white roots of peace spread in four directions- north, south, east and west. On top of the Great Tree is an eagle that keeps watch over the Nations, symbolizing the constant watch and protection of Peace. Along for the ride will be Iroquois dancers at each root representing all Indian people from across the country."

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said, "The Oneida Indian Nation is honored to be included in the 82nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. American Indians welcomed the first Europeans who came to our homelands in the spirit of thanksgiving, and showed our new neighbors how to adapt to the challenges of our Mother Earth. As first Americans, we are most thankful to be included in this premier holiday event because it is a wonderful opportunity to once again share the true spirit of thanksgiving with America and the millions of people watching this wonderful parade."

The Oneida Indian Nation is a federally recognized Indian in central New York and was one of the founding members of the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

The 82nd annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on Thursday, November 27, and will be broadcast live nationally on NBC-TV, from 9am to 12pm in all time zones. The parade attracts an estimated 50 million television viewers and more than 3.5 million spectators on the Manhattan streets.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Photos: Veteran's Event At Mashantucket Pequot Reservation

Veteran's Day Honor Ceremony At Mashantucket Reservation

Veteran’s Day Honor Ceremony
By Bill Donehey
Sergeant, U.S. Army 1973-1976
Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mashantucket - Native Americans from around the region were honored by the Mashantucket Tribe today. Outside the skies were gray, overcast with persistent drizzle, but inside Native Americans were being held in high esteem as each veteran was recognized individually for their commitment and dedication to our free nation.

The Mashantuckets welcomed each veteran and their guests with a luncheon of prime rib, green beans, seasoned potatoes and other delicious foods. The ceremony began at noon with the MC extolling the virtues of those that had served and at times holding back tears.

Tom Epps (Throws His Hatchet), a firekeeper from the Mohegan tribe, was there to introduce Juanita Medbury-Walkabout from the Mohegan Tribe. Juanita spoke about her husband with tears in her eyes thanking all the people in attendance. She spoke briefly while still holding back tears, about her husband Billy Bob Walkabout, a native Cherokee whose actions in Vietnam made him the most decorated American Indian soldier of the war. Billy Bob passed on March 7, 2007. He was 57 years old.

American Indians have served their country with honor for generations. Their contribution in all our nation’s modern wars has been substantial right up through the present war in Iraq. Indian warriors seek no glory, but they do not want their wartime deeds to be brushed aside.

Itelligenta Indigena Novajoservo – “If there was one native soldier who earned the right for all Indians to be treated with respect it was this man”

Story and photos by Mohegan Veteran Bill Donehey, who served in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Army sergeant from 1973-1976

Reminder: Tribal Government Offices Closed Tuesday For Veteran's Day

Friday, November 7, 2008

Inter-Tribal Social At Mashantucket Tomorrow Night

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation will host an inter-tribal social in the upstairs game room at their community center Saturday evening. The social begins at 5 p.m.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tribal Court Hearing On Election Law To Address Notifying Tribal Members Of Case

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The Tribal Court issued the following Notice of Hearing Assignment for the case of Kenneth Davison vs. Mohegan Tribe Election Committee:

"Notice is hereby given that a hearing will be held by the Court on Monday, November 10, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. at the Mohegan Tribal Court (Tribal Meeting Room), Tribal Government Office Building ... on the following:

1. The Defendant's "Objection to Order; In the Alternative, Defendant Moves For Reconsideration and Requests a Hearing" dated October 31, 2008; and

2. The Court's intent to issue an Order of Notice to the Members of the Mohegan Tribe informing them that (a) the Plaintiff has filed this action in the Mohegan Tribal Court against the Defendant, requesting, inter alia, that the Court determine whether the provisions in Sections 1-205 and 1-206 of the Election Code which require each tribal member voting in a tribal election to cast one vote for each elective position available on the ballot, violate Article VII, Section 2 of the Mohegan Constitution; and that (b) any member of the Mohegan Tribe who desires to be joined as a party may file with the Tribal Court, on or before a date to be set by the Court, a Motion To Be Made A Party, indicating whether such member desires to be joined as a party plaintiff or a party defendant and stating the reasons that such tribal member should be joined as a party. Any party to this action may comment on the Court's intent to issue the above described Order of Notice to the Members of the Mohegan Tribe, at said hearing."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mohegan Veterans Invited To Mashantucket Reservation This Saturday

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Mohegan military veterans are invited to join other Native American veterans on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation this Saturday.

The event is to acknowledge the contributions of all members of the armed services as Veteran's Day approaches. The event will take place in the Gathering Space at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.

"The event is honoring Billy Bob Walkabout, Cherokee, one of the most highly decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War. We have asked his widow, Juanita Walkabout to be the keynote and speak about his life as a man and as a soldier," according to Trudy Richmond, director of public programs for the museum. Juanita Walkabout is Mohegan.

To ensure that a seat is reserved, leave a message with your name and branch of service at 860-396-6862 or email Trudy at

Also, feel free to contact Mohegan Veteran Bill Donehey at or at Bill's cell phone 860-861-6137 with questions about transportation or directions.

The Tribes In The Media: Significance Of Mashantucket Election

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is an editorial in The Day newspaper of New London on the recent Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council election.

Mashantucket Ire
The Day newspaper
November 5, 2008

The ouster of Kenneth Reels from the Mashantucket Tribal Council may be just the start if tribal leaders do not listen more to the concerns of tribal members.

The Mashantucket Pequots, who voted in tribal elections last Sunday, have a lot in common with voters across the country who went to the polls Tuesday angry and frustrated.

Americans were looking for a change. And so are the Mashantucket Pequots.

Tribal members are upset because they feel disenfranchised and disrespected. They believe the seven-member Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council has too much power and too little accountability. So members voted to unseat longtime councilor and current Vice Chairman Kenneth M. Reels and replace him with newcomer James Jackson.

The Mashantucket members have legitimate concerns. Their tribal constitution puts all the power in the hands of the council. Members want to create a judicial branch to provide a check and balance. A constitution review committee, composed of two members each from the 11 Mashantucket family lines, suggested reforms that the tribal council ignored. The council also ignored recommendations from tribal elders.

So on Sunday members voted to replace Mr. Reels with Mr. Jackson, who is a member of the constitution review panel, realizing it is a small victory in a larger battle. Next November, three more incumbents are up for re-election, including Chairman Michael Thomas.

What the members want is a voice in their government. They want the ability to attend council meetings and comment on council decisions. They want a say in the role and responsibilities of the council and on its expenditures, including tribal council salaries. They want participatory government and transparency.

And they deserve it.

The Mashantucket Tribe and its businesses are too big today to allow the council to continue to make all decisions and establish all policies without member comment or participation. That is not fair or effective government. It's long past the time for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council to acknowledge that.

Casino Referendum In Maine Rejected; Slot Machines Approved In Maryland

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Updated 3 with Colorado results

Four states held referendums on significant gaming issues yesterday: Maine, Maryland, Ohio and Colorado. Voters in a fifth state, West Virginia, approved a measure that will add slot machines to an existing facility while voters in a sixth state - Missouri - voted to increase the limit that amount gamblers are permitted to lose.

The big winner for gaming companies was Maryland. Voters in Maryland approved yesterday 15,000 slot machines to be spread among five gaming venues while voters turned down plans for a slot parlor in western Maine. Ohio voters rejected a plan that would have resulted in a $600 million casino there.

The referendum in Maine would have allowed for a non-Indian casino but it was rejected by voters yesterday. After tallying about three-quarters of the votes in yesterday's election, 54 percent were against the Maine casino measure.

If approved, the referendum would have allowed for a $184 million casino complex with 1,500 slot machines and a 300-room hotel. The referendum also would have lowered the gambling age to 19 and put a 10-year moratorium on other gaming businesses. Backers of the proposed casino said they will try another referendum but will eliminate the part about reducing the age limit of customers.

Two Indian tribes in Maine, the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, have lost various referenda in the past to build casinos and slot parlors but, in 2003, voters approved a measure that allowed Penn National Gaming to open a slot parlor in Bangor, Maine.

Voters approved a Colorado's referendum, which will expand gambling in three towns - Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek - by raising the table game stakes from $5 to $100 a hand, add new games such as craps and roulette, and allow facilities to remain open 24 hours daily. The new law will take effect in July, 2009.

Another referendum - in a sixth state - in Missouri, voters repealed a law that limited gamblers losses to a mazimum of $500 every two hours. The safety net was put into place to help protect compulsive gamblers and required the monitoring of gamblers’ play that restricted the buy-in of slot machine credits and table game chips to $500 every two hours.

Note: All votes have not yet been counted on the above issues and in the various states and the interim results are subject to change upon the final tally of votes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hearing Set For Next Monday On Election Committee Court Case

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The next hearing date for the case of Kenneth Davison vs. Mohegan Tribe Election Committee is scheduled for next Monday, November 10, at 11 a.m. The hearing will be in the Tribal government building. Tribal members are encouraged to attend.

Inter-Tribal Social In Waterford This Sunday

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An Inter-Tribal Social will be held this Sunday, November 9, at the Waterford Community Center. According to the flyer, the Social is open to the public and will have native dancing, drumming, singing, flute music, food, raffles, cake walks and more. The host drum is Mystic River Singers.

Proceeds will go toward the Spirit Lake youth basketball tournament. The mission statement of Spirit Lake is "to preserve and progress locally, nationally and internationally, the awareness of American Indian culture, tradition, history and current concerns through community presence, education by instruction and public performance and fundraising for American Indian issues."

The address is 24 Rope Ferry Road in Waterford and will be from noon until 6 p.m. Call 860-857-7776 for more information.

Overturned Crane On Route 2A Near Mohegan Sun Casino

Crane Tips Over On Route 2A Next To Fort Shantok Road

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A crane overturned this morning while working on Mohegan Sun's construction project on Route 2A, just east of the Montville Police station in Montville. The driver of the crane, said to be working for Cardi Construction, is trapped inside but appears okay.

Tribal members may want to check if traffic is closed off before you attempt to drive on Route 2A or Mohegan Sun Boulevard. Fort Shantok Road is open.

The Feather News has not reported on construction incidents previously, however, a television helicopter was already seen flying over this accident site.

The Tribes In The Media: Landmark Indian Case Heard By Supreme Court

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This installment of The Tribes In The Media is a Providence Journal article chronicling yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the Narragansett Indian land-into-trust case. If the Supreme Court rules against the Narragansett Tribe in this case, the potential land base of Indian reservations will be changed forever. It is believed that the Mohegan Tribe could never seek to add, ever, more than the 700 acre limit of Reservation land - not including Fort Shantok - agreed to at the time of federal recognition if the Court rules against the Narragansett Tribe in the case described below. It could also mean that the Interior Department would no longer be allowed to give reservation trust status to off-reservation parcels of land that do not fall within the limitations given at the time of a tribe's federal recognition. We do not think it would affect a tribe such as the Cowlitz Tribe's application for their initial reservation land base but the Interior Department would no longer have the authority to take into trust other land parcels such as the one that the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin wants designated for a casino to be run by the Mohegans.

Indian land case goes before Supreme Court
By Katie Mulvaney and John E. Mulligan
Providence Journal
November 4, 2008

The Narragansett Indians are entitled to a special trust status that would free 31 acres of tribal land from Rhode Island laws and taxes, a federal lawyer told the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, but several justices greeted the argument with skeptical questioning.

Assistant Solicitor General Deanne E. Maynard argued that the tribe is covered by a 1934 law — “New Deal legislation for Indians,” as she described it — that exempted tribal trust lands from local law and taxation to help them “to revive economically and to have self-governance.”

But Theodore B. Olson, a prominent Washington lawyer arguing for the State of Rhode Island and the Town of Charlestown, gave a starkly different interpretation of the 1934 law — and who qualifies for its land trust benefits. The Narragansetts do not, Olson said. He argued for the state and Charlestown, which have warned that trust status for the Narragansetts’ land could open the door to tribal gambling and other unregulated enterprises.

Olson said the 1934 law was meant to repair damage that the federal government had done to Indians under an earlier system of land allocation. He argued that Congress aimed to apply the law’s remedies — notably the exemption of tribal trust lands from local laws and taxes — to Indians who had been dealing with the government under the old system.

Olson also launched an hour of oral argument focused heavily on differing interpretations of a key clause in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA), which created the Indian land trust system that the Narragansetts want extended to their parcel in Charlestown.

Olson argued that for purposes of identifying who would be eligible, the 1934 law defined the word “Indian” as including “all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction.”

“ ‘Now’ must be given its ordinary meaning,” Olson told the justices, arguing that when Congress said “now” in the language of IRA, it meant 1934. Thus, the Narragansetts don’t qualify for IRA trust benefits because they did not win federal recognition as a tribe until 1983, Olson argued. “The word ‘now’ had the same meaning in 1934 as it does every morning in this Court when the Marshal announces that ‘The Court is now sitting,’ ” Olson said.

Maynard countered that “now” indicates the moment when the Interior Department exercised the law by taking land into trust for a tribe. Maynard represented the Department of Interior, which took the Narragansett tribe’s 31 acres into trust in 1998.

Several of the justices zeroed in on Maynard’s argument with pointed questions. Justice Antonin Scalia said, with characteristic bite, that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne “interprets ‘now’ to mean nothing. Does he understand that we usually do not interpret words to have no meaning?”

Kempthorne is named as respondent in the case because his department acted to put the Narragansetts’ property in trust. Governor Carcieri, the plaintiff in the case, has asked the court on the state’s behalf to rule that the Interior Department cannot take the land into trust for the tribe.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he found it “hard to swallow” that Congress intended to leave the interpretation of the word “now” to the Interior Department.

“We are talking about an extraordinary assertion of power,” warned Chief Justice John G. Roberts. “The secretary gets to take land and give it a whole different jurisdictional status, apart from state law and all.”

The outcome of the case could reopen the question , bitterly disputed for decades, of whether the Narragansett Indians can build casinos and other enterprises over the objections of their neighbors in South County and the State of Rhode Island.

But Maynard told the court, “If what you’re concerned with is the specter of gaming,” she understands that “the tribe could not unilaterally decide to game,” even if the high court rules that the Narragansett property may be taken into trust.

THE CASE HAS NATIONAL implications. Rhode Island argues in its appeal that it could affect scores of states and tribes nationwide. At play is whether “a potentially unlimited amount of land” should fall under the jurisdiction of states or tribes. Twenty-one states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, filed briefs in support of Rhode Island’s appeal.

The Narragansetts have sought casino rights since the advent of the lucrative Indian gambling industry. With financial backing from major gambling companies, the tribe has carried its campaign to the state and federal courts, the Congress, the General Assembly and the voters of Rhode Island. Last fall, for example, an arm of the tribe solicited proposals for a $1-billion casino and hotel complex on the land at issue in this case.

Broadly speaking, the Narragansetts have argued over the years that they have been unfairly excluded from rights long enjoyed by other tribes — such as the owners of the hugely successful Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. The Narragansetts have portrayed themselves as victims of discrimination by a Rhode Island government that denies them the fruits of sovereignty while reaping millions in gambling revenues. Indeed, Rhode Islanders have become dependent on various forms of gambling — from the state lottery to officially sanctioned video betting and slot machines — to pay for public services.

State officials have generally replied that unregulated casino gambling and other tribal enterprises would unalterably change the face of Rhode Island and its economy. A bipartisan succession of governors, senators and members of Congress have argued, moreover, that the Narragansetts freely surrendered any claim to immunity from state and local law on the land 30 years ago. That was the central condition, in the state’s view, of the deal the Narragansetts made to take title to 1,800 acres in Charlestown and, later, to win federal recognition as a tribe.

The state anticipates lottery and other gambling receipts for this fiscal year of $365.5 million, or slightly more than 11 percent of total revenues. Gambling is the state’s fourth-biggest revenue source, behind income taxes, sales and use taxes and general business taxes. Kernan King, the governor’s executive counsel, said after yesterday’s arguments that gambling competition from the Narragansetts could lower state revenues at a time of severe budget constraints. Other untaxed tribal businesses might also eat into state revenues, he said.

THE CURRENT CASE has its roots in the tribe’s 1991 purchase of the 31-acre property, which stands across Kings Factory Road from the 1,800 acres secured in the Rhode Island Indian Land Claims Act of 1978. The Narragansetts started to build housing for elderly tribe members on the sloping property north of Route 1, but construction stalled over the tribe’s failure to get state and local permits for the work.

In 1998 — as the Narragansetts pursued unsuccessful efforts in Congress and the courts to expand its control over the use of tribal lands — the Interior Department agreed to take the land into trust for the tribe. That was a major breakthrough for the Narragansetts; officials of the state and the Town of Charlestown said the action would be “devastating,” opening the door to unregulated gambling and other enterprises on the land. They filed suit in federal court to block the land trust action.

One of the state’s key arguments at that time was that the 31-acre housing site — like the 1,800 acres that the tribe secured in the 1978 land claims act — should be bound by state and local law. U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi disagreed in her 2003 ruling in the tribe’s favor. Lisi concluded that the 1978 settlement act “was limited in scope,” designed only to resolve the tribe’s land claims. “It did no more,” Lisi said.

That ruling has since been upheld by a three-judge panel of the 1st . Circuit Court of Appeals and later by the entire federal appeals court.

At several points yesterday, Breyer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice David Souter seemed to struggle for ways to get past the state’s argument that the “now” in the 1934 statute disqualifies tribes that had not yet been recognized by the federal government.

“I think it’s a very difficult case,” said Breyer, who once sat on the 1st Circuit court and appeared to be deeply immersed in the details of the Rhode Island case.

When Olson asserted that the Narragansetts were not under federal jurisdiction in 1934, Ginsburg asked whether their long record of dealings with the federal government might not argue to the contrary. “I thought recognition reflects that it’s had a history going way, way back?”

But Richard Guest, a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund, came away from the proceedings with a grim view of the tribe’s prospects for a favorable ruling.

“The court asked no question with respect to what the tribe’s interests were in the case,” said Guest. “I just don’t see five justices coming out in favor of the tribe’s interests, and that tribe can be plural or singular.”

Narragansett Indian Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas was one of more than a dozen Rhode Islanders on both sides of the case who came to witness the arguments before the high court. Before entering the court, Narragansett members performed a ceremony to protect tribal interests.

Inside the historic court chamber, Thomas and members of the tribal council sat in a row behind Carcieri and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch.

AFTER THE COURT SESSION, most of the Rhode Islanders walked down the front steps of the Supreme Court and then spoke to reporters on the sidewalk across the street from the Capitol.

Thomas declined to speculate on the day’s proceedings. “I believe they did the best they could,” he said of the Department of Justice lawyers. “At the end of the day, the decision will be based on the statute and the law,”’ Thomas said. “It’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens.”

That wait is likely to be several months. The Supreme Court never announces when it will issue opinions, but it is expected to rule before the end of the current term, late next spring.

Carcieri and other state leaders expressed optimism.

“Ted Olson made a great case on our behalf,” Carcieri said on the steps of the court.

Three Charlestown Town Council members — Katharine H. Waterman, Harriet Allen and Bruce Picard — also observed the arguments along with Town Solicitor Robert E. Craven and former Conservation Commission member Faith LaBoissiere.

“I’m feeling good about it,” Waterman said. “Justice Breyer impressed me very much with his knowledge of the case and his questions. I feel confident we will win this one.”

Even Joseph S. Larisa Jr., Charlestown’s lawyer who fought hard to argue the case before bowing out last Friday, seemed pleased. “I think we’ve got it,” he said, before rushing to catch a flight back to East Providence where he is running for City Council in today’s election. “It seems clear that the justices understand [IRA] is limited to 1934.”

As yesterday’s arguments wound down, Roberts went so far as to suggest that if the court decides in the state’s favor, the Narragansetts and the Interior Department would have recourse to Congress.

“[I]f we disagree with your interpretation, and Congress thinks we are wrong, they can pass” a bill explicitly granting land trust benefits to the Narragansetts under the terms of the New Deal-era law. Congress has already done so for 15 other tribes since 1934, the chief justice said, referring to one of Olson’s key arguments.

Journal staff writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Polling Times By State For Tommorrow's Election

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Tribal members registered to vote in Connecticut will be able to go to the polls between 6 a.m and 8 p.m. A link that gives the polling hours in other states has been added in the upper right-hand corner of this blog site.

Philadelphia Parade For World Series Champion Phillies

Mashantuckets Elect Sebastian, Jackson To Tribal Council: Reels Not Re-elected

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James Jackson and Richard Sebastian were elected to 3-year terms on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation's Tribal Council.

In a second stage of the election, tribal members then voted for Richard Sebastian to be the Tribal Council vice-chairman, replacing Kenny Reels. Tribal members vote for the officers of their Tribal Council as opposed to the Mohegans, where the Tribal Councilors vote amongst themselves for the officer positions.

According to reports, about 56% of the Tribe's 481 eligible voters took part in the election.

The Mashantucket Pequot Nation's Tribal Council is comprised of seven members. The other councilors, not including Jackson and Richard Sebastian are: Michael Thomas (chairman), Charlene Jones (secretary), Rodney Butler (treasurer), Marjorie Colbut-Jackson and Maureen Sebastian.