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Federal Recognition
Investors spending millions on tribal recognition

It's getting more and more costly for tribes to make their case federal recognition, investors, experts and critics of the controversial process say.

Eric Eberhard, a lawyer who used to work for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said it used to cost between $100,000 and $200,000 to complete a recognition petition. But since the advent of gaming, he said it costs millions because of the limited about of experts available to help petitioning groups.

Tom Wilmot, a shopping mall developer, said he has spent more than $10 million to hire anthropologists, genealogists and lawyers for the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe of Connecticut. Frederick A. DeLuca, the founder of the Subway sandwich chain, said he spent millions on the successful petition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Connecticut.

Critics charge that the flow of money influences decisions the Bureau of Indian Affairs makes. An inspector general investigation into the process found no evidence of gaming companies or their representatives swaying Clinton administration officials but said that resources are playing as much a role as the merits of a petition.

Get the Story:
Would-Be Tribes Entice Investors (The New York Times 3/29)