Column: Backroom politics derail Schaghticokes

"We know about all the press conferences, the showboat congressional hearings and the charges of corruption that dominated the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation's long, unsuccessful fight for federal recognition.

Now, as the Schaghticokes, whose reservation is in Kent, make a final pitch to revive their case in federal court, it's clear powerful forces were at work behind the scenes. Led by our congressional delegation, opponents went straight to the top in their effort to undo the tribe's federal recognition.

In the spring of 2004, Margaret Spellings, then President Bush's domestic policy adviser and now secretary of education, along with other senior aides, began a series of meetings with tribal opponents, including U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4th District, according to documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

That's a top, trusted aide to the president, working with Schaghticoke opponents.

The tribal recognition process is required, by law, to be free from politics. A series of federal court rulings support this.

By the fall of 2005 the Schaghticoke recognition and that of another Connecticut tribe, the Eastern Pequots, was revoked, the first time the government reversed a decision like this.

There's no proof Spellings put the fix in. But we know three loud voices against the Schaghticokes - Shays, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons - were Republicans facing tough re-election races for their House seats in both 2004 and 2006. We know the White House was paying particularly close attention to Shays.

Maybe it is a stretch, but this is the Bush White House, where politics trumps all. A recent Washington Post investigation of the Bush administration noted that "political appointees at every level of government pushed a uniform agenda in key media markets and on behalf of White House-backed candidates." In the run-up to the 2006 election, Shays announced 25 federal grants or projects and administration officials visited seven times."

Get the Story:
Rick Green: Cronyism Sank Effort By Indians (The Hartford Courant 9/25)

Only on Indianz.Com:
Federal Recognition Database V2.0 (May 2005)

Relevant Links:
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation -
Interior Board of Indian Appeals Decisions -

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Column: Schaghticokes revive recognition case (3/27)
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