Nipmuc cooperation could aid recognition effort
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Two rival Nipmuc bands seeking federal recognition might have a better chance of clearing the ultimate hurdle if they cooperated, reports, documents and evidence prepared for the Bureau of Indian Affairs show.

In a report submitted for review, tribal researchers claim the Hassanamisco Band, also known as the Nipmuc Nation, and the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuc often worked together. While one was active the other was less so, and vice versa, assert researchers for the Massachusetts-based groups.

"It is important to realize that both bands have a long, proud history of activity," reads one document, "but that they frequently worked together, and certainly seemed to have thought of themselves together as the Nipmuc Tribe."

But a recent schism has resulted in the bands each seeking acknowledgment as an Indian tribe. After jointly petitioning for recognition the BIA in 1980, the Chaubunagungamaug Band in 1996 asked to be evaluated on its own.

The result of the break, according to researchers, is a less convincing argument for recognition. The case for Nipmuc recognition "will be stronger if the two bands work together," the report acknowledges.

"It will be weaker if the two bands do not."

The prediction, first made as early as 1982, has proven true. Last week, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb followed the recommendations of BIA staff and has proposed not to recognize either group.

To come to the conclusion, McCaleb and his staff relied on a complex set of documents submitted by tribal researchers. Some evidence was prepared when the bands were joined while others were submitted separately.

The jumble has affected, to some extent, the way each group has been evaluated by BIA researchers. As both bands attempt to convince McCaleb to change his mind, a joint effort could patch up some of the identified deficiencies.

Collaboration could help the Hassanamisco Band satisfy genealogical requirements, for instance. According to evidence, a full 46 percent of tribal members do not have documented Nipmuc ancestry -- a factor which led McCaleb to conclude they did not satisfy one recognition criteria.

Also, of the tribe's membership, 30 percent are actually descended from the Chaubunagungamaug. The Chaubunagungamaug Band, on the other hand, have shown that 87 percent of members have Nipmuc ancestry, which led to satisfaction of the genealogy criteria.

Cooperation among the two, however, might not satisfy all the holes in their petitions. Both groups weren't able to show continuous evidence of political authority, community interaction and identification as an Indian entity.

Between 1900 and 1970, for example, neither group could provide evidence they were identified as an Indian tribe. Both bands face an enormous hurdle to try and track down evidence to fill in gaps identified by McCaleb and his staff.

Collaboration among rival groups has also been cited as beneficial in the case of two Pequot tribes in Connecticut seeking recognition. A document signed by then-Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover last year states the Eastern Pequot Tribe and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribe "may be able to present a stronger case as one entity rather than as two."

Relevant Links:
Branch of Acknowledgment and Research -

Related Stories:
Recognition notices published today (10/1)
McCaleb reverses recognition decisions (9/28)
Behind the recognition (9/28)
Nipmuc council member happy for denial (9/28)
Duwamish Tribe to fight on (9/28)