Nipmuc Nation granted recognition
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JANUARY 22, 2001

After delaying the issue for at least a month, the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Friday extended preliminary federal recognition to the Nipmuc Nation of Massachusetts.

The last-minute action makes the tribe only the second in Massachusetts to receive acknowledgment. They join the Gay Head Wampanoag of Martha's Vineyard as one of the over 550 federally recognized tribes.

But the decision affects only one band of the fractionated, state-recognized tribe whose traditional territory includes central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut. The BIA's proposed finding concludes that only the Hassanamisco Band satisfies all seven federal recognition criteria.

The Chaubunagungamaug Band, on the other hand, failed to meet all the necessary requirements. The BIA's proposed finding states the tribe failed to show it has been identified as an Indian entity on a consistent basis since 1900, has comprised a distinct community from historical times until the present, and has exerted political influence or authority of its members.

Still, the decision is not final. The Chaubunagungamaug Band has 180 days to respond to the deficiencies and can submit additional information seeking to change the decision.

Judging by recent BIA history, the Band just might be able to do just that. The Chinook Tribe of Washington received a negative finding in 1997 but were recognized earlier this month after new information came to light.

The Duwamish Tribe of Washington also received a negative finding in 1996 but additional evidence led to their preliminary recognition on Friday. Before that, only the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut in 1994 were able to reverse a negative finding.

Otherwise, the smaller 250-member Chaubunagungamaug Band might seek to rejoin the 1,500-member Hassanamisco. The Nipmuc Nation filed its petition for recognition in 1980 but the Chaubunagungamaug separated from it in 1996.

The Nipmuc Nation are now subject to a 180-day comment period, followed by a 60 day response period. After which, the BIA would issue a final determination, which wouldn't go into effect until 90 days.

But both findings might be delayed somewhat. The transition team of President George W. Bush on Saturday has requested any decision made by the Clinton administration be reviewed and approved by his new political appointees before being published in The Federal Register.

Related Stories:
Tribes confused over recognition (Tribal Law 12/15)
Gover steps out of recognition decision (Tribal Law 12/14)
Nipmuc Tribes asked to wait (Tribal Law 11/30)
Recognition bills crowd Congress (Tribal Law 11/29)
Recognition on Nipmucs due soon (Tribal Law 11/24)
Little Shell ask for extension (Tribal Law 10/30)
Decisions put Gover in the middle (Tribal Law 08/16)
Little Shell finding a departure (Tribal Law 08/16)

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