Dodd calls for recognition reform
Facebook Twitter Email
FEBRUARY 6, 2001

Calling for a moratorium on a process he called "broken", Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) on Monday asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to re-examine the preliminary recognition of two Pequot tribes in his state.

In his first public statement since the election on a number of Indian issues, Dodd said the process needs a "total overhaul" and wants newly confirmed Secretary of Interior Gale Norton to look into the matter. Kevin Gover, former head of the BIA, extended preliminary recognition to the Eastern Pequot and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot tribes last March, setting of a wave of criticism originating from Connecticut.

A replacement for Gover has not yet been named although Stephanie Hanna, a spokesperson for Norton, said they would be reviewed just like all other Clinton administration decisions which have not yet been finalized. But as the Department of Interior undergoes its transition under Norton, Dodd isn't the only official from Connecticut seeking her assistance.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal hopes to meet with Norton, whom he has known since her days as Colorado's Attorney General. In January, he filed a lawsuit in federal court in Connecticut against the Department of Interior and the BIA, seeking to overturn the decisions made on the tribes.

He was joined in the suit by the leaders of three southeastern Connecticut towns. Like Dodd, all question the decisions to recognize the tribes because both failed to meet two of the seven mandatory federal recognition criteria for all time periods in question.

Gover acknowledged gaps in the evidentiary record in proposed findings issued on the tribes but noted that the state's long-time recognition of the historic Eastern Pequot Tribe made up for the deficiencies. BIA researchers have also said the tribes would be able to submit additional evidence to support their petitions before a final decision would be made.

Similar lines of reasoning have been applied to the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe of Montana, another tribe whose recognition has not yet been finalized. Extended preliminary recognition last May, the Gover said the decision was a "departure" from previous ones and BIA researchers found the tribe failed to satisfy four of the recognition criteria for all time periods.

Such practices have alarmed many concerned with the BIA's efforts to recognize tribes in an effective manner. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo), chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, has introduced a bill that would strip the BIA of its recognition duties and set up an independent commission to handle the issue.

But the manner in which the Pequot and Chippewa tribes have been extended recognition might not be all that extraordinary. In 1997, the Chinook Tribe of Washington received a negative finding which stated the tribe failed to meet a number of the recognition criteria but supplied additional evidence which resulted in a reversal of the decision.

One of the few Democrat Senators who voted to confirm John Ashcroft as Attorney General, Dodd yesterday also said he wanted to double the BIA's budget for recognition from $900,000 to $1.8 million. The BIA has a staff of about 11 researchers who work on tribal petitions.

Dodd said he would try to get federal funding for the towns of Ledyard, North Stonington, and Preston, whose leaders have said they have been negatively impacted by the economic and land developments of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Dodd also said the towns should get a greater share of the money the state takes in from two tribal casinos.

Get the BIA lawsuit:
Blumenthal et. al v. US DOI et. al (Conn Attorney General January 2001)

Relevant Links:
Sen. Chris Dodd -

Get the Pequot/Chippewa/Chinook Decisions:
Summary under the Criteria and Evidence for a Proposed Finding for Federal Acknowledgment - Eastern Pequot Preliminary Recognition (BIA March 2000)
Summary under the Criteria and Evidence for a Proposed Finding for Federal Acknowledgment - Eastern Pequot Preliminary Recognition (BIA March 2000)
Proposed Finding for Federal Acknowledgment of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana (BIA July 2000)
Final Determination to Acknowledge the Chinook Indian Tribe / Chinook Nation

Related Stories:
Gover reverses Chinook decision (Tribal Law 1/4)
The Year in Kevin Gover (Smoke Signals 1/4)
Recognition findings a departure (Tribal Law 8/16)
Decisions put Gover in the middle (Tribal Law 08/16)
Gover wants BIA out of nastiness (Tribal Law 05/25)
BIA eases recognition process (Tribal Law 05/22)