Conn. AG urges denial of Pequot Tribes
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Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Thursday submitted 80 pages of documents to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, claiming that two Pequot tribes who have been officially recognized in his state for more than 300 years are not deserving of federal acknowledgment.

Charging that the Eastern Pequot Tribe and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribe have not provided evidence of "substantially continuous tribal existence" from historical times to the present, Blumenthal urged new Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb to overrule a decision made by his predecessor to recognize the tribes.

"On the basis of the evidence in the present record, neither petitioner has succeeded in satisfying the mandatory criteria," said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal's missive caps off more than year of contentious debate over former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover's March 2000 decision to extend preliminary recognition to the pair. It is as much a critique of the evidence as it is of the Clinton administration.

Along with the towns of Ledyard, North Stonington and Preston, Blumenthal has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Gover's actions. They claim he unfairly changed the recognition process and is influenced by casino gaming interests, assertions Gover has denied.

They also say he unfairly overruled the recommendations of the BIA's staff of researchers, anthropologists, genealogists and historians who said the two tribes did not provide sufficient evidence to qualify for federal status. For certain periods of time, the tribes did not submit adequate documentation of continuous tribal continuity and political influence, said researchers.

But Gover issued a proposed finding to acknowledge the tribes. In light of the state's long-time relationship with the historic Eastern Pequot Tribe, the deficiencies did not mean the tribes were disqualified, he said.

"A different standard of tribal existence is not being applied here," wrote Gover. "Rather, the evidence, when weighed in the context of this continuous strong historical relationship, carries greater weight."

Blumenthal challenges the assertion by claiming state recognition carries no weight in the matter. Gover ignored precedent by relying on the existence of the tribes on the Lantern Hill Reservation since the 1600s, he claims.

"The proposed findings' reliance on State recognition to augment or excuse the absence of otherwise insufficient evidence is misplaced," said Blumenthal. "The State's relationship with the petitioners was not based on a recognition of the Connecticut Indian groups as sovereigns exercising autonomous political authority."

State laws, however, might seem to point otherwise. All state-recognized tribes have various powers of self-governance, including the right to determine tribal membership, form a government, regulate trade and commerce on the reservation, make contracts and determine tribal leadership.

The powers have been upheld in various court cases. Particularly in disputes over tribal leadership, the court system has deferred to the rights of the tribes.

Blumenthal did not respond to a request by Indianz.Com to comment on the state laws in question. The laws were last amended in 1973, several years before the two tribes submitted a joint letter of intent to petition for recognition.

In his comments, Blumenthal instead says the state's "lack of standards -- and the lack of relevance to federal standards -- continues through the present." Most, if not all, of the powers listed in Connecticut laws are the same afforded to federally-recognized tribes.

The tribes have 30 days to submit their own comments on the material received, as well as provide additional evidence to bolster their claims. Per a court order, McCaleb has to issue a final determination by December.

McCaleb could accept one, both or neither of the tribes. Among the issues he has to consider is whether the two are really two factions of the same tribe.

After McCaleb issues a final determination, it will become effective in 90 days. Depending on the decision, an appeal is highly likely.

Under federal regulations, the Assistant Secretary has final say over recognition of a tribe. On Monday, McCaleb denied recognition to the Muwekma of California after researchers said the tribe failed to meet three out of the seven recognition criteria.

Get Blumenthal's Submissions:
Comments [pdf 140k] | Appendix [pdf 60k]

Get Recognition Documents:
Eastern Pequot | Paucatuck Eastern Pequot

Relevant Links:
Branch of Acknowledgment and Research -
General Statutes of Connecticut, Indians -
Attorney General, Connecticut -

Related Stories:
Towns submit Pequot documentation (8/2)
Muwekma Tribe denied recognition (7/31)
McCaleb decision sure to draw scrutiny (7/31)
BIA pushed to provide 'answers' on tribes (7/26)
McCaleb endorses BIA on recognition (6/14)
Gover's 'activist' legacy escapes McCaleb (6/13)
BIA has small goal for big problem (5/22)
Federal recognition battles continue (5/10)
Recognition reforms might not have an effect (2/7)

Blasts from the Past - Indianz.Com Recognition Classics:
Recognition findings a departure (8/16)
Decisions put Gover in the middle (08/16)
Gover wants BIA out of nastiness (05/25)
Town: Gover a 'mockery' (5/25)