Town: Gover a 'mockery'
Facebook Twitter Email
MAY 25, 2000

Trying to enhance the quality of life and improve economic opportunity for over 500 federally recognized tribes and more than 1 million Native Americans all over Indian Country is a tough job. Who would want to take on such a task?

The Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Despite all the thankless work the BIA and Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover perform as part of their service to American Indians and Alaskan Natives, if you believe the perceptions of a relative newcomer to Indian issues, something is wrong on Capitol Hill.

"I feel the present system is not working," said Robert Congdon on Wednesday.

Congdon is the head official for the Connecticut town of Preston. Along with the towns of Ledyard and North Stonington, the town has been trying to fight the expansion of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

But the part of the system he feels is not working applies to another one of their joint efforts: To prevent the BIA from federally recognizing the Eastern Pequot and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot tribes.

"Kevin Gover has made a mockery of the federal recognition guidelines, overruling the recommendations of his own staff," alleges Congdon. In the process of evaluating tens of thousands of documents sent by the BIA regarding the two tribes, he believes the towns have uncovered reports that support his accusation.

How serious are these charges? The answer seems to depend on how important federal recognition is to the BIA. If testimony on a bill that would remove BIA from the recognition process altogether is any indication, there are more important issues facing the Bureau, such as tribal justice, education, and the trust fund.

"I'm dealing with police departments that don't have enough cops and schools that are falling down and I'm being held in contempt because the trust system has broken down," Gover told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday.

Whatever Gover's position on the issue, Congdon said has some "reservations" about the proposed legislation.

Congdon also said he favors increased staffing and more funding for the BIA, which he says might enable the Bureau to carry out its mission as well as respond to various issues the towns and the state of Connecticut have raised since the two tribes received preliminary recognition in March.

However, if such funding for the BIA existed, priority would go to Indian Country, said BIA spokesman Rex Hackler earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Hackler also said there haven't been any significant changes in the funding over the years for the BIA's Branch of Acknowlegement and Research, the staff which evaluates petitions by those seeking recognition.

So for now, it appears the towns are out of luck. They have until late September to make good on their allegations and respond to Gover's preliminary finding in favor of acknowledging the two tribes.

Related Stories:
Gover wants BIA out of nastiness (Tribal Law 5/25)
Key Provisions of the Indian Federal Recognition Administrative Procedures Act of 1999 (Tribal Law 5/25)
BIA eases recognition process (Tribal Law 5/22)

Only on Indianz.Com:
Links and resources on Federal Recognition.

Search our Site for all recent articles on federal recognition: