BOSTON – Connecticut is at the center of proposed new federal rules for the recognition of Indian tribes, according to the Associated Press, as reported in the Boston Globe.
According the story, the Bureau of Indian Affairs put forward the streamlined process in June and has had public hearings seeking comment on them over the summer. One tribe at the center of the controversy – although there are more across the country – is the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe, which is laying claim to large parts of Kent, Conn., with the hopes of eventually gaining more federal support and the right to build a casino there or elsewhere in the state.
Local residents as well the state’s congressional delegation are lining up against the changes in the procedure for recognition, which would overturn the rules that were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2009 decision that denied Rhode Island’s Narragansett Indian Tribe federal recognition (and the benefits that come from such a recognition) because the tribe had not been recognized by the federal government in 1934.
The proposed new rules could potentially add to the 566 Indian tribes already recognized by the federal government, which in turn could allow more casinos to be set up on Indian land. The change could also set up conflicts between various tribes looking to re-assert what they consider long-standing rights, including for example, fishing rights that could then affect other tribes’ abilities to fish the same waters.