TRUMBULL, Conn. - The BIA is on schedule in its court-ordered review of the federal recognition status of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe and expects to complete its work on time, a communiqu? from the tribe quotes the U.S. Department of Justice as saying recently.
Meanwhile, Chief Quiet Hawk, council chief of the Golden Hill Paugussetts, strongly criticized state lawmakers who say they will try to repeal the so-called Las Vegas Nights legislation, which allows churches and civic groups in Connecticut to operate games of chance as fund-raisers.
"This is a smokescreen, and a pathetic one at that," said Chief Quiet Hawk.
"Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is leading the charge to repeal Las Vegas Nights, knows full well that it is unconstitutional to try to protect the two existing casinos with some law that he intends to tailor-make to suit his interests.
"The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 is quite clear. If Las Vegas Nights were repealed tomorrow, as long as Connecticut's two existing casinos were still operating, the State could not prevent other federally recognized tribes from also operating casinos. Mr. Blumenthal knows this."
According to figures compiled by the state, charitable gaming produces more than $50 million each year for churches and civic organizations in Connecticut. "The State of Connecticut, secure in its lottery gambling monopoly, and seeking desperately to protect the money it gets from the two existing casinos, is telling non-profit groups to go find that $50 million elsewhere. This is beyond the pale," said Chief Quiet Hawk, "but it's typical of our opponents."
If Mr. Blumenthal wants to do something constructive, the chief said, "He should sit down with the Golden Hill Tribe and negotiate a settlement to our land claims, which cover almost one-third of the state. He is so bent on depriving us of our rights, he has completely ignored the land claims, which we have repeatedly and publicly called upon him to settle. The Attorney General and wealthy corporate interests have held our tribe hostage for long enough. They are playing a game of chicken in which only innocent property owners stand to lose."
In December 2001, U.S. District Court in New Haven ordered the BIA to begin a review of the Paugussetts' recognition documentation after opponents of the Paugussetts had tried to derail the recognition process. The BIA Research Team assigned to the Paugussett case began its work on July 22, 2002.
In a mandatory 120-day summary report to U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton, the Justice Department said the BIA is on schedule in reviewing the Paugussetts' documentation of their tribal status and expects to render a decision in January or sooner.
"The date for issuing the [Golden Hill Paugussett] proposed finding is on schedule," U.S. Attorney John A. Danaher III and John B. Hughes, chief of the Civil Division, told Judge Arterton.