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Blame corruption, not genocide

I read the Perspective, ''Final solution for Connecticut tribes violates international law,'' by Harold Monteau [Vol. 26, Iss. 28], in which he accuses the state of Connecticut of genocide for encouraging the federal government to deny the recognition of several Indian tribes. As a lifelong Connecticut resident, I disagree with his views. Political corruption and bullying of poor tribes by rich ones (which he happens to represent) caused the events he is supposedly appalled by.

Connecticut is not trying to eliminate the existence of all Indian tribes, only the tribes who are poor and don't run gambling businesses. What Monteau failed to mention is that the State Gaming Compact allows Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun to stop paying a portion of their slots revenue to the state if any other business are allowed to operate slots.

State officials did not act alone. Monteau also neglected to mention that the Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots lobbied just as hard as the state against federal recognition of the Eastern Pequots, Schaghticokes (recognized by the state since 1736) and Golden Hill Paugussetts. These rich tribes provided much of the ''illegal'' funds he mentioned.

During his reign as the head of the [National Indian Gaming Commission], Monteau helped the Pequots and Mohegans become two of the richest tribes in the nation. By taking advantage of the policies of a corrupt, incompetent federal agency, he helped these tribes gain the power and financial ability to destroy the business opportunities of other tribes. Several news reports stated that the tribes could have lost an estimated $3 billion if other tribes were allowed to operate casinos in Connecticut. Greed is their motivation.

According to a Jan. 11, 2006, Wall Street Journal article, ''Indian Taker,'' ''Foxwood's operators felt vulnerable and in need of allies, so another resurrected tribe, the Mohegans, teamed up with another billionaire, South African Sol Kerzner. Swiftly approving their Mohegan Sun casino was Harold Monteau, the Clinton-appointed head of the National Indian Gaming Commission, who ignored opposition from agency staff and from both of his fellow commissioners. Need we add that Mr. Monteau, a Chippewa-Cree, was eventually shooed from office by congressional critics (mostly Democrats)? His law firm, with the Mohegans as a major client, now serves as a landing place for other fixers on the wing.''

Monteau seems to be guilty of the same actions as the people he condemns.

- Katie Beecher

Old Saybrook, Conn.

Editor's note: The author and her husband are plaintiffs in Beecher v. MTIC, on appeal in the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Harold Monteau replies:

First, I can say unequivocally; I do not represent the Mohegans. I also don't represent ''rich'' tribes unless they are ones that were poor and I helped get wealthy. My firm worked briefly with the Mohegans to facilitate a relationship with two poor tribes that needed a ''rich'' tribe's assistance to build casinos. We were paid very little and it has been a several years since that activity.

I do, however, have friendships with the Eastern Pequots on Winechaug Hill and Long Pond and members from the Schaghticoke Tribe. It is tragic that two tribes that kept their land since colonial times and maintained a continuous relationship with the colonial and state governments were denied federal recognition upon the urging of Connecticut, its politicians and Congressional Delegation. This goes beyond hypocrisy; it stinks with the stench of genocide. It may not be as quick as the sword and musket balls that were used in 1633, but it will be just as final.

It would be ill-advised for Connecticut's other tribes to participate in activities to prevent the Schaghticokes and Eastern Pequots from getting federally recognized. It would be better for the Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots to work with the Schaghticokes and Eastern Pequots and view them as future partners rather than competition. I remember the concerns of the state and the Mashantuckets when Mohegan was going through the federal approval processes for its reservation and casino about how it would affect state payments. Those concerns never materialized to reality. All parties sat down and resolved the situation to the benefit of all. Connecticut ended up getting payments from two tribes. That needs to happen again.

If I was ''shooed'' from office by Democrats it was because they were protecting the interest of gaming in Nevada and New Jersey. My approval of the Mohegans' bond offering to finance Mohegan Sun was Nevada and New Jersey's worst nightmare: tribes accessing Wall Street financing sources just like Nevada and New Jersey casinos. The Mohegan deal opened Wall Street's doors to tribes. That was my cardinal sin. Far from being ''swift,'' it took almost four years for the Mohegans to gain a reservation and casino. The best thanks I got from the Mohegans was an arrowhead from Fort Shantock given to me by the late Gladys Tantiquidgeon and her sister, Ruth. I still have it. It is one of my treasures.

The sleazy behavior Ms. Beecher accuses me of (taking young Indian professionals under my wing that have been sullied by the slime of D.C. and helping them regain a foothold in careers they put aside to serve Indians in the federal viper pit) is a criticism I will accept like an award. In the future, [Ms. Beecher should not] pretend that she understands the world I walk in. The Indian world might as well be from another universe for all the effort she takes to try to understand it.

- Harold Monteau

Chippewa Cree

Missoula, Mont.