BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Two New England tribes should hear by Oct. 23 at the
latest whether they will keep their federal recognition fights alive for
The Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) of the U.S. Interior Department
is under a 30-day deadline to announce whether it will accept appeals by
the Nipmuc Nation of Grafton, Mass., and the Golden Hill Paugusetts of
Connecticut, of BIA denials of their recognition petitions earlier this
year. The Golden Hill Paugussetts filed their appeal with the IBIA Sept. 20
and the Nimpucs filed Sept. 23.
Along with other disappointed petitioners from the Midwest and Northwest,
the state-recognized tribes are charging arbitrary and inconsistent conduct
on the part of the BIA's Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA).
The office, an upgrade of the former Branch of Acknowledgement and Research
(BAR), is also under attack by opponents of two recognitions it did issue
in the last two years. Final "Positive Determinations" for the Eastern
Pequot Tribal Nation and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, both of
Connecticut, have been appealed to the IBIA by Connecticut's Attorney
General Richard Blumenthal and a number of the state's towns.
Blumenthal has claimed credit for curbing the BIA's willingness to grant
further recognitions, a highly-charged issue in his state because of vocal
opposition to new casinos and a less openly expressed fear of land claims
suits. Two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut, the Mohegans and the
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, currently operate two of the largest and
most profitable casinos in the world.
The Nipmuc Nation submitted a 140-page Request for Reconsideration, along
with 15 affidavits and 108 new evidence documents, supporting its charge
that OFA completely changed course in denying its petition in a June 18
A statement issued by Chief Walter Vickers and Tribal Council Chairwoman
Frances Richardson Garnett said, "The BIA, contrary to established
precedent, and in direct opposition to its earlier decision, arbitrarily
redefined the genealogical guidelines of the tribe, dividing the tribe into
two separate entities rather than recognizing the shared history, ancestry
and family lines of the members of the Nipmuc Nation.
"Through extensive historical and genealogical research, documentary
evidence and affidavits, as well as citations to both state and federal
law, the Nipmuc Nation provides a direct rebuttal of the BIA's contention
regarding the heritage and continuing involvement of its members, the
sanctity of its state-recognized reservation and numerous other areas where
the BIA either failed to review relevant evidence or misrepresented
evidence provided by the Nation."
OFA also denied recognition June 18 to the Webster/Dudley Band of
Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck Indians, whose leadership split from the Nipmuc
Nation a decade earlier. The Webster/Dudley Band has not yet made its own
The Golden Hill Paugussetts also accused the BIA of shifting its standards
and accompanied their filing with a harsh blast against its bureaucracy.
"Our IBIA appeal is a detailed listing of all the political calculations,
tactics and misuse of evidence at the BIA that produced our outrageous
negative Final Determination," said Chief Quiet Hawk, the tribal council
Quiet Hawk, also named Aurelius Piper Jr., continued, "If it can be
imagined, it happened to the Paugussetts. The BIA used materials not
contained in the record, used evidentiary standards inconsistent with
standards used for other tribal petitions, wrongfully construed evidence
against the tribe, held ex parte meetings with outsiders who oppose us,
leaked material to adverse interested parties and completely ignored the
fact we have been recognized by the state of Connecticut for more than 350
He charged, "This whole struggle of ours is not about genealogy any more,
if it ever was, but about politics and power." He said the BIA "was under
intense pressure from all of our various opponents."
Quiet Hawk has been an extremely controversial figure in Connecticut since
1992, when he and his brother, the late Chief Moon Face Bear filed
extensive land claims suits in state court affecting some of the state's
more affluent towns. The tribe filed three more limited suits in federal
court, which have been stayed since 1994 pending the outcome of its
recognition petition. Presiding Judge Janet Bond Arterton recently asked
the parties for a status report.