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NAACP supports federal recognition in Conn.

WATERBURY, Conn. - The head of the NAACP chapter in one of Connecticut's
largest cities will seek renewed resolutions from the national organization
and from the state's Legislative Black and Hispanic Caucus in support of
the federal recognition of the state's Indian tribes.

James Griffin, president of the Waterbury chapter of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he would ask the
national organization at a leadership conference in Florida at the end of
May to reiterate its passage of a 2003 resolution he wrote in support of
the tribes.

The resolution called for the continuous support of the federal recognition
for tribes and a promise to "vigorously oppose, through legislation, public
rallies and court action, any and all attempts to discriminate against
Native Americans in the federal recognition process."

Griffin said he would also seek a repeat from the Black and Hispanic Caucus
of its statement issued last year supporting the Schaghticoke Tribal
Nation. The caucus asked state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal at that
time not to appeal the Schaghticokes' federal recognition, but instead to
begin negotiations to develop a gaming compact "that respects the needs of
the State of Connecticut and the well-documented legitimacy of the
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation."

In a sharply-worded statement issued May 24, Griffin said he was
disappointed with the way Connecticut politicians have handled the issue of
federal recognition for the state's tribes. He expressed solidarity between
American Indians and African-Americans, and contended that race is a major
factor in white leaders' "aggressive" opposition to the tribes' federal
recognition.

"It was the white power structure that enslaved blacks and stole the
American soil from the Native Americans," Griffin said.

Griffin's statements were sparked by a recent ruling from the Interior
Department's Board of Indian Appeals to void the BIA's decisions that gave
federal recognition to the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation in 2002 and the
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in 2004. The decisions have been remanded back
to the agency for reconsideration.

Blumenthal and coalitions of anti-casino towns and regional government
councils appealed the BIA's decisions to recognize the two tribes, both of
which would like to open casinos. The tribes' federal acknowledgement is
also opposed by Gov. Jodi Rell, the state's senators, and three of the
state's five congressman. U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-5th Dist., has filed a
bill in Congress to repeal the Schaghticoke decision.

Blumenthal, who has led the state's fight against both the Schaghticokes
and the Eastern Pequots, did not respond to requests for comment.

Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky expressed appreciation for
the support.

"The themes he touched on are echoed in the rhetoric, distortion and
tactics of Connecticut politicians and serve as a warning for all Native
peoples. No state has gone so far, in recent years, to target Native
populations within its boarders," Velky said.

Griffin, a member of the state's Commission on Human Rights and
Opportunities, said that he was further upset by an Interior Department
announcement May 23 that the tribes could not submit new evidence to
bolster their petitions.

"How do you expect any group of people to have an accurate accounting of
their history when [the state] stole most it from them? The people of this
state should be ashamed of this blatant disregard for the human and civil
rights of our Native Americans who reside here and throughout this nation,"
Griffin said.

His comments struck a familiar chord with the Schaghticoke leader.

"What justice is there in ensuring that a government decision is made
without all the facts? It is clear to us that some Connecticut politicians
will do almost anything to keep our tribe from being recognized. We would
note that all we are asking for is a fair opportunity to protect what is
already ours - our reservation, our community, our heritage and our
sovereignty," Velky said.

Griffin said it was "contradictory" for the state to argue against the role
of state recognition in the federal acknowledgement process.

Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Marcia Jones Flowers agreed: "The
state is not only contradicting itself by opposing our recognition; its
public officials have used countless taxpayer dollars to politicize the
recognition process. We've played by the rules from the beginning but the
state has used everything in [its] power, which is substantial, to
misrepresent our history and who we are,."

In 1989, the state Legislature recognized the Schaghticokes, the Paucatuck
Eastern Pequots, the Mashantucket Pequots, the Mohegans and the Golden Hill
Paugussetts as "self-governing entities possessing powers and duties over
tribal members and reservations."

The BIA has since rejected the Golden Hill petition for federal
recognition.