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News from the Northeast

Judge dismisses Narragansetts' lawsuit

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A federal court judge has granted the state's motion to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit filed by seven Narragansett Indians who were arrested during a state police raid on a tribal smokeshop, saying the state's jurisdiction was backed by other court decisions.

U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith dismissed the tribal members' suit on April 17, a week after tribal attorney John Killoy argued against the state motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last July against Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri, state Attorney General Patrick Lynch, State Police Col. Steven Pare and more than a dozen troopers.

The suit alleged that the state violated tribal members' rights of equal protection when state police and a canine unit stormed the tribe's reservation on a search warrant to shut down its tax-free cigarette shop in 2003.

Soon after the smokeshop raid, the tribe filed a separate lawsuit claiming the state violated tribal sovereignty and immunity by sending state police onto land given to the tribe as part of a 1978 settlement agreement. Smith ruled in that action that the tribe was bound by state tax laws. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals went further and ruled that the state has civil and criminal jurisdiction over the tribe, and last November the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the circuit court ruling by refusing to hear the tribe's appeal.

In dismissing the civil rights action, Smith said the lawsuit was conceived as a placeholder that might become ''viable'' if the Supreme Court had reversed the lower court decision.

Killoy said he was researching the case and consulting with the tribe, but declined to comment further.

'Wabanaki: A New Dawn' released on DVD

HUDSON, Maine - The film ''Wabanaki: A New Dawn,'' originally released in 1995 by the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission, is now available in DVD format.

''Wabanaki: A New Dawn'' shows the quest for cultural survival by today's Wabanaki peoples in Maine - the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, Houlton Band of Maliseets, Passamaquoddy Tribe and Penobscot Nation. The voices in the video offer hope that the Wabanaki will use their cultural and spiritual inheritance to survive and thrive in the third millennium.

David Westphal, co-producer of the film with Dennis Kostyk, cites the film as one of his proudest achievements.

''During the production of the film, I was deeply inspired by the spiritual strength of the Wabanaki people, especially the elders. It was an honor to have been given the opportunity to produce 'Wabanaki: A New Dawn,''' Westphal said.

Wayne Newell, Passamaquoddy elder and tribal council member, first Wabanaki person appointed as a public member of the University of Maine System board of trustees and renowned Indian educator, plays a major part in the film.

''This production teaches how understanding and appreciating Wabanaki culture and traditions that have sustained a people for millennia can help all people find the values we hold in common for a better world,'' Newell said.

''Wabanaki: A New Dawn'' is a valuable teaching aide to introduce students to Wabanaki culture and traditions.

The Episcopal Committee on Indian Relations provided a grant to fund the conversion of ''Wabanaki: A New Dawn'' from VHS to DVD format.

The DVD is available for $22 from the MITSC. For more information or to purchase the DVD, contact MITSC at (207) 394-2045 or visit

Archaeological survey under way on potential ancient site

MADISON, Conn. - Archaeologist Lucianne Lavin is conducting an archaeological survey at a 42-acre property that may be an ancient American Indian site.

In March, the town approved a plan by private owner Leyland Alliance for a high-end development of 127 untied of age-restricted houses and condominiums on the property, a former airport for small planes known as Madison Landing.

State archaeologist Nick Bellantoni required the company to conduct an archaeological survey because the site near the mouth of the tidal Hammonasset River has a ''high probability'' of being an ancient indigenous site. An ancient site on the property is already on Bellantoni's list of significant state sites. The nearby area is reported to be dotted with both seasonal campsites and villages of coastal tribes. The area was part of the territory of the Hammonasset people.

Neither Lavin nor the developer will reveal what, if anything has been uncovered so far.

Lavin is the director of research and collections at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Conn.

A tide of opposition arose in March and April when the proposed development was announced. The Department of Environmental Protection gave the company conditional approval to install a Zenon sewage treatment system on the site. More than 150 people attended a public hearing in mid-April to discuss the system.

Several environmental groups oppose the development, saying the discharge from the development would pollute the adjacent tidal wetlands of Hammonassett Beach State Park.

The public hearing was scheduled to continue May 9 at DEP headquarters in Hartford.