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Split decision advances recognition appeals

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SUTTON, Mass. - Recognition hopes revived for the Nipmuc Nation Oct. 21
when the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) agreed to take up its
request for reconsideration.

In a slap at the BIA's Office of Federal Acknowledgment, the IBIA found
sufficient grounds for appeal in four objections to OFA's June denial of
Nipmuc recognition. The appeals board also set a tight deadline, Jan. 31,
2005, for the BIA to forward its documents on the case.

"The whole thing has clearly been a bureaucratic travesty," said long-time
Nipmuc adviser Guy Conrad about the OFA rejection.

The four grounds under IBIA jurisdiction include new evidence that could
affect the determination; the charge that the OFA determination used
evidence of little probative value; the charge that its research was
inadequate or incomplete; and the possibility that reasonable alternative
explanations could affect the outcome.

Conrad said the IBIA action could help the tribe retain its financial
backing from Lakes Gaming of Michigan, whose hopes for a casino investment
took a blow from the OFA rejection. Or, he said, it could "open the door"
for other investors.

On another appeal, from the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe of Bridgeport,
Conn., whose recognition petition was also rejected by OFA this spring, the
IBIA ruled that the issues didn't fall under its jurisdiction. It referred
the case to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.