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Three tribes denied federal recognition

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb issued a proposal to deny federal recognition to two branches of the Nipmuc and a final determination against the Duwamish.

The Clinton administration approved the tribes' federal recognition application.

The Nipmuc Nation of Sutton, Mass., the Webster/Dudley band of Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck and the Duwamish of Washington state failed to meet all the criteria for federal recognition, as stated by Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Neal McCaleb.

His predecessor, Mike Anderson, who acted as the assistant secretary after the resignation of Kevin Gover, approved the recognition at the eleventh hour of the Clinton administration.

Anderson made the recommendation against the advice of the BIA staff, and after a review by the Solicitor's office, which coincided with the staff, McCaleb issued his decision.

'The acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs proposed decision did not provide an explanation for his proposed modifications to the recommended decision,' McCaleb stated.

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The tribes, he stated, 'do not meet the requirements for a government to government relationship with the United States.'

Anderson's decision on the Nipmuc Nation was made on Jan. 19, 2001, but the next day the Bush administration placed a memorandum that froze pending matters from the previous administration that delayed the posting of the decision on the Federal Register.

Anderson found that the Duwamish met all of the seven criteria for becoming a federally recognized tribe. But, based on the Solicitor's office information, McCaleb determined that three of the seven required criteria were not properly supported.

He stated the tribal organization could not prove a continuous political authority as a tribal entity. The Duwamish could not prove it was part of the tribe that signed the 1855 treaty, and any evidence of the Duwamish Tribal Organization did not prove it maintained a political government or historic line as a continuous organization.

Both Nipmuc branches said they would submit additional materials during the 180-period that would support their petitions for recognition. Even so, the Nipmucs of Sutton called the reversal ''yet another emotional insult.' In a prepared statement, the tribe said it is consulting with lawyers about ''possible courses of action in this respect, in the near future.'' It did not elaborate.

The Chaubunagungamaug band had been researching for additional documentation that would prove its case for federal recognition. A spokesman for the band said there was new information that would prove its position as a tribe.

The setback puts a damper on a potential gaming enterprise for the Nipmucs of Sutton. The band claims to have historic roots in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and northeastern Connecticut. Lakes Gaming Inc. of Minnesota signed a seven-year contract with the band to build a casino. Property in Sturbridge, Mass., and Union, Conn., has been targeted with opposition from both communities.