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Friday, July 22, 2005

Schaghticoke Indian Nation wins a round in court

I wonder why this story isn't being covered in the media. The Schaghticoke case can have a huge impact on Connecticut if their tribe is recognized by the federal government and they just won a ruling in Federal court today.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter Dorsey has ruled that the tribe may submit new evidence to the BIA about tribal marriage rates during the first half of the 19th century to prove the tribe's continuous community and political authority while the agency prepares its reconsidered final decision.

The BIA's January 2004 decision to grant the Schaghticoke federal acknowledgement was vacated in May by the Interior Board of Indian Appeals on appeal by the state, and remanded back to the BIA for reconsideration.

The new evidence will respond to a statement from the Office of Federal Acknowledgement to the appeals board last December - 18 months after the tribe was federally acknowledged - that researchers had unintentionally used inconsistent methods to calculate intra-tribal marriage rates and had made a mathematical error.

The new documents and reply briefs from interveners will be filed during the next few weeks under a tight timeline set by Dorsey. The federal judge has overseen all procedures in the BIA's evaluation of the Schaghticokes' petition because of the tribe's pending land claims for 2,150 acres of undeveloped land abutting the 300-member tribe's 400-acre reservation on Schaghticoke Mountain.

The ruling also extends the BIA's decision deadline by 30 days to Oct. 12.


OFA Director Lee Fleming, in a July 14 ''technical assistance'' letter to Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky, requested specific documents ''from 1801 to about 1850,'' including vital statistics and court cases cited in previous submissions, and legible photocopies of original handwritten overseers' reports for the same period.

What's at the heart of the matter here is if the Schaghticoke become recognized, they could build casinos in Western Conneticut and that doesn't sit so well with some people.

We'll keep a closer eye on this story and see how it plays out but again I ask, why hasn't this story appeared in the press? You would think this is an important story for obvious reasons.