Malloy calls for local hearing on proposed changes in federal recognition of Indian tribes

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has written to the U.S. secretary of the interior to complain about the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ failure to schedule a public hearing in Connecticut on proposed changes in the federal-recognition process for Indian tribes.

“As you know, the proposed regulation would have a direct and dramatic effect in Connecticut. Indeed, Connecticut may be the most profoundly affected of any state in the country,” Malloy wrote Tuesday in a letter to Sally Jewell. The governor’s office released the letter Thursday.

Malloy called for the BIA to schedule a hearing in Connecticut.

State and local officials have opposed the proposed changes, fearing they would ease the path to recognition for a number of tribal groups, including three state-recognized tribes that have tried and failed to gain recognition in the past: the Eastern Pequots of North Stonington, the Kent-based Schaghticokes and the Golden Hill Paugussetts of Trumbull and Colchester.

“Extending federal acknowledgement to such groups could result in land claims covering vast areas of settled land in Connecticut, clouding the title of Connecticut residents,” Malloy wrote.

The Easterns were federally recognized in 2002, but the decision was reversed in 2005 after an appeal by the state and more than 20 towns, including North Stonington, Ledyard and Preston.

Federal recognition, or acknowledgment, can entitle a tribe to sovereign status, federal aid for housing, education and health care, and the right to have land taken into trust for casino development.

The proposed changes would, in certain cases, allow tribes that have been denied recognition to re-apply under the new rules. A provision in the proposed changes would require third parties to an appeal of a previous petition for recognition to consent to a re-petitioning.

“While I appreciate the efforts made by the Bureau to address Connecticut’s concerns, the proposed rule remains deeply flawed,” Malloy wrote.

The BIA is conducting a series of public hearings on the proposed changes, the nearest one to Connecticut scheduled for Tuesday in Mashpee, Mass. The bureau is accepting written comment through Aug. 1.

“Connecticut will not be sending official representatives to the hearings held outside of Connecticut,” Malloy wrote. “We urge the Bureau both to extend the comment period and to show our residents the courtesy and respect of holding a public hearing in Connecticut.”

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