It’s the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States. George Washington placed an ad in it to lease part of his Mount Vernon land. Thomas Jefferson sued it for libel and lost. Mark Twain tried to buy stock in it, but was rejected. It’s Connecticut’s largest daily newspaper. And now it’s joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal and other elected officials in a racist anti-Indian campaign against reforming the federal recognition process – all in an effort to stop additional Connecticut tribes from being acknowledged and opening casinos.
The Hartford Courant, which began as a weekly in 1764, published an editorial August 8 warning against a draft proposal of changes to the Interior Department’s federal acknowledgment process that Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn released June 21.
Blumenthal is leading the campaign in opposition to the reform effort in order to stop the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN) and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) from possibly regaining the federal acknowledgments they received in 2002 and 2004, respectively. The acknowledgments were overturned in 2005 after Blumenthal led a relentless and orchestrated campaign of opposition and political pressure involving local and state elected officials and an anti-Indian sovereignty group and its powerful White house-connected lobbyist, Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR). An Indian Country Today Media Network editorial, “A Lack of Interior Fortitude,” describes “the force of outside pressure” and its impact across the country.
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The editorial insinuates that the Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials are corrupt and can be “bought.” It implies that Connecticut tribes are not “real” and, getting down to basics, it complains that if more tribes are recognized and open casinos, the state will have to renegotiate compacts with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, who own and operate Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, and will likely get a lot less than the 25 percent of slot revenues it now receives. Mashantucket and Mohegan gaming “has brought the state much wampum,” the Courant says, in the commonly misinformed belief that wampum was “money” and in ignorance of the contractual and ceremonial uses of the beautiful polished quahog shell beads.
Ironically, while expressing willingness to accept the $3 billion-plus that Mashantucket and Mohegan have each contributed to the state since the 1990s, the Courant distains Indian gaming. “Big-time Indian gaming — a highly questionable policy to begin with — has been with us for a quarter-century,” it says. But there’s no need to recognized more tribes, because, “Most of the real tribes have all been recognized by now.”
It’s not a pretty read.
Even the headline — “Feds Would Open Door To 'Casino Tribes' “ – uses the pejorative “casino tribes” catch phrase that was so popular during the Bush administration when anti-Indian casino sentiments reached a frenzy. “The issues around Indian gaming ought to be well behind us in this state. … But the Bureau of Indian Affairs keeps trying to stack the deck… In the guise of making the process more efficient and transparent, the draft guidelines make tribal recognition much simpler,” the editorial says, insinuating that the BIA is cheating and the proposed reformed rules are rigged.
The proposed new regulations would require tribes to prove continuous political authority and community since 1934, aligning the review with the federal government’s repudiation of the allotment and assimilation policies of the late 1800s and early part of the 1900s and eliminate the requirement that an external entity identify the group as Indian since 1900. The draft proposal also gives new weight to tribes that have maintained state-recognized reservations since 1934.
Blumenthal was successful in arguing in 2005 that the EPTN and STN’s reservations established in 1683 and 1736, and their long tribal-state relationships were irrelevant and the Courant echoes his argument. But state recognition and state reservations were considered appropriate evidence by former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, and by former Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Aurene Martin.
No official spokesperson from EPTN of STN could be reached for comment, but an STN source who asked to be unnamed said Connecticut officials and the mainstream media are “ignorant and hypocritical.“ Not a single Connecticut official showed up at the Interior Department’s consultation and public comment session on the reform proposal at Penobscot on June 24, the source said. “That was the proper forum for them to express their opposition in an open transparent way, but no. It’s a repeat of the back door political influence they used in 2005 and yet they demand that the tribes be transparent,” the source said.