Press Release – EPTN Responds to BIA Proposed Reforms

North Stonington, CT – The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is seeking to reform the regulations of the federal recognition process for Native American tribes. The proposed reform includes an exception that allows a tribe previously denied recognition to reapply. The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation appreciates the BIA’s proposed reform efforts but is outraged at the “third party veto.” EPTN believes the veto undermines the very intent of the proposed regulations to fix the “broken process.”

Revising the draft regulations to simplify the acknowledgment process, and to reduce the amount of time and money required to get a final decision, is a major step. EPTN Chairman Dennis Jenkins and the entire tribal council applauds the decision of the secretary to recognize the historical relationships of state tribes, especially those who have maintained reservations and to allow those tribes to have expedited decisions. Further, the EPTN recognizes that each tribe has their own goals and that each petition should be judged individually and on its own merit, based solely on the historic evidence. Bureau decisions should never be influenced by politics, interested third parties, or concerns based on economic development.

The EPTN journey for federal recognition began in 1978.

• In 1978, the EPTN petitioned the BIA to become eligible for federal assistance for health, education, and housing for their members.
• The EPTN was federally recognized in 2002 as the Historic Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation with a reservation established in 1683, one of the oldest Native American reservations in the country.
• In 2003, Connecticut and twenty-nine towns appealed through the IBIA (which is no longer a part of the appeal process under the proposed regulations) and overturned the EPTN positive decision.
• The EPTN is the only tribe to receive two positive acknowledgement decisions under two different administrations, Clinton in 2000 and Bush in 2002, and then have their acknowledgement taken away in an unprecedented decision by the IBIA.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) showed its support for EPTN federal
recognition in 2003 through the resolution, “Support for Continued Federal Recognition of the Eastern Pequot Nation.” The resolution states, “The NCAI hereby urges the State of Connecticut, its representatives and its towns to recognize its legal, historical, and political relationship with those tribes within Connecticut whose tribal, social, and political structures predate the Constitution of the United States, to respect the inherent sovereignty of those tribes and to engage in good faith bargaining regarding land acquisition, gaming, compacting and other issues of mutual concern and to refrain from using the Bureau of Indian Affairs regulatory process and the courts to delay a legitimate federal tribal recognition decision.”

The State of Connecticut has historic responsibilities to tribes based on treaties and agreements that continue to be legally binding. According to statute, the State of Connecticut recognizes that Indians have certain “special rights to tribal lands as may have been set forth by treaty or other agreements,” and that the Governor is “designated the administrative agent of the state to apply for any funds or other aid, cooperate and enter into contracts and agreements with the federal government, the Indian Housing Authority, or any other appropriate state or local agency for the purpose of providing necessary services.”

The EPTN calls upon the governor and the congressional delegation to honor the treaties, court rulings, and law, and invites them to come forward to negotiate rather than ignore the obligations of the state.

Chairman Jenkins said, “The tribe will continue to fight to regain the acknowledgment that was politically taken from us. We will always be Pequots regardless of the states effort to eradicate us.”

It is the mission of the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation to protect their sovereignty, conserve
and develop their tribal resources, and promote the self-sufficiency of their people and their
descendants. For more information on EPTN, visit http://www.easternpequottribalnation.com.