Federal Proposal Could Affect Conn. Tribes, Lawyers
Alan Russell, the leader of the 100-member Schaghticoke Tribe, is fully aware that federal recognition has brought lucrative gaming money to members of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes.
Russell said his 100-member tribe wants its own casino, but not on its 400-acre reservation ringed by the Appalachian Trail. A business consultant for the tribe, Bill Buchanan, said it has spoken with potential investors and, assuming it wins recognition, would like to swap some land, team up with one of Connecticut's bigger cities, and perhaps build a casino along a highway.
A rival faction of the tribe, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, is hoping the new rules breathe life into its own parallel bid for recognition.The larger STN had the backing of Subway founder Fred DeLuca, who was interested in building a casino in Bridgeport, when it briefly won recognition in 2004.
Nicholas Mullane, the first selectman in North Stonington, Conn., questions whether a Connecticut tribe whose members have played in the local Little League and joined local churches should have the same standing as other U.S. tribes that have remained distinct communities. "It's not like somebody in the West where you have a huge reservation and a government and they meet regularly," said Mullane, who is preparing to fight any renewed recognition bid by the Eastern Pequots, who have a small, state-issued reservation in town.
The Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe has recently filed a new petition for federal status. Samuel Dixon, a New Haven lawyer, filed the petition for recognition. He acknowledged the tribe would like to open a casino.
Michael D. O'Connell, a principal with O'Connell, Attmore & Morris in Hartford, has a land use and Indian Law practice and has served as general counsel to the Golden Hill Paugussetts in past recognition efforts. His work on behalf of other Indian tribes has most recently taken him out West, to North Dakota, where tribes are seeking approval to drill for oil.
Since the last bid for the three tribes in Connecticut to fell short last year, "things seemed quiet." he said.
But with the new proposal to change the rules for designation, he planned on calling Chief Quiet Hawk of the Golden Hill Paugussetts to see what, if any further action, they might take. "I am very interested in what these changes might bring," he said.•