The Connecticut gaming group spearheading the challenge to the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s long-sought federal recognition was denied extra time to file additional paperwork in support of their argument in a ruling in early August.
The decision is a minor victory for the members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, who have waited decades for federal recognition, and who want the legal challenge to their bid filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Gaming Jobs to be resolved as quickly as possible. Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs had expressed frustration earlier this summer that the challenges had halted the tribe’s official federal recognition essentially on the eve of when they were slated to receive the designation.
“Obviously, their stuff was frivolous and they weren’t prepared,” Mr. Gumbs said of the CCGJ’s denied request. “It is what it is. They brought a frivolous suit and tried to build a case around it.”
The Interior Board of Indian Appeals, or IBIA, which is an administrative judicial department within the U.S. Department of the Interior charged with reviewing objections to federal recognition, denied the motion on August 4. If granted, the motion would have given CCGJ an additional month to file papers in support of its standing within the case against the Shinnecock Indian Nation. The board stated that CCGJ has already submitted arguments on its standing after initially filing 400 pages of arguments in July.
The CCGJ’s basic arguments surround its claims that allowing the Shinnecock Indian Nation to become federally recognized, the key step required to allow the tribe to move forward with a proposal for a casino, would negatively impact Connecticut’s gaming interest. Another objection to the tribe’s federal recognition was raised by a faction of the Montaukett Indian Nation, known as the Montauk Tribe of Long Island; however, the Montaukett are not challenging the Nation’s actual federal recognition.
Mark Tilden, the Colorado attorney litigating the Shinnecocks’ federal recognition case, said he has recently filed response briefs charging that the CCGJ lacks interested party status under federal law to challenge the federal recognition.
Mr. Gumbs has previously stated that criteria for interested party status includes either being the governor, the state’s attorney general, or any recognized or unrecognized Indian group that would be affected by the awarding of another tribe’s federal recognition. The challenger may also be a third party with significant property or legal interests.
Mr. Tilden said the IBIA has committed to review whether the challengers have standing by October 18.
The benefits of federal recognition are broad, said Mr. Tilden. Tribes that are federally recognized achieve benefits in the areas of health, education and housing through a slew of federal programs. “It’s really hard to pinpoint … because there’s so much out there federal recognition tribes are able to ask,” he said.