FROM THE ARCHIVE

BIA: Towns not reliable

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AUGUST 9, 2000

At a meeting discussing the federal recognition petitions of two Pequot tribes, Virginia DeMarce, a Bureau of Indian Affairs researcher, told representatives from the state of Connecticut that much of the information sent by three local towns was unreliable.

"The material that was submitted by the towns was so carelessly and so poorly abstracted that I could not rely on the validity of anything in it," responded DeMarce.

Her statement came in response to a comment by Nicholas Mullane, First Selectman of North Stonington. Mullane said 60 percent of the documentation sent by his town and the towns of Ledyard and Preston was not used by the BIA.

She also said she had become "skeptical" of the information being sent by the towns. She then advised them to hold their researchers to a "standard of accuracy."

The first day of the meeting bringing the BIA face-to-face with some of its most recent vocal critics was punctuated by similar statements made by DeMarce. The day centered around how BIA researchers analyzed if evidence submitted by the Eastern Pequot and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribes satisfied, or did not, various federal recognition criteria.

DeMarce and George Roth, representing the BIA Branch of Acknowledgment and Research told town leaders, their lawyers, and Connecticut State Attorney General the rules and precedents they used throughout the evaluation process. DeMarce, in particular, most vocally defended her findings in light of repeated questioning by Blumenthal and Daniel Schaefer, his assistant.

As Department of Interior staff reminded the state of Connecticut that the meeting was not a debate, a deposition, or a cross-examination, the pair, Blumenthal and Schaefer, often asked the same questions over and over. DeMarce and other panel members had to ask the state to stick to the agenda; however, Blumenthal tried to bring up whether or not Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover should recuse himself from the decision making process.

Although Gover did not attend yesterday's session, the state asked why he issued a finding in favor of the tribes, despite staff recommendations that evidence during certain time frames throughout their history was not sufficient.

The BIA and representatives from the Department of Interior told them Gover was well within his authority to issue his positive finding.

Steven Austin, a researcher for the Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Tribe and a former BIA researcher, said the tribe is submitting more evidence it hopes will fill in the gaps cited by the Bureau. DeMarce accused him of using the meeting as a means for getting particular statements into the public record.

Austin, who worked on the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut's recognition petition in the early 80s, refuted DeMarce's assertion.

DeMarce also told the state that some of the best evidence supporting the tribes came from them, not the petitioners. Her comment came as Schaefer questioned if the tribes' membership maintained social contact with each other.

Inspiring laughter from about 100 attendees of the meeting, DeMarce said that when people marry each other, it usually means they are maintaining social ties. She cited evidence of inter-tribal and intra-tribal marriage.

The meeting continues today, although some participants may have gotten a head start on the proceedings already. DeMarce offered to any and all attendees an one hour "tutorial" early Wednesday morning in order to demonstrate genealogy software used by BIA researchers.

Along with representatives from the two tribes, the towns, the state, and the Interior, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Kenneth Reels and John Brown of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island were participants.

Ed. Note: John Brown was mistakenly identified as Matthew Thomas, Chief Sachem of the Narragansett Tribe.

Relevant Links:
Media Advisory, Pequot Meeting (includes map of location) - www.doi.gov/bia/news/eastpequots.htm
The Bureau of Indian Affairs - www.doi.gov/bureau-indian-affairs.html
Eastern Pequot Preliminary Recognition - www.doi.gov/bia/bar/epdx.htm
Paucatuck Eastern Pequot Preliminary Recognition - www.doi.gov/bia/bar/pepdx.htm

Related Stories:
BIA meeting to focus on recognition (Tribal Law 8/4)
Town: Gover a 'mockery' (The Talking Circle 05/25)
Gover wants BIA out of nastiness (Tribal Law 5/25)
Key Provisions of the Indian Federal Recognition Administrative Procedures Act of 1999 (Tribal Law 5/25)
BIA eases recognition process (Tribal Law 5/22)

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