Velky to Washburn: Third Party Fed Rec Veto Is Unconstitutional
A proposal granting a third party veto power over a tribe’s effort to re-petition for federal recognition is unconstitutional, according to the chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.
In a May 27 letter to the Interior Department’s Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs (ASIA) Kevin Washburn, Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN) Chief Richard Velky said that the discussion draft of changes to the federal recognition regulations issued last spring was well received in Indian country. But not so with the proposed regulations announced in May, which included a new supplemental provision giving third parties that have been involved in litigation against tribes veto power over those tribes’ right to re-petition. Tribes would have to go to the same third party that fought its federal recognition at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals and/or in federal court to get their consent before re-petitioning. In Connecticut, which has fought indigenous sovereignty for almost 400 years, the likelihood of that happening is slim to none, Indian leaders say.
Moreover, the third party veto would be discriminatory, Velky said. “Unfortunately, the proposed rule's supplemental provision granting third parties the right to object or consent to any tribal effort to re-petition does not, I believe, comport with the due process and equal protection principles of our Constitution,” Velky wrote. “Nor does the U.S. Constitution provide that a state and its political subdivisions may exercise an absolute veto over the exercise of constitutional authority vested exclusively in the Federal government.”
ICTMN received the letter from the Velky. Interior Department spokeswoman Nedra Darling could not comment on Velky’s letter.
For STN and the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN), the appearance of the third party veto in the proposed regulations was a case of déjà vu all over again of the pummeling they endured at the hands of the state’s politicians. The proposed veto applies only to the state of Connecticut where Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), then the state’s attorney general, led a successful effort in 2005 to reverse EPTN and STN’s federal acknowledgments, which were issued in 2002 and 2004, respectively. After Blumenthal led an orchestrated campaign of opposition against STN by local, state and federal elected officials and an anti-Indian sovereignty group and its powerful White house-connected lobbyist, the BIA in an unprecedented move took away both tribes’ federal acknowledgment.
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