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Asunto:[MESHIKO] Indigenas Norteamericanos y Casinos / La Nacion Nipmuc Pierde su Estatus
Fecha:Domingo, 30 de Septiembre, 2001  20:38:33 (-0700)
Autor:Ricardo Ocampo-Anahuak Networks <anahuak>

Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 05:48:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: Paul Pureau <ppureau@...>
Subject: Nipmuc Nation loses its US status

Nipmuc Nation loses its US status

Push for casino in Sturbridge halts

By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/28/2001

The Bush administration stripped a Central Massachusetts Indian tribe of its
federal recognition yesterday, bringing to a halt its plans to build a
casino and resort in Sturbridge.

The Nipmuc Nation, a group of about 1,600 descendants of one of the region's
aboriginal tribes, gained status as a federally recognized tribe only nine
months ago. Only tribes with federal recognition have authority to build

The decision recognizing the Nipmuc Nation was made by a Clinton
administration political appointee in January and overrode recommendations
by staff genealogists that the tribe had not stayed together as a distinct
community and thus failed to meet the criteria for federal recognition.

The Bush administration immediately slapped a hold on hundreds of
last-minute decisions by Clinton appointees, including the Nipmuc Nation's
recognition. Yesterday, the administration reversed the finding, saying the
tribe had failed to meet criteria for recognition.

Bush officials in the Bureau of Indian Affairs declined to comment on the

Members of the Nipmuc Nation, who have pursued recognition for more than 20
years, said they would press on with administrative appeals and possible

''The reversal is yet another emotional insult,'' said a Nipmuc Nation
official, noting that this is the first time in the Bureau of Indian
Affairs' history that a recognition decision was changed in this manner.

Nipmuc Nation officials declined to comment on their casino plans, as did
Lakes Gaming, the tribe's financial backers.

But news of the decision was not universally greeted with frustration by the
thousands of people in south-central Massachusetts who descend from the

Because of the enormous potential for gaming riches, the Nipmuc in recent
years have been courted by numerous non-Indian investors seeking
partnerships with the tribe. The gaming pressures have caused the Nipmuc to
split into several factions.

The faction known as Nipmuc Nation, which got recognition in January, is led
by Guy Conrad, a non-Indian former public relations executive who negotiated
a deal on behalf of the tribe with Lakes, one of the country's leading
gaming companies. Conrad and Lakes stood to profit handsomely if a casino
opened, and together they arranged an option on a large tract of land on
Interstate 84 in Sturbridge as a possible casino site.

But in March, William Gould, chairman of the Tribal Council of the Nipmuc
Nation, broke with Conrad, saying the deal negotiated by Conrad was too rich
for the non-Indian investors and that non-Indians had too much control.
Gould further contended that Conrad had cultivated a group of tribal leaders
loyal to him, but lacking in genealogical connection with the Nipmuc.

''We don't look at this as a defeat,'' Gould said yesterday. ''Now we'll
have a chance to regroup and have the true representatives of the Nipmucs
come forward.''

Another group, known as the Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck Indian Council,
applied on its own for recognition. But when the Bureau of Indian Affairs
recognized the Nipmuc Nation in January, it turned down the
Chaubunagungamaug. That decision was affirmed in the decision released

An official from that group said the Chaubunagungamaug now feels ''hopeful''
because it can go forward with new presentations to persuade the Bureau of
Indian Affairs to change its mind. Both groups have a 180-day period to make
new arguments to the government.

All the groups want to open a casino. Two of the world's most successful
casinos - Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun - are in nearby Connecticut and
take in about $2 billion annually. Industry analysts say the gaming market
in New England, with is proximity to New York, Boston and Providence, is
deep enough to make additional casinos successful.

Over the last decade, Indian gaming has expanded from modest bingo halls on
out-of-the-way reservations to what's known in the industry as ''destination
resorts,'' with lavish hotels, nightclubs, shopping malls, and arenas.

After the Nipmuc Nation received recognition in January, it immediately
forged ahead with plans to open a casino on the Massachusetts-Connecticut
border. During the summer, the Nipmuc Nation announced its partnership with
Lakes Gaming and the hiring of Boston-based lobbyists.

Casino gaming has always been a contentious issue in Massachusetts. In the
past, the state government has fought various proposals by the Wampanoags,
the state's only recognized tribe.

However, federal recognition gives tribes considerable leverage to overcome
local opposition to casinos. The Nipmuc Nation hoped to persuade
Massachusetts officials that if they blocked plans for a Sturbridge casino,
the tribe would open a gaming palace just over the line in Union, Conn.,
thereby depriving Massachusetts of millions of dollars in tax revenues.

Residents of Sturbridge and other nearby towns mobilized in opposition to
the casino plan in community meetings.

The Wampanoags, meanwhile, recently announced their partnership with a
Mississippi tribe experienced in operating a casino. The Wampanoags have not
disclosed any site for their proposed casino.

Sean P. Murphy's e-mail address is smurphy@...

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