(CN) – The 2nd Circuit upheld a 2005 decision refusing to acknowledge the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, saying government officials weren’t unduly influenced by politics.
The nation, an amalgamation of descendents from several Northeast Native American tribes, brought suit against the Department of Interior after the agency declined to acknowledge the Schaghticoke’s “tribal existence.”
In August 2008, a federal judge in Connecticut granted summary judgment to the government officials and agencies, including the Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The New York-based federal appeals court ruled that although Connecticut politicians had “showed keen interest” in blocking tribal acknowledgment, agency officials provided adequate testimony that they had not been unduly influenced.
Opponents of tribal acknowledgment object to possible land claims and gaming plans, though a Schaghticoke leader has reportedly said the tribe won’t build a casino if it’s not wanted.
The 2nd Circuit also ruled that the Interior Department didn’t violate the Vacancies Reform Act by delegating the decision to Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason, since he can be considered an “authorized representative.”
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the decision a “legal coup d’ grace – finally putting this meritless petition out of its misery. … Sovereign status must be granted only to groups that meet the explicit federal criteria, and the Schaghticoke have failed to meet those standards.”
The Schaghticoke Nation will reportedly continue to seek federal acknowledgment. The tribe has about 300 members and a 400-acre reservation along the New York border.