Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process

Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process

Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process

Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process

Synopsis

The Federal Acknowledgment Process (FAP) is one of the most important and contentious issues facing Native Americans today. A complicated system of criteria and procedures, the FAP is utilized by federal officials to determine whether a Native community qualifies for federal recognition by the United States government. In Forgotten Tribes, Mark Edwin Miller offers a balanced and detailed look at the origins, procedures, and assumptions governing the FAP. His work examines the FAP through the prism of four previously unrecognized tribal communities and their battles to gain indigenous rights under federal law.

Based on a wealth of interviews and original research, Forgotten Tribes features the first in-depth history and overview of the FAP and sheds light on this controversial Native identification policy involving state power over Native peoples and tribal sovereignty.

Excerpt

It was in the early 1990s that the small Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut burst upon the national scene, indelibly marking popular perceptions of once unacknowledged Indian tribes in the public conscious. After struggling for centuries without federal tribal status, the Pequots under Richard “Skip” Hayward dashed with aplomb into the twenty-first century, leading the march toward self-sufficiency and self-government through their phenomenally successful Foxwoods Casino complex situated midway between New York City and Boston. Making one billion dollars annually by the end of the decade, Foxwoods was the most lucrative gambling Mecca in the United States, drawing widespread attention up and down the East Coast. a decade earlier when the tribe had secured federal acknowledgment through an act of Congress in 1983, the development had raised few eyebrows, however, causing more relief than alarm because it settled a lengthy and bitter land dispute between the Pequots and neighboring property owners. Some observers undoubtedly felt that the obscure tribe, once widely believed to be extinct, had finally gotten its revenge for past injustices. Other locals simply were happy to have a place to gamble so close to their homes, cheering the Pequots for making this possible and perhaps being a little amused by the whole unlikely scenario. Questions soon arose, however, when the group possessing Indian, European, and African ancestry grew increasingly rich and powerful, with its gambling enterprise shattering the once bucolic Connecticut countryside with crowds, traffic jams, and high-rise development. Angered by their suddenly powerful neighbor, many locals began to ask: Who were these people that variously appeared white, Indian, black, or something in-between? If they looked and lived much like their well-to-do neighbors, was the group really an Indian tribe at all? Clearly, tribal acknowledgment had given the Pequots all the benefits of tribal status and sovereignty. But it had not allowed them to exist in obscurity . . .

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