- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

KENT, Conn. (AP) - The leader of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in Kent said Friday that he’s unsure what legal actions can be taken following a federal court order concluding the tribe doesn’t have legal standing to claim about 2,300 acres in Kent.

Chief Richard Velky said Friday that he needs to meet with attorneys to see what legal steps they can take.

The tribe, which has expressed interest in building a casino, argued in lawsuits that it was entitled to its ancestral lands under the federal Indian Nonintercourse Act, which says no purchase or other conveyance of Indian tribal lands shall be valid without the approval of Congress.

But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed a lower court decision that said the tribe wasn’t entitled to the land because it did not meet all federal criteria to be considered an Indian tribe.

The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs granted the tribe recognition in 2004. But that decision was later reversed after state officials argued the tribe had gaps in evidence related to its social continuity and political governance. The tribe appeals but a federal appeals court ruled against them, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the tribe’s appeal in 2010.

The tribe retains a 400-acre reservation recognized by the state.

“Make no mistake about it, it is a major disappointment to the tribe,” Velky said of Monday’s ruling. “The standards for a federally recognized tribe through the BIA should not be a criteria for a tribe to have their lands taken away from them.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement Friday that the new court ruling should end the litigation and ease concerns of Litchfield County residents. Blumenthal said the ruling “validates the longstanding position … that the Schaghticoke petitioners fail to meet critical federal recognition requirements.”

Velky called it “discouraging” that Blumenthal would take a “victory lap” for a decision taking tribal land.

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