The good news is that new federal rules for tribal recognition might not mean more casinos and potentially ruinous land claims for Connecticut.
That's been the fear as the Bureau of Indian Affairs has worked for more than a year to revise its recognition process for Indian tribes. An early draft of the regulations suggested that three putative tribes that had been denied federal recognition in the past — the Eastern Pequot of North Stonington, the Golden Hill Paugussett of Colchester and Trumbull and the Schaghticoke of Kent — would now stand a good chance of winning coveted federal acknowledgment.
Gov. Dannel Malloy told President Obama the changes would be "devastating" for Connecticut.
The president seems to have listened. When a new draft was released on Thursday, it contained a provision requiring that any tribe that had been rejected for recognition in the past get the consent of parties to that proceeding — the state, for one — before it could apply again. That is not going to happen.
State lawyers are still seeking clarification on this provision; for example, if a tribe slightly altered its application, could it get around the new standard? The comment period runs until July 31, after which Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will make a final determination.
She ought to scrap the whole exercise. There was nothing wrong with the criteria for recognition that have been in place for the past 35 years; they are fair and sensible. Tribes that didn't win recognition under that process should be subject to more scrutiny, not less.