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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Termination at the Times?

Posted: May 19, 2005
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today

Competence on Indian issues continues to be in doubt at The New York Times, going now from simple inaccuracy to a discernable bias for termination. That's a good conclusion to be drawn from its carelessly damaging report May 14 on two rulings the previous day from the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.

The IBIA vacated positive findings on federal recognition of two Connecticut tribes and sent them back to Interior's assistant secretary of Indian Affairs for more work. This story was sad enough in itself, but Times reporter Raymond Hernandez misread it as wiping out their tribal existence. The headline read "Groups lose recognition as tribes," and in the body of the story, on the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, Hernandez referred to them only as "groups."

Times editors have not answered our phone calls, so we do not know if this word choice is a product of the personal inexperience of the reporter or of some bizarre new style rule from editors higher up. By calling these two tribes "groups," the Times linguistically and effectively wipes out four centuries of their recorded history and existence as a people stretching back millennia. It ignores their quest for federal acknowledgment that goes back to 1978, when the current procedures went into effect.

We take issue with the Times' reporting perspective on this story. It shows severe unawareness of these two peoples' recognition by the state, with reservations predating American independence. (The Eastern Pequot reservation at Lantern Hill in North Stonington dates to 1683, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied reservations in the country.)

Rob's comment
Although some fragmentary tribes and tribal wannabes are trying to gain federal recognition, most of the "groups" seeking recognition are already tribes. Because of some legal or political problem, the government has denied these tribes recognition when they arguably should have received it.

Federal recognition doesn't create tribes. It turns tribes without federal recognition into tribes with federal recognition. Despite the claims of gaming critics, I don't think the government has ever made any illegitimate "group" into a tribe through federal recognition.

Related links
The facts about tribal sovereignty
The facts about Indian gaming

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