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Letter of Support of Robert L Bee PhD

Page history last edited by PBworks 11 years, 11 months ago

Robert L. Bee, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Connecticut

 

Dear Environment Committee Members:

 

I'm writing in support of HR Bill 5141, "An Act Concerning a Commission on Native American Indian Affairs" -- not as it is now worded, but as it hopefully will be hanged.  I regret that I will be unable to appear in person at the public hearings.

 

I am Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, where I taught from 1967 to 2004.  Before my retirement I conducted extensive research on contemporary Native American life, and on the development of both federal and Connecticut state policy toward Native Americans.  (My comments here are not intended to reflect any official position of the University.)

 

Other testimony describes the history of years of negotiating efforts by the Schaghticokes, Mashantucket Pequot, Pawcatuck Eastern Pequot, Mohegan, and Golden Hill Paugussetts.  They wished to collaborate with the state to help create an official state forum for discussing their issues and an effective means for addressing their needs.  The results are the Connecticut Indian Affairs Council (CIAC) and services provided by the Department of Environmental Protection, respectively.  But the CIAC has disappeared as an effective forum, leaving Native Americans in the state with no collective official means of interacting with state government or Connecticut's public.

 

Given the important role of Native cultures in Connecticut's development, past and present, this is tragic.

 

 

The reasons for the CIAC's demise include intra-tribal factionalism, individual tribes' single-minded preoccupation with obtaining federal recognition, and the fallout (positive and negative) of "casino politics" in state government.  Another important reason is the small CIAC membership, which has guaranteed a series of debilitating CIAC quorum crises.

 

A new Native American affairs commission along the lines proposed in Bill 5141 would have an expanded membership designed to avoid quorum crises.  It would have explicitly-designated responsibilities and areas of involvement that help to improve the lives of Connecticut's Native people and to forge a stronger and more positive bond between Native and Non-Indian cultures in the state.  It would work directly with the state legislature, rather than being subject to the hierarchical bureaucracy of the state executive.  It would not be involved with federal recognition or casino plans of specific tribes; both topics are now covered by other laws and regulations, with ample precedents and procedures.

 

But the existing language of Bill 5141 needs work, and the state- and federally-recognized tribes need to have considered and formal input into the drafting process.  (Again, it was the long fight of these five groups that helped to establish the CIAC and the relationship with DEP in the first place.)

 

A planning group has been working for months on both the revised language and the liaison with the five recognized tribes.  It has actively solicited input of non-recognized Native American groups.  I urge the members of the Environment Committee to consider the proposed language changes when these are offered, and to be assured of the positions of all of the five Connecticut state- and federally-recognized tribes, when voting on the committee's reaction to the revised bill.

 

Thank you for your consideration, and again, my apologies for resorting to e-mail for my comments.

 

Robert L. Bee

Mansfield Center, Connecticut

 

 

 

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