Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Journalist Calls for Urgent Action on Indian Recognition

Investigative journalist Jeff Benedict told a Westport audience today urgent congressional action is needed to head off federal recognition of an Indian tribe that could lead to construction of a casino in Fairfield County.WestportNow.com Image
Investigative journalist Jeff Benedict addresses the Y’s Men today. WestportNow.com photo

The time for action is now, not in January, said Benedict in an address to an overflow crowd of the Ys Men of Westport/Weston at the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

He said unless Connecticut’s congressional delegation intervenes with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation could gain recognition and move to purchase the former Union Carbide property in Danbury for a casino.

Benedict released a copy of a letter he sent to the delegation Tuesday as head of a Ridgefield-based anti-casino group called The Connecticut Alliance Against Casino Expansion.

“If the following facts don’t demand immediate congressional intervention, I dont know what does,”’ he wrote.

In the letter, Benedict said the BIA had closed the period for public comment on the Schaghticoke application just as nine people who had agreed to be listed on the tribes membership roll disclosed that they had been ғtricked into signing up with the group.

He said he had heard the Schaghticokes were willing to pay up to $127 million for the Union Carbide property purchased by an investment group for $27 million.

The author-journalist has long been investigating Indian casino matters in Connecticut and three years ago published a widely acclaimed book, “Without Reservation: How a Controversial Indian Tribe Rose to Power and Built the World’s Largest Casino.”

It detailed how the Mashantucket Pequot tribe built its highly successful Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Conn.

Benedict said the Schaghticokes are one of five Indian tribes on the brink of getting federal recognition unless Congress acts to reform the BIA and amend the Indian Gaming Act.

He said the whole issue of federal recognition of Indian tribes and how their lobbyists have succeeded in currying favor in Washington as well as Hartford was an explosive story.

“Its a stunning story,” he said. “People get uptight about Enron. This is bigger.”

When it comes to lobbying in Hartford, Benedict said the two “biggest bullies on the block” are the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos. “We have just me,” he said.

But he said he has not given up hope that Connecticut will eventually come around to realize the dangers posed by the casinos.

“I am a firm believer that those casinos will change before I die,” Benedict said, adding, “I am 37 years old.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *