On Politics
5:00 am
Thu July 5, 2012

In sizzling missive, Narragansett chief calls RI “blatantly discriminatory” toward the tribe

In a scathing news release, Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas outlines a litany of grievances involving Rhode Island’s likely expansion of state-sponsored gambling and calls for a meeting with Governor Lincoln Chafee, House Speaker Gordon Fox, and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed “to address this disgraceful situation.”

The news releases cites the Narragansetts’ plans to appeal a recent Superior Court supporting the constitutionality of ballot questions this November to expand gambling at Twin River and Newport Grand. “We know that this is most likely going to be an exercise in futility,” Thomas says. He adds:

“However, it will shed light on the sordid deals that the state has entered into with private casino companies by labeling them “state-operated” casinos while, at the same time, agreeing to use the state’s administrative and judicial resources to protect these companies profits and discriminate against the the Tribe by blocking any chance we might have in the future to build an Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) casino. And if one does not want to believe this, all they need to do is remember is July 14, 2003.”

That was the date of a notorious state police raid on a Narragansett smoke shop.

“Who else would be tossed around on national television over untaxed cigarettes but the Tribe?” asks Thomas, referring to what former Governor Don Carcieri has called among his biggest regrets during two terms in office. “Not much regard there.”

Thomas goes on to:

– Charge that the Narragansetts are being held to a different standard than the state by having to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the November ballot questions aren’t constitutional.

– Point to how the tribe was “summarily stripped of its rights under IGRA by a late night maneuver by then-Senator John Chafee without any hearing whatsoever.” For more background, read this 2000 story from the Phoenix.

– Note how the state “passed a statute which not only protects the profits of the private gambling companies, one of which went bankrupt — but has pledged to use all the state’s administrative and judicial resources to defeat any chance the Narragansett Tribe might have to petitition to have land taken into trust that could be used for an IGRA casino.”

Thomas adds:

“I know of no other state in the entire U.S. that is so blatantly discriminatory towards a federally recognized Indian tribe. What is also equally shameful is that not one of our elected officials besides Patrick Kennedy has spoken about it or attempted to right what it clearly wrong.

“I look to our neighbors to the north — Massachusetts —  that has extended a welcoming hand to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe by working with them. Pretty soon Rhode Island will be sandwiched between three IGRA casinos, the respective Mohegans’ and Pequots’ of Connecticut, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts, while RI spends millions of state taxpayers money fighting to keep the only federally acknowledged and recognized tribe out of fair competition.”

Thomas closes his missive by calling on the state’s congressional delegation to support the “Carcieri fix” legislation that could potentially enable the tribe to open a casino elsewhere in Rhode Island.

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