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Narragansett chief wants a meeting with Chafee to talk gambling + discrimination

July 23, 2012

Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas has followed through on his plan to seek a meeting with Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The Narrgansetts remain on the sidelines as Rhode Island’s gambling halls are spending big bucks to promote an expansion of their offerings this November.

In a letter dated Friday, Thomas requests a sit-down with Chafee “to discuss what we consider discriminatory legislation towards my tribe:”

In 2005, the state enacted legislation that obligated the state ‘to exhaust all of its administrative and judicial remedies to oppose the taking or the conversion of land in Rhode Island into trust under 25 U.S.C. section 465 where such taking or conversion is for the purpose of gaming under IGRA.’ …. We feel that this action singles out the Tribe, which we certainly feel is unconstitutional.

Congressional action in 1983 has determined that the only federally acknowledged tribe in Rhode Island is the Narragansetts. So although no names are mentioned in the 2005 act, it doesn’t matter; the Narragansett Tribe is the only Tribe that IGRA can apply to in this state.

IGRA is the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which set the framework for federally recognized tribes to establish casinos.

It was a legislative maneuver in 1996 by Governor Chafee’s father, the late John Chafee, that severely crimped the Narragansetts’ casino quest.

I have a call in to Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger to gauge the governor’s interest in sitting down with Thomas.

UPDATE: Hunsinger says Thomas’ letter was received today and the governor hasn’t yet seen it.

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