TASK, Town Action to Save Kent, was formed in response to federal recognition of the tribe earlier this year; it now has more than 50 members from the Kent area.
Jim Perkins, representing TASK at the Sept. 16 meeting, and Dorothy Scheisel, a Kent selectwoman, discussed some of the possible outcomes of federal recognition.
Along with federal recognition, they said, come the issue of gambling casinos, or slot machines and bingo halls that threatens the small rural town of Kent.
TASK literature states, "These outsiders (all non-Indian investors) stand to make windfall profits at the expense of jamming our highways, devastating our tax base, destroying our hard-won, land-use protections, overloading our public services, and subjecting our community to a future of hundreds of millions of dollars of influence peddling."
Councilwoman Vicki Doyle commented after the meeting.
"Gambling (in the area) would lead to increased traffic and the need for greater police and fire protection in communities within a 50-mile radius," she said, adding, "Amenia citizens and leaders need to stay abreast of these issues at the very least."
With BIA recognition, the tribe could also achieve sovereignty that would exempt them from local land laws, such as environmental, building and zoning laws, said Perkins.
The reservation, or any future casino, would be free of taxes and yet be entitled to services of the community that would "put a burden on the area," he said.
This would mean any businesses on the reservation would be tax exempt, he said.
Businesses, hotels, and restaurants on Indian land, even if funded by outside investors, would have the decisive advantage over local merchants, he pointed out.
"We are neighbors in this area," Perkins said, in trying to inform the board of what could happen in Amenia's backyard.
"Kent and the surrounding area can be sorely affected by the recognition of the tribe," said Perkins.
Amenia, Wassaic, and Dover are located just over the state line from Kent.
In addition, the Schaghticoke Tribe, said Schiesel, has land claims against the town, property owners and the Kent School. Estimates according to TASK are that the reservation would encompass 10% of the land in Kent if land claims should be resolved in the tribe's favor.
The Town of Kent has allocated $300,000 in expenses to appeal the BIA decision to recognize the tribe.
"We don't see that a tribe exists, by our research," said Schiesel, indicating that the federal recognition could be faulty or suspect.
"Our concern is that the tribe has not met the criteria and failed, on many accounts, to prove it is a tribe," said Perkins.
Schiesel also questioned the estimate of $10 million in financial backing that helped the tribe to achieve recognition.
With the success of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut, there are now 10 tribes in Connecticut seeking federal recognition, according to TASK literature.
According to Schiesel, the tribe does not have to disclose financial backers.
TASK literature indicates that, since casinos are so profitable, backers will often put great investments and pressure toward the recognition of tribes.
Schiesel indicated that the political agency, the BIA, is very vulnerable to the influence of certain interest groups.
Schiesel said that, along with 55 other towns and the attorney general from Connecticut, the Town of Kent has joined to file an appeal before the government.