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Narragansett critical of state aid to town for legal battles 5-7-07

CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (AP) - Leaders of the Narragansett Indian Tribe are
questioning why Gov. Don Carcieri awarded $40,000 in state money to
help pay the attorney fees of the tribe's legal opponent.

Since 2004, Carcieri has given Charlestown town authorities $40,000
from a discretionary fund to cover part of the town's legal bills in
lawsuits against the tribe.

The Narragansetts are the state's only federally recognized American
Indian tribe, and they maintain 1,800 acres of land in Charlestown.

Tribal Councilman John Brown questioned whether it's proper for the
governor's office to subsidize a legal fight against a racial group.

“They are using taxpayer money to attack the Narragansett Indian
Tribe,” he said.

Jeff Neal, a Carcieri spokesman, said the payments weren't about
race. He said Charlestown has faced unique legal issues because it
neighbors the tribe.

“In truth, this is a question about sovereignty,” Neal said. “The
governor is working to preserve the sovereignty of the state of Rhode
Island. Charlestown officials are similarly trying to uphold the
town's sovereignty.”

The Narragansetts have been involved in several legal disputes over
sovereignty, or how much government power the tribe can exercise.

The tribe recently lost a lawsuit filed after State Police raided a
tribal smoke shop in 2003 that wasn't collecting state-mandated
taxes. Several tribe members, including Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas,
were arrested for allegedly scuffling with police and now face a
criminal trial.

The state government and Charlestown authorities also are contesting
the tribe's ability to place a 31-acre plot of land into federal
trust, which would put the land solely under federal and tribal
control.
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