AG Grewal Announces Settlement of Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Lawsuits; State Acknowledges Historic Recognition of NJ Indian Tribe, Will Pay Tribe $2.4 Million

TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today a settlement with the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation under which the State acknowledges it has officially recognized the 3,000-member Tribe as an American Indian Tribe since 1982.

In addition to affirming its historic recognition of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation, the State will pay the Tribe a total of $2.4 million under the settlement agreement.

The State has also agreed to formally notify all relevant state and federal agencies of the Tribe’s official recognition status.

“Tribal rights are important rights, and through this settlement we’ve been able to affirm the status of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation as an American Indian Tribe formally recognized by the State,” said Attorney General Grewal. “As a result of this settlement, there is no more ambiguity regarding the Tribe’s official status, and the Tribe’s forward progress cannot be impeded by any State-related recognition issues. I’m heartened that, through good faith negotiation, we’ve been able to resolve this matter fairly and bring an end to years of legal dispute.”

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation filed state and federal lawsuits in 2015 alleging, in part, that New Jersey had provided information to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) that called into question its status as an official, State-recognized American Indian Tribe. Specifically, the Tribe alleged, the GAO had been advised that New Jersey recognized no Native American tribes.

With its status in question, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape alleged, it lost access to federal grants and scholarships, lost contracts previously obtained by tribally-owned businesses, and lacked the right to label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made.”

Under the settlement announced today, the State concedes no position it took in the litigation, and makes no admission of liability or wrongdoing.

Among the federal agencies New Jersey will formally notify of its recognition of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation are the Indian Arts & Crafts Board, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Small Business Association and the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development.

The State agrees under the settlement that its formal recognition is intended to help “qualify the Tribe for all federal and state benefits … for which state-recognized tribes are eligible” including those provided by the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.

Both parties agree that the official State recognition acknowledged under the settlement does not provide the Tribe with federal casino gaming rights. In addition, the Tribe specifically “disclaims any interest in casino gaming rights.”

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