During the BIA's evaluation of Mohegans' federal recognition petition, it recommended purging tribal rolls of people with dubious tribal ancestry. The tribe removed 118 names in 1990.
"About 15 percent of the members were taken off, and that's what Eleanor Fortin's group is comprised of," says Austin.
Edwin Jessiman, the tribe's historian and a retired University of Maine social sciences professor, says Fortin can trace her Indian heritage through two Mohegan family lines. "If anybody says Eleanor is not a Mohegan, they'll have a real problem," he says.
Connecticut's anti-casino movement is led by Benedict, the author of Without Reservation, which focuses on the state's other Indian gaming tribe, the Mashantucket Pequots. He alleges that they are imposters, the brainchild of Richard A. "Skip" Hayward, who he says is at best 1/16th American Indian, and a group of lawyers who had one goal: to create a tribal casino.
Hayward and members of his family avoided genealogical scrutiny when the tribe bypassed the time-consuming BIA process and received recognition through a congressional act in 1983. Three years later, the tribe opened a bingo hall, then found a Malaysian billionaire, Lim Goh Tong, to bankroll Foxwoods, which opened in 1992.
Hayward, who was ousted as the tribe's leader in 1998, could not be reached for comment. But his successor, Kenneth Reels, whose mixed ancestry includes Narragansett and Pequot blood, says the charges made in Benedict's book are spurious. He has released a genealogical study he says proves his Indian roots. He accuses the author of having a hidden agenda.
"Check to see if Jeff Benedict lost any money, or anybody in his family at Foxwoods," Reels said. "What if he's a bigot?"
Benedict said he has not lost money at Foxwoods, and neither have any members of his family. A devout Mormon, Benedict says he simply has a strong aversion to gambling, believing it fosters corruption.
Opposition to Indian gaming reached a tipping point in Connecticut in 2002, when a dozen would-be tribes were seeking recognition from the BIA. Some of them had funding from deep-pocketed backers, including Donald Trump, who had plans for building casinos.
At that point, Benedict helped found the Connecticut Alliance Against Casino Expansion, and the group got the legislature to repeal a law permitting Las Vegas Nights, which had allowed charities to raise money though gambling. Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun, as established casinos with "grandfather" status, are not affected by the repeal.
But repealing the Connecticut law created another hurdle for new tribes seeking gambling because federal law restricts tribal casinos to states where some form of gambling is legal.
"This state is fed up with being beholden to gambling interests," says Benedict. "We have the two biggest casinos on the planet, we don't need another one. Enough is enough."