Many of the overseers reports and records from the latter half of the 1800's were either lost, never filed, or destroyed. It can be safely assumed that a less-than-honorable overseer would hardly document his criminal actions for posterity. On October 6, 1807, probate judge Samuel Rowland, District of Fairfield, issued a report regarding the accounts of Josiah Lacy, guardian of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe (IP, 2nd, II: 11,p. 15) The Indian Papers dated October 20, 1807, shows that the General Assembly accepts the resignation of Josiah Lacy (IP, 2nd, II: 10, p. 14). in 1817, the General Assembly grants the petition of the Newtown residents on behalf of Charles Sherman of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe (IP, 2nd, II: 15, p. 19).
In 1902, the following decree was issued: "The Superior Court in any country in which a tribe of Indians resides shall annually appoint an overseer of such tribes, "the ruling continues: "This provision regarding the Golden Hill Tribe adopted in 1876 is still in effect in 1902 ." From 1900 to 1904, a Tribal Overseer was appointed as indicated in the Fairfield County Court. Also, from 1905 to 1909; from 1910 to 1914; and from
1915, 1917 to 1919, the Fairfield County Court documents show that tribal overseers had been appointed. It is safe to assume that tribal overseers would not have appointed by the State had there been State recognized tribes to oversee. In these instances, the Golden Hill
Paugussetts. In September 1908, a newspaper article referring to the Paugussett tribe appeared entitled, "Indian Basketry Has History."
In 1938, the Golden Hill tribe's leader, George Sherman, died. Sherman had always been a leader who strived to preserve the tribe's traditional ways, and served as a role model for other tribal members. The Bridgeport Post featured an obituary which revealed the good impression he had left on the European-Americans of the surrounding community:
Because he was a full fledged Indian, Sherman was permitted to hunt and fish at will, without license and without regard to the state hunting and fishing laws. He was not required to pay any taxes. For many years Sherman operated a fruit and vegetable stand on the reservation (Bridgeport Post, 12/28/38).
Historian Alvin Josephy highlighted the persistence of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe, and the strength of Big Eagle's leadership with the following:
For many years, school children were taught that the last Indian in (Fairfield) County had died generations ago. But descendants of original tribes are still there, most notable some one hundred fiercely proud Paugussetts who long before the founding of American republic inhabited the Bridgeport-Trumbull-Stratford area. Still possessing a small reservation in Trumbull, they maintain cohesion as an Indian tribe under a hereditary Chief whom they call Big Eagle, and participate in national inter-tribal affairs (1989: 4).
It seemed that not even the small piece of land the Paugussetts clung to was safe from the designs of others when in the 1970's a European-American, who lived near the reservation, attempted to claim a parcel of the tribe's land. In 1975,
Chief Big Eagle, with the assistance of the State of Connecticut began a project to provide a ceremonial and educational gathering house for tribal members, as well as Indian Cultural Museum and school for the children of the tribe (Guilette 1979: H12). However, construction was halted in 1976, when a neighbor living adjacent to the reservation claimed ownership of reservation land, and initiated a legal battle with the tribe and the State (IV-110, 111, 119). On October 17, 1976, the Bridgeport
Post reported, "Trumbull Land Dispute Stalls Indian
Project." On October 27, 1976, the following article , "Indians To Pray To Spirits To Aid In Big Eagle Battle." And on October 28, 1976, "Kunstler Calls reservation In Trumbull Symbolic Place."
The tribe immediately mobilized to protect their land, and established The Golden Hill Defense Fund, and other fundraising activities to cover legal expenses (Guilette 1979; The Trumbull Times reported on February 3, 1977, "250 Attend Indian Fundraiser"). It is evident that the importance of this battle, which could rally out-of-state Native Americans and high-profile lawyers in the common defense of a tiny quarter acre reservation, was not merely about soil, but about the Paugussetts heritage, culture, and identity that is mixed with that earth. The tribe was also supported in their struggle against the encroaching "neighbor" by other Indian tribes, and national Indians' Rights Groups, including The American Indian Movement. (The Bridgeport Post, 11/18/76, 11/19/76; The Bridgeport Telegram, 11/19/76). The Trumbull Times, 11/23/76, reported: "National Indian Leaders Join Fight Over Reservation's Boundary Dispute," and on November 19, 1976, the Bridgeport Telegram, reported that "AIM Invokes 'Wounded Knee' in Trumbull Boundary Row." In deference to the spirit and tenacity of the tribe, The Hartford Courant , on October 29, 1976, reported, "Indian Vows Land Fight." By November, 1976 the renowned Civil Rights attorney, William Kunstler, was representing the tribe. On November 10, 1976, The Trumbull Times reported, "State Decides To Build Home For Indian Chief And Family." The Bridgeport Post reported , on November 19, 1976, "Indian Activist Pledge Support To Big Eagle," in reference to AIM's Russell Means.
Although the Trumbull reservation was the last piece of real estate the Paugussetts could call their own, and had been precisely in the same location for over one hundred years, some of the neighbors had ignored the land and its people so long they seemed impervious to the reality facing them. They acted as if they were in a state of blind denial, and news articles reported: "Neighbor Say He's No Indian" (Bridgeport Post, November 16, 1976),
"Kane Suggests Survey of Disputed Property" (Bridgeport Post, November 17, 1976), "Neighbor Sees Indian's Legacy As a 'Mockery' " (The Trumbull Times, December 1, 1976),"
As the land dispute escalated, the neighbors appealed to First Selectman James Butler of Trumbull("Shelton Road residents Ask Butler's Help," reported the Trumbull Times, November 19, 1976). It seemed that no one cared to analyze this dispute objectively, it appeared that politics came riding to the rescue squarely on the side of who had the votes, without regard to whether the Indians were right and just in their cause. For the Indians, this must have been a familiar, if not consistent, scenario, as the "government" tried to use methods such as the town engineer to "run Mr. Piper and his family out of town" (IV-139).
While the dispute over the final quarter-acre could have sealed what appears to be one of the biggest land grabs in history, fate did not seem to desire that end, or perhaps "praying to the spirits" helped, but on November 17, 1976, the Trumbull Times ran an article which stated, "Court Refuses to Oust Indians, Butler Blasted."
The Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe's struggle to hold onto the last parcel of their vanishing ancestral land, with the help of National Indian organizations, other tribes, their lawyers, and the law of the land, was a successful and significant victory in centuries of cruel and crushing defeats. It is clearly apparent that the Paugussetts were never happy with the compromises and deals they had to endure in order to survive.
Before Bridgeport, Trumbull, Fairfield, Stratford, Redding, Shelton, Derby, or any other Connecticut city, there was the one thing that God wasn't making any more of, the land.
Before cities, there were towns; before the towns, there were villages; before villages, there were plantations; before plantations, there were pioneers; before pioneers, there was the White men who came in ships. But before the ships ever anchored in
the virgin harbors, there was the land. And living upon the sacred and revered land referred to in this petition, were Paugussetts, a proud, benevolent, and productive people the White men called "Indians."
The history of the Paugussetts is the history of their vanishing lands, and their incessant struggles to preserve even the smallest parcel of their ancestral territory, despite three hundred and fifty years of relentless hostility. To the explorers the land meant wealth, status, and power. It meant property that was owned and external to themselves. For the Paugussetts, that same land meant family, heritage, existence, culture, identity, and destiny. Inextricably inherent in the heart of this land is the soul of the Paugussetts. this symbiotic relationship is so powerful that to take away the land is to take away the lives of the Paugussetts.
A report of the General Court of Connecticut in 1717 confirms that fact that tribes in Connecticut had never been allowed to live peacefully by the colonists.
The colonists of Stratford and Fairfield apparently had little "good will" to show to the Paugussetts. In October 1725, the General Court of Connecticut responded to a "complaint made against the Western Indians living in
the County of Fairfield and New Haven," who had been accused of "Committing various Barbarous Actions against the good Subjects of our Sovereign Lord the King" (IP, I: 117, p. 168). The Paugussetts were among those tribes accused; yet the Court report offers
no evidence to indicate that any tribal members had committed any offenses against colonists at all. Nonetheless, the court imposed extreme restrictions on the accused Indian tribes.
No Indian (is) allowed to come on any account without a Certificate within the Bounds of Litchfield (or any other town that shall publicly manifest to any Authority that they are unwilling said Indians shall come to their Town...And...if any farther
Suspicion of them arises they must be immediately all confined perhaps forever--(which) is only for their good Behavior...(since) they have too much liberty as they have...(IP, I: 117, p. 168).
As this document shows, Connecticut colonists' hostilities toward Native Peoples had intensified, and seemingly knew no bounds, despite the previous urgings of the General Court that colonists reach out in "friendship" to other tribes. Now , those tribes which were under suspicion" alone, and who "transgressed their bounds of confinement" would be "Severely checked and punished" (IP, I: 117, p. 178). It is also very clear that just being a Paugussetts was in itself cause
enough to be considered a threat to the status qua, To banish them from the towns is apparently the settler's cynical effort to solve the "Indian problem" by closing their eyes to it.
Although Tom Sherman signed land deeds which ceded land in the area of Potatuck to the colonists, he did not surrender Paugussetts lands without a fight. In fact, in 1763, Tom Sherman and two other prominent tribal members--Eunice Shoran and Sarah
Shoran--brought a complaint against Fairfield settlers to the Connecticut General Court. As the tribe's petition to the colonial government explains , the European settlers of Fairfield had attempted to violently, force the tribe from its reservation land at Golden Hill. The tribe stated further that twelve of the settlers had "without Law or Right gotten into the Possession of all 80 acres of (the tribe's) land...and most unjustly and unlawfully ejected and put... Tom, Sara and Eunice out of the Possession thereof..." (IP, II: 147b, p. 210-11).
Faced with the incessant violence being done to their families, their way-of-life, and their very existence, the Paugussetts requested that the General Assembly either sell their remaining lands, and place the returns in trust for the tribe, "or that in some other way your Honors will grant relief and do justice to your petitioners and enable them to receive the benefit of their property" (IP, 2nd, II: 2c, p. 4) This petition was signed by Thomas Sherman Jr., and his mother Eunice, as well as three other representatives of the tribe-- Tabitha Sherman, Anne Sherman and, John Chops.
Discrimination, ridicule, persecution, vandalism, slavery, murder, rape and theft of their property, honor, and dignity for 350 year have brought the small band of proud, remaining Golden Hill Paugussett Indians close to being an endangered species.
Over and over again in the 16th and 17th Centuries, their land was stolen seized, even by overseers appointed by the Connecticut Colony to protect them; many times these natives were shunted to barren and unplowable soil. And in the 18th and 19th
Centuries, newspapers often proclaimed that the last tribal member had died. Despite such adversity, the Paugussetts have survived into the 20th Century.
In attempts to extinguish these Indians, homes were torched on Golden Hill, now downtown Bridgeport. And in a fiery 1976 sequel, when a neighboring white man tried to covet and seize their last tiny quarter acre Trumbull Reservation, Chief Big Eagle's tepee was mysteriously burned to ashes one dark night. It took the angry intervention of Governor Ella Grasso to secure a log cabin, still occupied by the Chief and his family.
As the most documented Indian Tribe in the nation, these poor but proud Paugussetts have sought official Federal Recognition since 1983 so that they might participate in federal programs for economic development, decent housing, health and medical assistance, improved education and job opportunities, and child care.
And in the last year, to secure the land and monies needed for their survival, tribal leaders have documented their immense land claims and tried to bring political, industrial and banking leaders to the negotiating table, only to be turned away.
Ridiculed by he power structure, they were given no alternative but the Federal District Court, where liens on properties valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, may finally be getting attention. This includes the homes of their neighbors, the last people they want to harm.
There is little question, according to anthropologist and historians, that without the benefits and added status and dignity as a people which derives from Federal Recognition, the Golden
Hill Paugussetts will become extinct within 10 years, their culture and heritage lost forever.
Is there a future in the 21st Century for the Paugussetts and a new generation of Indian children? Not without equitable settlement of Land Claims, which is their right. And not without Federal Recognition of the Golden Hill tribe. Only
that can open the door to their survival.
Starting almost two years ago, the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe ("the Tribe") appealed to various and state officials to talk in advance of litigation regarding the Tribe's land claims in the State of Connecticut. From then until today, not one person has stepped forward suggesting that a discussion should take place. Instead, Chief Quiet Hawk, Council Chief of the Tribe, was told to file his land claims.
At first, the Tribe filed on law suit against land in Bridgeport. It then waited hoping a discussion could take place. The tribe has now filed eleven law suits covering properties
in 6 towns (see litigation summary letter of Attorney Michael O'Connell dated November 8, 1993)
These land claims have unfortunately created serious consequences for both land owners and the effected towns in Connecticut (see William Weschler memorandum dated August 11, 1993; also October 7, 1993 memorandum). Amazingly however, instead
of entering into rational discussions for settlement, the State of Connecticut lead by its Attorney General and various State legislators undertook a litigation and legislative effort to literally destroy the Tribe. This effort resulted in a recently held special session of
the legislature where legislation was passed aimed at defeating the Tribe's law suits.
In 1983 the Congress of the United States granted federal recognition to the Mashantucket Pequot Indians of Ledyard, Connecticut by the passage of a bill settling the Mashantuckets land claims and granting them federal recognition. A comparison of
the Tribe's land claims with the Mashantucket's land claims is also enclosed.
In spite of the fact that Congress granted federal recognition for the Mashantucket's in 1983 and approved federal recognition for the Catawba's Lumbee Tribes in 1993, various State and Federal officials in Connecticut are still saying, "get your approval through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (the "BIA").
It appears that since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed, it is presumed that the Tribe's efforts are a casino land grab. In fact, the Tribe has been pursuing its federal recognition
efforts since the BIA was established in 1978.
The History of the Golden Hill Tribe.
The ancestors of The Golden Hill Tribe were among the first to meet and help the European settlers in the 1640's only to be herded onto the country's first Indian Reservation in 1659. Thousands of acres of woods and farmland were stolen from them by the newcomers in violation of British Law, and of the laws of the State of Connecticut and the United States.
The Land Claims
In 1992 the Tribe claims 80 acres in downtown Bridgeport, and another 20 acres in Trumbull, In 1993, Federal District Court Judge Peter C. Dorsey concluded that an 1802 land sale involving most present-day downtown Bridgeport was in violation of the 1790 Indian Nonintercourse Act, which prohibited the sale of Indian land without the approval of the Federal government. But Judge Dorsey dismissed the case saying that since there was a legal controversy about the tribalness of the Golden Hill Tribe, the Bureau of Indian
Affairs should be given the opportunity to act.
To us, Federal Recognition means the salvation of our tribal members and our culture via health care, education and housing grants which are available to federally recognized tribes. For the first time in over 100 years we should be able to
develop a reservation sufficient in size to house all of our members, where we can nurture our children in the culture and heritage of our ancestors and bring forth that culture and history into the 21st Century.
What does the Golden Hill Tribe Seek?
The Tribe Seeks justice as provided for them under the United States Constitution, i.e. in compensation for the thousands of acres of land that was wrongly taken from their forefathers, they would like Federal Recognition and the
ability to take advantage of all the benefits that Federal Recognition brings.
Justice for the Tribe would entail resolving all land claims, pending and future - forever.
Justice for the tribe would allow tribal members a better future -- the opportunity to feel proud about their Indian heritage, taking many of them off the welfare rolls and functioning independent of public assistance.
There is a persistent myth that Indians do not pay taxes. The only exemption of an Indian from paying federal taxes is from the federal tax on income "directly derived" from employment in gaming not "directly derived" from lands held in trust for an Indian employee of a tribal gaming enterprise and, therefore, will be taxed.
Indians are not subject to state taxes for their earnings when they reside and are employed on the reservation. However, state sales taxes are imposed on transactions between Indians and non-Indians on the reservation where the non-Indian is required to pay
When Indians make ordinary purchases or earn income off the reservation, they are subject to state taxes. They are subject to all tribally imposed taxes on the reservation and to all federal taxes except, as mentioned, taxes derived (rental income, etc.) from lands being held in trust for them by the
It should noted also that the Supreme Court has made clear that non-Indians on a reservation occupy no status greater than they would have off a reservation with respect to federal or state taxes on their income or their property. Accordingly, employment in Indian gaming does not provide a tax haven for such individuals.
The source of confusion about Indians and taxes may stem from the phrase "Indians not taxed" in Article I,S2,c1.3 of the United States Constitution. That phrase is often misunderstood as a grant of recognition of an exemption from
taxes. It is not. Rather, it is a reference to the status of Indians in 1789. It directed that Indians, who were not taxed, were not to be counted when establishing the population of a state for the purpose of allocating seats in the House of Representatives.
Circumstances have changed greatly since 1789. Today there are no "Indians not taxed." In 1961, the Supreme Court, in Squire v. Capoeman, noted that "in ordinary affairs of life, not governed by treaties or remedial
legislation" Indians are subject to taxation.
In sum, "in ordinary affairs of life" Indian pay taxes as other citizens do. Moreover, non-Indians on a reservation pay the same state taxes they ordinarily would pay off a reservation.
The area contained within the present limits of the City of Bridgeport possessed remarkable qualities that made it attractive for settlement b indigenous peoples in the millennia prior to European colonization. It included areas of level, almost stone-free soil in glacial outwash plains that supported agricultural production. The protected estuary of the Pequonnock and smaller nearby rivers sheltered an abundance of waterfowl and marine life. And, unusual for the north shore of Long Island Sound, there were relatively few marshy areas to serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes
and other bothersome insects.
Accordingly, the population of this region was substantial in the pre-colonial period (indeed, the lands within the margin of Long Island Sound are said to have sustained the largest population density in North America). The Native American name "pequonnock" signified "cleared land" or "broken ground", an indication of the prevailingly agricultural nature of the territory. Prior to the mid-17th century epidemics and
displacements at least 10 semi-permanent villages were extant within the city and its immediate environs. These were mostly large encampments with 50 to 100 wigwams, and were usually situated on bodies of fresh or salt water with one or more bluffs surrounding to afford the production of maize, beans, squash, Jerusalem artichokes, gourds and tobacco. Fish and shellfish were an important component of the local diet, along with deer and wildfowl obtained by hunting; white oak, chestnut, and shagbark hickory, common in the coastal woodland, provided a protein supplement.
The intensive use of Bridgeport's land by native people precluded European incursion until a relatively late date and left something of a written record of the settlement pattern.
Additionally, the considerable portion of the city's area that is built up has caused the disturbance of numerous graves and artifacts over the last two centuries. These finds frequently created enough interest that they were recorded in newspapers and volumes of local history,
cumulatively resulting in a fairly thorough knowledge of the sites occupied by Native American settlements, burial grounds and ceremonial sites. Following is a discussion of the known locations.
Deacon's Point was located on the easterly shore of Yellow Mill Pond, approximately between the present Barnum and Deacon Street. It derives its name from a 17th -century proprietor, a ruling elder of the Stratford church. The site was a long, narrow peninsula jutting into shallow salt water that was notable for scallop and duck populations (the salt creek on the east side was filled at the end of the last century for industrial development). Shell middens were noted at the foot of Holly Street at the time housing development commenced there at the close of the Civil War, and a burial ground was uncovered in 1891 as basements were dug for houses on Barnum Avenue opposite Mill Hill Avenue. Perhaps most significant, however, and indicative of the reverence native people felt for this location was the stone medicine wheel--a veritable North American Stonehenge--that was built on the banks of the creek. the medicine wheel consisted of round granite posts about seven feet in height, arranged in concentric circles. It remained in place until 1846, when the New York Haven Railroad ran its track line through the site of the megalith. "We dug out loads and loads of these posts and threw them into the mill pond (with) brush and limbs and heaped dirt upon them," recalled one of the construction laborers in Orcutt's 1884 History of Stratford and Bridgeport. A Mr. Tuttle of Stratford heard about the mysterious relics being disposed of and had one of the post hauled to his front yard and set up as a curiosity. It remains there to this day at 753 Stratford Avenue, near Bond's Docks.
Golden Hill apparently existed as a village located long prior to the establishment of an 80-acre reservation here in 1659. The village is thought to have been at the base of the hill on its sound flank, near the present-day interaction of Fairfield Avenue and Harrison Street. This was the location of a powerful spring, the outlet of an underground river that flows through a porous seam of limestone from the vicinity of New Milford. The spring flowed out to a lake, long since filled, that extended from Broad to Courtland Street and from Fairfield Avenue almost to State Street. Burial grounds associated with this community were unearthed when Prospect School (site of the present Sears store) was expanded in 1870, and when the Sydney Bishop residence (site of L'Ambience Plaza) was constructed in May 1883.
Harbor Bluff was a site about which but little is known. Its fronted on Bridgeport Harbor at the foot of a small hill that was leveled in the 19th century. It was located to the east of the present Main Street and was bisected by the former Drouve Street, or immediately to the south of the Connecticut Turnpike. Graves were disturbed when houses were constructed here in the 1830s and 40s.
Indian Bluff was a village location in active use into the 19th century. Situated on the Pequonnock River where East Washington Avenue crosses at the present time, the location at the narrows of a tidal inlet provided excellent opportunities for fish and turtle harvesting and was readily defensible as well. The island (a marshy creek separating it from the mainland was filled in the 1830s) was the site of another significant fresh-water spring. Known in its later years as the "Nimrod Lot" after a 17th-century individual Pocummuc (nicknamed by European settlers after Genesis 10:8--"Wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.") This site was sold off by the Golden Hill tribe in 1802. A burial ground with numerous elaborate graves was "greatly disturbed" during construction of the Housatonic Railroad (1836-8).
Little Success was probably located within the present Remington Park. As this tract has remained relatively undisturbed and therefore unexcavated and has been fenced off and closed to the public since 1910, the precise location has never been pinpointed. It is surmised to have been located in the immediate vicinity of Success Lake. The name may be a corruption of "sexexet", meaning "where we go in the spring", or "sassucksuc",
"muddy brook." Another substantial spring of water, known in the last century as Peck's Spring of Wolfram's Spring, issued forth here, and a ridge with outcrops of sugar quartz (to the east of Greystone Road) known to have been used for the fabrication of chipped stone implements were associated with this site. The Pann family of Paugussett tribe continued to camp at this location at least until the time of the Civil War. When Nob Hill apartments were built a considerable burial site was disturbed (described in Bridgeport Telegram of 25 November 1953)
Nesumpaws (possible derived from "neeshapaug", meaning "great creek") was a village located at the base of the former "Muskrat hill", on the shore of Bruce's Brook at the southerly extremity of the present St. Michael's Cemetery. In common with other sites with similar situations, it was an ideal place for harvesting fish, shellfish and waterfowl at the had of a salt-water bay. Its graves were opened in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, yielding numerous pottery artifacts.
Old Fort was possibly a 17th century fortification constructed to protect the great planting fields of the Peguonnock Plain from European incursion. It was described as being a palisaded enclosure, one acre in extent, and harbored some 200 warriors. The location was a the head of Burr Creek (filled during the first half of the present century), probably on the site of the present Evergreen-Apartments off Fairfield Avenue.
Uncoway *"Beyond the fishing place") was located on the west bank of the Uncoway River (today's Rooster River) across from Mountain Grove Cemetery. It was a place of rich soils at the foot of Tunxis Hill and was the meeting place of fresh and salt water, another optimal situation for fish harvest. At the time of European contact this was said to be the place of the Sachems" longhouse.
White Plain was located just north of the Trumbull town line on sheltered plain fronting on the Pequonnock River. It took its name from the heavy fogs that frequently settled over the alluvial flats here. Numerous graves and artifacts were unearthed during construction of a housing development known as "Sunny Ridge" (described in a Bridgeport Post article on May 24, 1935). A portion of this area along Quarry Road was retained by the Golden Hill Tribe until it was exchanged for the present Trumbull reservation in 1842.
Wolf Pit Neck was a name given by Fairfield colonists to a spit of land extending into Long Island Sound at a point where the Fayerweather Island bar met the mainland. The surrounding wetlands were diked, drained and filled in the 1880s and later so that the original form of the landmass is no longer discernible. This was the last bit of Sound shorefront to be ceded to the English (February 12, 1685). Shell middens reportedly remained in place here until the late 19th century, and when Waldemere Avenue was extended west of Iranistan Avenue in 1885 graves were opened and their contents analyzed by the Bridgeport Scientific Society.