Oppostion To H.B. 5451
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        At various times the tribe's detractors and the hired guns who have been retained to oppose the tribe's efforts at Federal Recognition have asserted that the Tribe has only recently recognized by the State of Connecticut  as a indigenous tribe of this State.  The absurdity of this argument should be apparent to anyone who has studied or knows this State's history.  A review of the records which the State maintains dating all the way back to the Colonial period reveals that the State (and the Colony before it) has repeatedly passed laws, special acts, and orders which clearly recognize the Tribe and its members.  This record reveals that this government has, literally hundred of times since what is know as "first contact", interacted with the representatives of the Golden Hill Tribe. 

        One can trace this history back as far as the end of the Pequot War and the attendant discovery by the Connecticut colonists of the prime lands of the Paugussetts.  The colonial plantations of Stratford and Fairfield  were soon established on much of the most productive lands of the Tribe.  The Paugussetts living at Pequannock refused to "pay their tribute" to the English colonist and "made continued trouble by their demands for pay for their lands". (Orcutt 1886: 8).  In 1659, the Colonial General Court, which then acted as the legislative body of the Connecticut Colony, attempted to resolve this controversy as well as a dispute between Stratford and Fairfield concerning which Town was responsible for the Indians, by creating the Golden Hill Reservation.

        This reservation, a portion of which survives to the present as the Tribe's one quarter-acre reservation in Trumbull, is commonly accepted to be the oldest official reservation in the country.  It is from this famous reservation, of course, that the current-day Tribe takes its name.  In a desperate effort to hold onto the Golden Hill Reservation in the heart of their traditional territory, in 1610, a band of the Paugussett Tribe (referred to as the "Peguanuck Indians") petitioned the Colonial government that a law be passed which would "tie their hands" by prohibiting the sale or purchase of lands "reserved or set apart" for the Indians.  Such a law was passed in 1680 in response to the Tribe's request.  See, 3 Pub. Rec. Col. Conn. 56-57 (1680).  Also at this time, two one-hundred acre reservations called "Turkey Hill" and "Coram Hill" were established for other bands of the Tribe in the present day towns of Orange and Shelton.

        The tragic history of the Tribe's struggle to hold onto the Golden Hill reservation and the eventual loss of the majority of the reservation in 1765 and 1802 is a story which deserves separate treatment.  However, the controversy surrounding the disposition of the Golden Hill Reservation is also significant for the reason that as an outgrowth of this dispute, in 1763,  the first government authorized "overseer" or  "guardian" of the Golden Hill Tribe was appointed.  From 1763 until 1935, State agents known as "guardians" and "overseers" were appointed by first the Colony and subsequently the State of Connecticut.  The appointments were initially made by the Connecticut Colonial Court, the predecessor to the Connecticut General Assembly, through orders in the nature of special acts.  These orders served to appoint individual European settlers as the "overseer" of certain Tribal reservation lands and over the Tribal members who lived on these lands. 

        From at least 1821 until 1935, the appointment of "overseers" over Tribal lands and members were made pursuant to express Connecticut statutory authority, as set forth in Connecticut General Statutes Title 50, Section One (1821 Revision); Connecticut General Statutes, Title 52 (1835 Revision); Connecticut General Statutes, Title XXVI (Revision 1849); Connecticut General Statutes, Title XXVI (1854 Revision); Connecticut General Statutes, Title II, Chap. II (1875 Revision); Connecticut General Statute, Chap. VIII (1877 Supp.); Connecticut General Statutes, Section 4419 (1902 Revision); and Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 516705170 (1918 Revision).

        The history of the conduct of the governmental overseers was a troubled one and replete with examples of overseers using Tribal lands for their own profits and charging excessive fees for their serves.  However, this period of heavy State involvement in Tribal affairs served to create an extensive documentary record of the Tribe during the 18th and 19th centuries - a period when the Tribe suffered severely from poverty, illiteracy and the loss of the majority of its land base. 

        An act passed in 1876 is particularly noteworthy.  It specifically identifies the "Golden Hill tribe of Indians" and provides that if the income received by the Tribe's overseer is insufficient to support any of the members and if any member should become a town pauper, the overseer may sell some portion of the residue of the Tribe's lands in order to repay the town sums expended.  The 1876 enactment is just one of numerous state orders, acts and statutes which served to recognize the existence of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe.  From 1876 to 1935 there is a continuous line of statutory acknowledgement of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe.  The most recent enactments are discussed in detail below. 

        In 1935, the State Park and Forest Commission  of the State of Connecticut was authorized to act as overseer of all tribes of Indians residing in Connecticut, pursuant to Connecticut General Statues, Sec. 1587c (1935 Supp.) In 1939, after the death in December of 1938 of the Traditional Chief of the Golden Hill Tribe, George Sherman, various claims were asserted for the Trumbull reservation on which the Chief had resided.  At the request of the Tribe and the State Park and Forest Commission, the Office of the Attorney General issued and opinion letter that the claims were invalid and that the Trumbull reservation lands could not be sold because the property had been taken in trust for the Golden Hill Tribe. 

        In 1941, the Commissioner of Welfare of the State of Connecticut replaced the State Park and Forest Commission as the State-appointed "overseer" of all tribes of Indians residing in the State of Connecticut, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes,  Sec.  692f (1941 Supp.).  The reports of the State Parks and Forest commission and of the Welfare commission continually identify the Golden Hill Tribe and account for its limited resources throughout the 20th century.

        A series of significant modifications to the Connecticut General Statutes concerning the State's Indian tribes began in 1961.  In Public Act 61-304, the Golden Hill Tribe is again specifically identified as is the one-quarter acre Tribal reservation in Trumbull.  The next major revision occurred in 1973, when Connecticut Public Act No. 73-660 was enacted and codified as Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 47-63 et. seq., the legislation that this bill seeks to amend.  The Connecticut bills passed in the early 1970's also served to establish a legislative council called the Connecticut Indian Affairs Council ("CAIC").  From the time of its first formation, the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe has taken an active part in the CIAC.  Aureluis H. Piper, Sr. (Chief Big Eagle) was the first Tribal representative to the Council.  Chief Big Eagle played and instrumental role in preparing the first report issued by the CAIC in 1974.  This report provides and interesting glance back at what might be seen as the beginning of the modern period of Connecticut Indian Tribe's relationship with the State and their efforts to make their voices and concerns heard by the government.  Notably, federal recognition is specifically discussed even at this early date. 

        In the 1970's, Chief Big Eagle conducted a lengthy negotiation with the State to block the State's attempt to raze the old house of the Chief first constructed by Chief William Sherman in the 19th Century.  After years lobbying the State authorities, Chief Big Eagle compelled the State to honor its responsibility to maintain the reservation and an new Tribal residence was constructed.  This building continues to this day to be used by the Tribe as one of the residences of the Chief  and as a Tribal museum.  Later in the 1970's, relations between the State and its Indian tribes improved markedly during the term of the late and Honorable Governor Ella Grasso.  Governor Grasso will long be remembered and a true friend to Connecticut Indian tribes.  In one of the first efforts to obtain some long overdue funding for Connecticut's tribes, in March of 1976, Governor Grasso, certified to the Federal Office of Revenue Sharing that certain of the State's tribes, including the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe, had recognized governing bodies and existing reservations which should qualify, just as did the State municipalities, to receive Revenue Sharing Funds. (See, Appendix 17).  In 1978, the Tribe received two federal grants and began a search for additional reservation property.  The Tribe was unable to find property it could afford in a location close to its historical homeland and instead purchased 118 acres in the Town of Colchester.  This land was subsequently taken into trust by the State and is currently recognized as one of the State's official Indian reservations. 

        The present day statutes of the State, of course, also expressly recognize the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe and its two reservations. See, C.G.S. Sections 47-59a and 47-63.  It is important to recall the derivation of these statutes, discussed briefly above.  The specific sections of Title 47 which are to be amended by this bill were enacted as the result of a longstanding and productive dialogue between the legislature and representatives of Connecticut's tribes.  See P.A. 73-660, 89-368, Special Act. No 87-103, and Special Act. No. 90-25.

        To work of this body should not be lightly undone - nor undue in a discriminatory fashion as to only one of Connecticut's tribes.  Long before there was a Connecticut, the ancestors of the Golden Hill Paugussetts Tribe walked the land which is now this State; they had leaders and and a form of political structure.  These Connecticut statues at issue today merely recognize the last vestiges of these people s rights of self-government and self-determination.  These are not rights this body gave them - these rights pre-date this body - and these are not rights in the end that this body has any power to take away.  To consider this bill, which is designed to wipe the name of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe from the face of the statues, is misguided at best and an embarrassing shame at worst. 

        Mention may be made of the BIA's proposed decision to deny the Tribe's petition for Federal Recognition.   In the first instance, it is important to bear in mind that this proposed  decision is exactly that.  The decision is not final at this time.  Furthermore, as the Committee is aware, federal recognition in the State's statutes are fundamentally different matters.  More particularly, the federal criteria which must be met to establish the right to federal acknowledgement are extremely rigorous and as it is clear from the regulations themselves even the denial of federal acknowledgment in no sense means that a group of Indians is not a tribe for purposes other than federal acknowledgment or that the members of the group are not of Native American ancestry. 

        An actual decision denying the Tribe Federal Recognition, if one were ever received, would merely stand for the proposition that the BIA was not persuaded that the Tribe could satisfy the rigorous criteria of the federal acknowledgment process.  It should be recalled that nothing in the existing State statues and specifically Title 47 indicates that Federal Recognition has ever been a prerequisite to recognition by the State as an indigenous tribe.  To the contrary, of course, the Connecticut tribes which are currently federally recognized, the Mohegans  and the Mashantuckets, were first identified (and are still identified) as indigenous Connecticut tribes in the State's own statues.  




Copyright � 1999 Golden Hill Paugussett Nation