Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Paugusset)
Jump to: navigation, search
Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation
Total population

(Enrolled members:

100 [1])
Regions with significant populations
 United States Connecticut
English, formerly Paugussett
Related ethnic groups
Mashantucket Pequot, Mohegan

The Golden Hill Paugussett are a state-recognized Native American tribe in Connecticut.

They claim descent from the historic Paugusset people, who historically occupied much of western Connecticut prior to the arrival of European colonists.[2][3] They are among the five tribes recognized by the state.[2][4] They were denied federal recognition in 2004.[5]

Present day[edit]

The 100-member tribe lives in Colchester, Connecticut, where it has a 106-acre (0.43 km2) reservation.[1] It also has a 14-acre (0.0010 km2)[6] reserve in the Nichols section of Trumbull, Connecticut.

In 2009, a state court dismissed a challenge to the tribe's status as Indians, refusing to eject members of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe and their chief from reservations in Trumbull and Colchester.[7]


Falls Mountain gorge on the Housatonic River, site of a seventeenth century Paugussett fishing village/site.[8]

While the history of the Paugusset people began long before the European encounter, the early written records are European accounts. They are one of the numerous Algonquian-speaking nations who emerged in the coastal areas of the Atlantic. Historically, they occupied a region from present-day Norwalk to West Haven, and from Long Island Sound inland for as far as they could navigate by canoe on the Housatonic and Naugatuck rivers.

The tribe was made up of four primary sub-groups, the Paugussett Proper in what is present-day Milford, Derby and Shelton; the Pequonnock, along the coast; the Pootatuck in Newtown, Woodbury and Southbury; and the Weantinock in New Milford. They had a farming and fishing culture. The women cultivated varieties of staple crops: corn, beans, and squash, and tobacco, which was used for ritual purposes. The men fished in both fresh and saltwater. The size of midden shell heaps along the coast and the amount of cleared land attested to both a long period of occupation and a high degree of social organization among the people.[9]

Encroachment by settlers[edit]

While the Paugusset did not have early direct contact with Europeans, they came in contact with other Native Americans who did, and were exposed to the smallpox epidemic in 1633—35, which caused many deaths. They learned of the English and allies war against the Pequots in 1637, with the defeat of that nation. English settlers first arrived in Paugussett lands in 1638—39 after establishing settlements in New Haven, Guilford, Milford, Stratford and Fairfield.[10]

Golden Hill and Turkey Hill[edit]

Within a few years, the Paugussett had been divested by the colonists of the vast majority of their lands. A reservation was set aside in 1639 at Golden Hill, site of a spring sacred to the tribe, in present-day Bridgeport. Another reservation was established at Turkey Hill in present-day Derby. In 1802, the state-appointed tribal overseer sold Golden Hill. A replacement reservation was created at Turkey Meadows in Trumbull in 1841, but it was sold off in 1854. The last of Turkey Hill was also sold by the state in 1826 for the people's "own benefit".[11]

Ethiope or Liberia[edit]

According to the historian Charles Brilvitch, beginning in the 1820s a number of Paugussetts, under the leadership of Joel Freeman, a Turkey Hill Indian from Derby, relocated to Bridgeport, settling in the city's South End in an area that became known as Ethiope. With a population referred to in Census records as "mulatto" (no identification as 'Indian' was allowable prior to 1870), this community had a large majority of residents who identified as Paugussett. There was an admixture of Natives from the Mahican, Shinnecock, Nehantic, and Munsee-Delaware tribes as well. Freeman was followed by two of his sisters, Mary and Eliza, whose houses built in 1848 have been enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places. The Paugussett and their compatriots achieved a substantial degree of economic success during the antebellum period. Male inhabitants found employment on whaling ships and West Indies trading vessels while many female residents worked as cooks and waitstaff on the steamboats plying Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. The village came to include two churches, a Masonic lodge, resort hotel, school and other community institutions. However, despite the fact that there was only one individual named "Joel Freeman" in Census and vital records of the state of Connecticut during this period, the Bureau of Indian Affairs disputed whether the man who led the Ethiope-Liberia community was the same individual listed as a signatory on Turkey Hill Indian deeds. They also cited the fact that the National Register nomination for the Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses identifies the builders as African Americans regardless of later research that indicated this had been a clear misinterpretation of the term "mulatto." [12][5]

Restoration of the Land Base[edit]

Around 1857 a man named William Sherman (1825-1886), a whaler by trade, withdrew from the Liberia community and established himself in the village of Nichols Farms in Trumbull, site of the 1841-54 Turkey Meadows reservation. In 1875, he purchased a quarter-acre plot of land that contained a Paugussett burial ground and used funds from the Golden Hill Tribal Fund to construct a house on it. He is referred to in local histories of the 1880s as the chief of the tribe. Prior to his death in 1886, he turned the property over to the overseer in trust for the Golden Hill tribe, and it was accepted by the State of Connecticut in that year as an official reservation.

Subsequently his son George Sherman (b. 1871) took over the leadership of Golden Hill and retained it, with residence on the reservation, until his death in 1938. He was succeeded by his son Edward (1896-1974), who was known as "Chief Black Hawk." Meanwhile, Edward's sister, Ethel (1893-1993), was installed as "Chieftess Rising Star" in 1933. Ethel was active in the Pan-Indian movement and was a staunch advocate of Indian rights, fighting many battles in the court of law and the court of public opinion. She named her son Aurelius H. Piper (1916-2008) as "Chief Big Eagle" in 1959. Following the death of Chief Black Hawk, Chief Big Eagle assumed full leadership of the tribe and took up residency on the Trumbull reservation. He was responsible for obtaining grants to purchase land in Colchester in 1978 and 1980, which was granted formal reservation status by the state legislature in 1981.

In 1992, due to advancing age, Chief Big Eagle named his son, Aurelius H. Piper Jr. (b. 1945), as Chief of Chiefs and Hereditary Chief of the Golden Hill Tribe.

Challenge over cigarette sales[edit]

In 1993 the tribe made national headlines when it opened a tax-free cigarette shop on the Colchester reservation, asserting its sovereignty in selling the product without taking taxes. An armed standoff with state police ensued that ended without violence when Chief Moon Face Bear (Kenneth Piper) agreed to close the shop.[13] In the resulting state court case, the court ruled in State v. Piper, No. CR21-57349 (May 3, 1996), that the tribe did not have exemption from the state requirement to collect taxes on sales of cigarettes.[2]

Quest for federal recognition[edit]

Chief Big Eagle first submitted documents for the recognition of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe in 1982. That request was not acted on or further pursued by the BIA. Early in 1990 Chief Big Eagle appointed Chief Quiet Hawk to pursue the quest for federal recognition and to pursue the land claims in the state of Connecticut.

In a final determination in 1996, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied recognition to the Golden Hill Paugussett. The tribe appealed under BIA provisions and submitted additional historic and genealogical documentation.[5][14] They were denied federal recognition in 2004.[5][15] Since the legislative changes that have enabled federally recognized tribes to establish gambling casinos on their lands, some tribes have gained significant revenue for welfare, education, and development from gambling revenues, including two in Connecticut.[15]

In 2015, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued new rules saying that tribes which have previously been denied federal recognition cannot re-petition.[16][17]

State opposition to federal recognition[edit]

While the state has gained considerable revenues from its share of income generated by the two major established casino resorts, Connecticut officials have been opposed to recognition of additional tribes and addition of gambling sites in the state. State officials lobbied the BIA in opposition to recognition of the Golden Hill Paugussett.[14]

The governor, Congressional delegation and private property owners later mounted challenges and conducted lobbying to reverse the federal recognition granted to the Eastern Pequot Nation in 2002, and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in 2004. They succeeded in gaining a BIA review of both cases; after a change in administrations, recognition of both tribes was revoked in 2005, actions without precedent.[18]

Land rights claims[edit]

Together with providing documentation and working to regain tribal status, the Paugusset filed land rights claims against the state, saying the state did not have the authority to manage or sell land on their behalf. Lack of federal recognition has deprived them of automatic standing in such suits.

Initiated by Chief Big Eagle, the Paugussetts originally had claimed legal rights to 700,000 acres (2,800 km2) of land running from Orange/Woodbridge in New Haven County though Fairfield County to Greenwich and extending North into Eastern Litchfield County up to the Massachusetts border, though these large claims have since been dropped.[1][19]

In 1992, Chief Quiet Hawk filed a lawsuit claiming 80 acres in Bridgeport, the site of Golden Hill, which the state had sold in 1802, as well as land in Trumbull and Orange. In 1993, the federal District Court judge Peter Dorsey concluded that Connecticut had violated the 1790 Non-Intercourse Act by selling Indian lands without the approval of the federal government. But he dismissed the case, pending resolution of the BIA's review of their petition for federal recognition. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal. Citing other cases, it noted that criteria for an Indian group's pursuit of land claims were not necessarily the same as for federal recognition.[14]

In 2006, a federal district court judge dismissed the Golden Hill Paugussett's 14-year-old lawsuit claiming lands in Orange, Trumbull and Bridgeport, based on the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs' rejection of the tribe's petition for federal recognition.[20] The Golden Hill Paugusset had contended that, since they were a Native American nation, the state did not have the authority to deal with them on land sales or dispose of their land. Since the United States was formed, the federal government had required its approval of any sale of Indian lands.

Notable Golden Hill Paugusett people[edit]

  • Aurelius H. Piper, Sr. (1916 - 2008), Chief Big Eagle - hereditary chief, died at age 92 in Trumbull.[21] Beginning in the late 20th century, he encouraged revival of the Paugusset language. "It is a sacred obligation," says the Golden Hill Paugussett Chief, Big Eagle. "Indian people must keep their languages alive. If the language is not spoken, it must be made to live again."[22]
  • Aurelius H. Piper, Jr. (Chief Quiet Hawk); appointed by his father, Big Eagle, to succeed him as Chief of Chiefs.[7][20]
  • Shoran Piper-Baez (Clan Mother White Fawn)[23]


  1. ^ a b c "Aurelius Piper, chief of Connecticut tribe". Associated Press. Boston Globe. 2008-08-06. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  2. ^ a b c Christopher Reinhart (2002-02-07). "Effect of State Recognition of an Indian Tribe". State of Connecticut. Retrieved 2010-08-06. Connecticut statutes recognize five tribes: (1) Golden Hill Paugussett, (2) Mashantucket Pequot, (3) Mohegan, (4) Eastern Pequot, and (5) Schaghticoke tribe. 
  3. ^ Brilvitch 2007, pp. 11--12.
  4. ^ "CGS § 47-59a Connecticut Indians; citizenship, civil rights, land rights.". State of Connecticut. Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  5. ^ a b c d Bureau of Indian Affairs (2004-06-21). "Final Determination Against Federal Acknowledgement of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe". Federal Register. United States. pp. 34388–34393. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  6. ^ Eisner, Will (1975). "Politics". Odd Facts. Tempo Star. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-448-13506-9. 
  7. ^ a b Daniel Tepfer (2009-10-20). "Challenge to Paugussett heritage dismissed". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  8. ^ Orcutt, v1 1886, pp. 26--27.
  9. ^ Brilvitch 2007, pp. 13--14.
  10. ^ Brilvitch 2007, pp. 16--17.
  11. ^ Brilvitch 2007, pp. 19--22.
  12. ^ Brilvitch 2007, pp. 11--12, 27--36.
  13. ^ Margaret Pearce (12 Aug 1993). "Stand-off at Golden Hill Paugussett smoke shop". Native-L. Archived from the original on September 19, 2006.  in Hayden, Lisa (August 12, 1993). "PAUGUSSETTS CLOSE SMOKE SHOP". Norwich Bulletin. Colchester. 
  14. ^ a b c Sam Libby (1999-12-12). "Another Chance for Golden Hill Paugussett". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  15. ^ a b Raymond Hernandez (2004-06-15). "Connecticut Indians Denied Tribal Status, Dimming 3rd Casino's Chances". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  16. ^ Harriet Jones (June 29, 2015). "Federal Recognition Changes Leave Connecticut Tribes Out in the Cold". WNPR. Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  17. ^ "Revisions to Regulations on Federal Acknowledgment of Indian Tribes (25 CFR 83 or "Part 83")". US Department of Interior. June 29, 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-02. 
  18. ^ Gale Courey Toensing, "Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Seeks to Regain Rightful Status", Indian Country, 31 May 2011, accessed 17 March 2013
  19. ^ "Chief Of Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe Dies". WTIC News. Archived from the original on September 25, 2008. 
  20. ^ a b Gregory B. Hladky (3006-12-06). "Federal judge tosses Paugussett land suit". Orange Bulletin. Archived from the original on 2009-12-25. Retrieved 2010-08-06.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. ^ "Paugussett tribal chief, 92, dies". Norwich Bulletin. 2008-08-05. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  22. ^ Libby, Sam (18 October 1998). "Tribes to Revive Language". The New York Times. p. 6. 
  23. ^ "Pow-wow with the Golden Hill Paugusett". East Haddam Today. 2010-05-12. Archived from the original on 2011-07-12. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 


External links[edit]

See also[edit]