LAMB RICHMOND: Just
the principal of being recognized by the federal government is
important, that we need to have that kind of relationship
between two groups. We feel like we're the step-children or
something. But in addition to that, what federal recognition
does is enables us to survive economically, socially and
The Mohegan Tribe capped off decades of effort to regain its
sovereignty when it finally received federal recognition.
Federal status qualifies a tribe for federal grants and loans,
and other rights, including the right to engage in gaming. But
the application process insists on tribal continuity.
LYDEM (Schagticoke Tribe): When you are applying for federal
recognition, one of the criteria is that you have to demonstrate from the late 1700's to the present that there indeed existed a
tribal government, a functioning people that lived as Native
Americans on a given reservation.
the same time, you had state laws which prohibited folks from
meeting. This is how a lot of Native Americans disseminate into
the white culture and that's where we are. I guess the federal
people got surprised when all these folks came up with all this
information, all this documentation. They didn't think that they
could demonstrate it, but they have. We're waiting. Our turn
For most of his life, Chief Big Eagle, the reclusive patriarch
of the Golden Hill Paugussetts lives on the tribe's tiny
reservation in Trumbull.
sons Moonface Bear and Quiet Hawk have each made headlines by
vigorous land claims, casino proposals, and tax-free cigarette
BIG EAGLE (Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe): When you have the
first reservation -- you have people from the first reservation
set aside and they have lived on Indian land for 350 years. God
damn it -- don't ask me what needs to be done! Why aren't we not
federally recognized? Why? It shows you, nobody cares.
For Big Eagle, whose ancestors were granted the first
reservation in America, the need to prove his tribe's continuous
existence is by definition demeaning.
BIG EAGLE: How can he with the stroke of his pen say I'm a
citizen of his country? I'm not a citizen of his country, he's a
citizen of my country. He don't recognize me.
Free to be Indian
The relentless onrush of Europeans into Connecticut in the 1600s
made it especially difficult for Connecticut's native people to
preserve their culture.
AGANSTATA: The ones here in the Northeast are really set apart
by having the first contact, of having weathered the storm—the
ferocity of this frontal assault on Indian culture than began on
LAMB RICHMOND: A lot has been lost and we don't want any more,
you know, to go, and we don't have our language and I feel very
sensitive about that. And when I hear other Indian spoken -- my
husband for example is Mohawk -- and when I hear that exchange,
it's hard to describe the kind of strength and support that it
gives to me and how important it is.
PRINCE (Mashantucket Pequot Tribe): There's not much
documentation about the culture, about the ceremonial practices,
and what have you. The reason being is because of the massacre
that took place. So anything that I can learn is very important
to me. And one of the first things that I learned when I was
probably about 5 or 6 years old is my mother taught me how to
language is not spoken fluently and there's very few bits and
pieces left. So when she taught us to count she used to make us
pass around a medicine ball. We'd pass it around in the living
room and we'd have to say up to ten, one through ten. (Counts
to 10 in Pequot) And we did that over and over and over
again. And I still remember to this day.
Mikki Aganstata moved to Connecticut in 1978 to become state
Coordinator of Indian Affairs. Now a Dept. of Public Utilities
employee, Aganstata works weekends at her Native-American food
concession at many area powwows.
AGANSTATA: The stress of having been surrounded, the decimation
of numbers of tribal peoples from disease. as well as the push
westward for land almost without fail reached its highest degree
in Southern New England. As we look around today, that's the
most dense population of European immigrants still today. So the
assault, once it began, never let up. From the time that
Europeans really began to settle in heavily in Connecticut,
Indians were not free to be Indian.
LYDEM: The Europeans started breaking up Indian people, forcing
them to live off the land, forcing them to go to their schools,
forcing them in their religions. And then the intermarriage
starting, and just kept moving forward in that direction --
separating people, keeping them off their land or putting them
on reservations. Indians are not from reservations, the land is
After a career as an auto service manager, Schagticoke tribal
member Butch Lydem became a fulltime craftsperson.
LYDEM: I believe that the creator hasn't let us develop the way
a lot of other tribes are developing because it isn't our time
yet. There's too many environmental concerns that we need to
address and I'm trying to play a role in that.
mom was born on Schagticoke, back in the early 1900s. And she,
from the time I was young, preached to me - not preached to me,
I'm sorry mom -- spoke to me about how important it was not to
forget who we are, even though it wasn't popular at the time.
And the native people kind of put themselves on the back shelf
because of the problems that they faced admitting that they were
Indian. She wouldn't let me do that. At that time it wasn't very
popular to be Indian because of the ridicule that we faced. But
I made it through and I'm very proud of what I am.
been carving for the last five or six years, I learned it
through my Uncle Falcon up on Oneida. He's shown me quite a bit.
He's brought me closer to the traditional ways that our people
enjoy. And before that I was in the private sector, a service
manager of a couple of stores.
here is a walking stick that I've carved. It's carved out of
maple. The maple comes from my reservation. It's a way of me
showing respect to our land and the creator for giving me
something to carve and to make beautiful. As you can see the
carvings in it, many of my carvings are representative of the
plants that are on my reserve.