In America the term ‘Indian’ refers
to the original inhabitants of North America before settlers from
Europe arrived. An Indian tribe is a group of individuals belonging
to the same or related races living together in one community under
a common leadership. Legends about the spirituality and environmental
wisdom of these Indian tribes abound.
The Golden Hill Tribe of Paugussett Indians is one such tribe,
officially recognized by the US state. The Paugussett Indians, then
about 1.5 million strong, were among the first original inhabitants
of North America to greet early European settlers on arrival. The
Colonists learnt many skills from these Indian tribes who also influenced
their lifestyles and values. This Indian tribe played a major role
in the introduction of important agricultural products like maize,
tobacco, potato and chocolate to the modern world.
The typical settlement of the early Colonists had a green area
in the middle where the planting was done. Their townships consisted
of houses and a common building that served both as a town hall
for meetings and as a church. The area surrounding these settlements
was generally considered as belonging to the entire community that
anyone could use for felling timer or for use as farms or as pasture.
The Paugussett Indian tribe comes from such an area on Housatonic
and Naugatuck Rivers in Connecticut, which was shifted to a reservation.
Their complaint against this shifting resulted in a hearing in Hartford
in 1659, but the Indians were not heard by the court, which declared
that the settlers had the right to take over Paugussett Indian lands.
In return, the Indians were given 80 acres of land known as the
‘Golden Hill’, and in the course of time the Paugussett
Indians became known as Golden Hill Indians. This area developed
into the bustling trading town of Bridgeport, CT and the ‘Golden
Hill’ is now part of downtown Bridgeport.
The Golden Hill Tribe of Paugussett Indians is now seeking recognition
from the Federal Government and a settlement of their land claims.
Such recognition and settlement will bring financial strength and
give the tribe access to healthcare and education programs and housing.
The tribe will then be able to build a reservation large enough
to house all its members, now scattered as minority groups in different
parts of the State of Connecticut and in Connecticut City. This
will enable the tribe to bring up children in their ancestral tradition,
and pass on their cherished heritage to the coming generations.