Aurelius H. Piper, Sr. (Chief Big Eagle - Hereditary Chief) has dedicated a great part of his 80+ year-old life to not only keeping the name of the Golden Hill Tribe alive throughout the nation, but has dedicated his life to preserving Indian culture worldwide.
In 1959 Big Eagle was named Chief of the Golden Hill Tribe of the Paugussett Indian Nation by his mother, Chieftess Rising Star. In 1974 his chieftainship was reaffirmed; and, upon the death of his uncle, Chief Black Hawk, he moved onto the one-quarter acre Trumbull Reservation. Since that time Chief Big Eagle has taken an active and very public leadership in matters of importance to all Indians.
Having been born to a mother and father who were both Native Americans, Chief Big Eagle has always been proud and knowledgeable of his heritage. He struggled using his own funds to keep the culture and heritage of his people alive.
Chief Big Eagle volunteered much of his time and energy educating people about Indian culture. In 1983 he founded the "Native American Prison Project" at Somers Prison and, until a few years ago was a diligent volunteer in that organization. From 1976 to 1983 he served on the Minority Advisory Council of the Department of Aging as well as a volunteer in the Bridgeport elementary schools. In that capacity he served in an Indian education program, where he not only initiated the program but served as a consultant and instructor.
Chief Big Eagle, whose picture hangs in Connecticut's State Capitol building, is also credited for the work he did as a member of AID (American Indians for Development), an organization made up of leaders of state recognized Indian tribes.
In the early 1990's he was invited to travel to Moscow as a representative of all American Indians, in their quest to learn more about American Indians. The trip was described in a book entitled Red Man In Red Square.
Additionally, Chief Big Eagle has spoken at the United Nations and been active in many national and international organizations which protect the rights of Native Americans. He is also the foreign correspondent for eastern North American tribes to the De Kiva Journal. The De Kivas are a group based in Belgium and the Netherlands, which takes Indian rights cases before the International Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Chief Big Eagle's contribution as an advocate for Indian rights earned him the honor of being named "Chief of the Century," for his work in furthering Native American causes in Connecticut, across the country and abroad.
To this day he continues to be an advocate for all Indian rights, and an activist to keep Indian culture alive. In June of 1997 the White Buffalo Society, an international society which he founded many years ago, held a Pow Wow hosted by the Florida Chapter. At that Pow Wow the Milford, Connecticut Police Department presented him with a plaque naming him as "Honorary Chief of Chiefs of Police" for that town.
Despite the many accomplishments worldwide, Chief Big Eagle was saddened and deeply distressed at the way his Tribe, in an attempt to survive, was slowly disseminating into the mainstream of society. The remaining property of the former vast lands that was once theirs did not provide enough space for a tribe, even as small as the Golden Hill Tribe had become, where they could live together in peace and preserve their culture.
The Golden Hill Tribe has been state recognized since pre-colonial days and, as such, is charged with being the caretaker of the Tribe. However, great effort had to be brought forth to receive any cooperation from the state. Chief Big Eagle's first battle with the state was when he sought to have badly needed repairs done to the dwelling on the Tribe's one-quarter acre. Their response was that they could demolish the house, however it would not be replaced, and the Chief and his family could move into another house owned by the state. Chief Big Eagle realized that that was actually a potential attack on Tribal sovereignty. After a long struggle with the state the Tribe prevailed and the house on the reservation was repaired.
A second attack came in 1976 when a neighbor claimed to own part of the one quarter acre. This actually turned into a full "war." Gunshots were fired, a tepee on the reservation was burned down by an arsonist and tension and racism was at an all time high. Representatives of the American Indian government and other Indian groups came to help protect the smallest Indian reservation in the United States. Eventually Chief Big Eagle prevailed and the reservation was saved.
While it has been a primary goal of the leadership of Chief Big Eagle to recover Tribal lands, it was also his goal to do so through mediation, not litigation. In 1977, Chief Big Eagle, as Vice Chairman of the Connecticut Indian Affairs Council, wrote to the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation seeking a mediation process in the New England Indian land claims cases, to no avail.
Chief Big Eagle's quest for Federal Recognition came long before the 1988 Gaming Act and was as a result of what he saw as the only vehicle available to salvage his people. Unfortunately the BIA application was so complex and beyond the level of his abilities, that he needed the expertise of his son, Aurelius H. Piper, Jr. (Chief Quiet Hawk), to take over that effort. He counsels with his son on a regular basis, and with full confidence in his assignee, eagerly awaits the day when the federal government will redeem his people.