Justice for all
As council chief of the Golden Hill Paugussett Indians, I think it is important that you understand the heart, the mind and the history of my people.
Since the 1970's we have been trying to achieve federal recognition.
To us, federal recognition means the salvation of our tribal members and our culture via health care, education and housing, grants which are available to federally recognized tribes. It was not until later that "gaming" became an issue. Each time we have sought what is legally ours we have been pushed away from our efforts.
What we are doing today is neither a conspiracy nor an act of terrorism. It is a step we were forced into in response to the same bureaucratic system
that denied our people their rights 350 years ago and has continued to this very day.
We understand that you bought property in good faith.
We understand that you sacrificed a lot for what you believe to be your land � but so did we. Please understand , we are not a bunch of people who sat idly by through the years looking to have something handed to us.
We are human beings with goals and ambitions, just like you. Our people work hard trying to achieve what you did � but we
did it without the benefit of the Constitution and political
representation that you enjoy. In fact, it wasn�t until 1973 that the state of Connecticut even considered us as citizens, although we were allowed to fight in wars on behalf of the United States of America.
What needs to be brought to light is that if we do not take a stand now and fight for federal recognition, in approximately eight years my tribe will
assimilate into mainstream of society and the culture and heritage of my people will die. That�s why these land claims are being brought.
This act that we do today in pursuing the land claims, has been interpreted as hate and malice on our part. Be assured that it is not. I
love this country� the people and the land.
I do not hate you, nor wish harm to you.
I do not want to deny you or your children whatever benefits you may derive from the hand, I cannot stand by and let my heritage die.
You may ask, �how did things get so far out of hand?
What will it take for this to go away?�
To answer, I must first restate history.
Whether you want to understand it or not, I am fighting for this country and the foundation of this country which was used to keep us back. Without us, the U.S.A. does not have a history. If you deny the land claims, you deny your history � you deny yourself.
If you carefully and honestly read history books about our country, you will know that the Indians were your salvation and that your achievements to date only attest to the fact that the Europeans were not smarter ... just crueler.
Maybe you do not understand what the European settlers did and what historically continues to happen. The settlers raped our ancestors and stole our land. Our one salvation is that the federal government has a vehicle in place to make restitution to Indian tribes, as exemplified in recent settlement to the Navaho Tribe for 440,000 acres, as well as compensation to other tribes throughout the United States. These settlements were achieved through negotiations similar to the ones we have sought from elected officials for more than a year. Unfortunately, the attitude of Connecticut politicians today is much like that of the European settlers, whose actions encouraged the genocide of my people.
I love this country too much to believe that its citizens are not willing to stand up for what is right. I love my fellow countrymen so much that in addition to preserving my heritage and despite the opposition that we are facing, I want to contribute to the revitalizing of the city of Bridgeport, its surrounding towns, and lessen the burden on taxpayers statewide by contributing financially to the state of Connecticut.
Why then are the very politicians who are charged with the responsibility of doing what is best for their constituents fighting to delay a process that would resolve this issue and let us all benefit? How can these same politicians, many of whom benefited personally by supporting the Atlantic City type casinos, let us all suffer?
As I stated before, I do not hate you, I do not want you to suffer. However, I cannot stand by and let my heritage and my people die. We have suffered enough. I have not asked for anything that isn't provided for us under the law. I cannot accept that my American brothers and sisters wish to continue to endorse the savage treatment their forefathers bestowed upon my people. More than that, I cannot sit idly by, knowing that my tribe, along with its wonderful heritage, will be extinct in the not too distant future, I must do whatever is necessary for their survival.
What you choose to do is totally up to you. I only hope that your love for your country and ALL its people will encourage you to write or call your city, state and national elected officials. Let them know that like us you are tired of being used by them as pawns - you are not happy about your land being threatened and that it is time that this issue be resolved fairly - as dictated by law.
We believe that our heritage and the land you have worked so hard for should not be used by politicians to help them win elections or better their financial picture.
We simply seek justice for all.
May peace be with you and your family.
AURELIUS H. PIPER