Golden Hill Paugussetts Want To Charge Landowners Back Rent

Orange (AP) — A state Indian tribe that has been repeatedly denied federal recognition wants to charge property owners decades of back rent on land it claims was taken from its ancestors.

The Golden Hill Paugussetts, in court documents filed last month, claim the tribe has been “denied the use and enjoyment of any rental income and profits rightfully due to it from the land” and seeks “damages representing the fair rent value of the land.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has twice rejected the tribe's bid for federal recognition, dealing a blow to the tribe's plan to build a casino in the state.

The latest legal filing is an amendment to land claims the Trumbull-based tribe filed in 1993 to hundreds of thousands of acres in Bridgeport, Westport, Southbury, Shelton, Seymour, Trumbull, Orange, Derby, Woodbridge, Branford and East Haven.

Michael D. O'Connell, the tribe's lawyer, said it would be months before any trial on the issue. He said the tribe would claim that the deals to give the land to settlers violated a 1790 law that Congress must approve all land deals with tribes.

The state attorney general's office will help defendants in the case. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he will file a motion for dismissal.

“This amendment has no legal or factual basis. It simply shows how desperate the Paugussetts are,” Blumenthal said.

The tribe has said in the past it would drop its land claims in return for 300 acres in Bridgeport for a casino. O'Connell said the offer is still on the table.

“One of the things the tribe has always said is that we don't want to harm individuals,” he said. “We're perfectly willing to sit down and address this through a negotiated process.”