Published on October 19, 2010 by John
The Schaghticoke are a Native American tribe of the Eastern Woodlands consisting of descendants of Mahican (also called “Mohican”, but not to be confused with the Mohegans), Potatuck (or Pootatuck), Weantinock, Tunxis, Podunk, and other people indigenous to what is now Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts. They amalgamated after encroachment of white settlers on their ancestral lands. Their 400 acre (1.6 km²) reservation, depleted from its original 2,500 acres (10 km2), is located on the New York/Connecticut border within the boundaries of Kent in Litchfield County, Connecticut, running parallel to the Housatonic River. It is one of the oldest reservations in North America. The land was granted in 1736 as a reserve to the Schaghticoke by the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut, 40 years before the American Revolution. Today the reservation land, a wilderness habitat for rattlesnakes, ruffed grouse, and other animals, is held in trust by the state. Schaghticoke is pronounced /ˈskætɨkoʊk// “scat-ə-coke” or /ˈskætɨkʊk/ “scat-ə-cook” (various spellings: Pachgatgoch, Patchgatgoch, Pisgachtigok, Pishgachtigok, Scachtacook, Scaghkooke, Scanticook, Scatacook, Scaticook, Schaacticook, Scotticook, Seachcook) derived from an Algonquian Dialect-R word Pishgachtigok meaning “Where the river forks.” The language/culture base is Algonquian with Iroquoian influence. In 1981 the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe (S.I.T.) filed a petition for federal recognition. Four family lineages form the basis of most of today’s tribal members, according to tribal genealogists. They are the Cogswells, Kilsons, Harrises, and Bradleys. In January 2004, after reviewing nearly 30,000 documents, the Bureau of Indian Affairs granted federal recognition to the tribe. In making its initial positive declaration, the BIA agreed that the tribe met all seven criteria for recognition. In October 2005, however, after pressure from concerned non-Indian townspeople, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, and the state of Connecticut and its Congressional delegation, the BIA reversed its decision. The Schaghticokes sued for relief in Federal court, but the suit was dismissed in August 2008; the appeal was denied. On January 29, 2009, Schaghticoke members and supporters rallied at the Connecticut state capitol, and presented a petition to Governor Jodi Rell, calling for an end to land encroachment and destruction and raised awareness for the tribe’s continued effort for federal recognition.Chief Velky, tribal chair since 1987, has promised, “I can tell you this. They will never finish us off, and they will never take our land.” Infighting has divided the tribe into two factions. In 1986, the tribe split and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Kent, Connecticut (STNKC) was formed with the support of the state of Connecticut government. Using the identity of SIT, through formation of a nonprofit corporation, in 1991 STNKC filed a new petition for federal recognition that was granted in 2004. However, STNKC members did not live on the reservation and STNKC claims were rejected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs because it did not meet certain community and political authority sections of federal recognition law. The BIA’s decision determined that the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe (SIT) is the legitimate present-day continuation of the historical Schaghticoke Tribe (page 63 of the 2005 Final Determination IBA). SIT claims will be considered by the federal government when its petitions are complete and reviewed under the acknowledgment regulations. In August 2009 STNKC once again was ruled against by Judge Peter Dorsey. This ruling was appealed in the 2nd circuit court of NY and was denied (Oct 19, 2009).
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