Schaghticoke tribe files $610 million suit against Connecticut for land taken in 1800s

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CONNECTICUT — The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation said it filed a lawsuit against the State of Connecticut.

It said it’s seeking $610 million in damages for the state’s taking of more than 2,000 acres of tribal land over a period of 117 years.

The acquisition of the land happened between the years of 1801 and 1918.

The tribe called the taking of the land unconstitutional and is demanding compensation.

“It’s important to note this suit is only about fair compensation for STN, not recouping land,” said Austin Tighe, the tribe’s attorney. “There are three incontrovertible facts about this case – the state took land from the Schaghticokes on 91 different occasions over a period of 117 years, the state promised to pay the tribe for the land and repeatedly broke its promise, and both the United States and Connecticut Constitutions prohibit such uncompensated taking of land.”

The complaint was file on Thursday at Connecticut Superior Court.

It was officially announced Friday morning at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman is another attorney representing the tribe.

“It is clear to me that the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation has been treated unfairly for a long time, and [it] has meritorious claims against the state,” Lieberman said. “As this lawsuit demonstrates, the state acted unconstitutionally and breached its statutory fiduciary duties in taking tribal land, and STN is entitled to be compensated by the state for those wrongful acts.”

The Schaghticoke funds have been totally depleted and its reservation reduced from 2,400 acres to a mere 400, the attorneys said.

“Beginning with the creation of our reservation in 1736, the state has blatantly and dismissively manipulated the system against the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation for nearly three centuries,” said Chief Richard Velky, Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. “With this lawsuit our tribe is seeking justice that has long been denied to us.”

This isn’t the first lawsuit to be filed against Connecticut by the Schaghticokes. Earlier this year, the tribe and MGM filed suits over the legislature’s agreement with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes to build a third state casino off of tribal land.

In that case, Velky argued that the act was discriminatory and that the Schaghticokes deserved the right to pursue the same economic opportunity.

MGM’s suit was dismissed by a federal judge back in June. The tribe withdrew its suit a few months later.

Director of Communications for the Office of the Attorney General Jaclyn M. Falkowski said they “are reviewing the complaint and will respond at the appropriate time in court.”

“We would decline further comment at this time,” Falkowski said in an email on Friday.