The reservation of the Chaubunagungamaug, a band of the larger Nipmuc tribe, is under threat of dispossession by the town of Thompson, Conn. The land is not an “official” reservation and is privately owned by members of the band. According to a fundraising appeal by spiritual leader Silver Fox, the property fell into arrears after the death of Loving One, who had been paying the taxes.
The Nipmuc, native to what is now occupied by Connecticut and Massachusetts, suffered severe losses of life and land in the 1600s. As befell many Indigenous groups in the region, first epidemics and then the massacre known as King Philips War forced the Nipmuc to live under complete colonial rule. The tribe has not had any state-recognized sovereign collective land holdings since the Massachusetts legislature passed the 1869 Massachusetts Indian Enfranchisement Act. That act allowed individual land sales to break up the small reservations previously under guardianship of the state. It also formally ended tribal recognition.
Since 1980, the Nipmuc have been fighting for federal and state recognition. In Connecticut, then Attorney General and now Senator Richard Blumenthal led the charge against this effort. In a 2002 ruling, the reasoning for denying recognition included “lack of continuity” and “mass recruitment.” To the state, continuity must be “proven” through formal documentation.
Of course, the fight for recognition itself serves as a consciousness-raising action, gaining publicity and motivating people who had not previously registered as tribal members to do so. The report effectively denies the historical existence of the Chaubunagungamaug. Displaying extreme chauvinism, Blumenthal regularly reduces the struggle for tribal recognition to casino development.
These acts of dispossession, violence, land theft, and historic lies have led to the situation in which the Chaubunagungamaug could lose the small amount of land they have left. Taxing the people who were violently forced off of these lands is a great injustice. Instead, reparations and the returning of substantial landholdings to collective tribal governance are needed.
These demands can be won through unified mass actions led by Indigenous people fighting for self-determination. The popularity of this struggle for non-Native residents is exemplified by the huge amount of support from the social, student, and labor movements shown to the Water Protectors during the NoDAPL fight.
Socialist Resurgence stands with the Chaubunagungamaug and all Native peoples struggling for recognition, self-determination, and reparations. We suggest donating to the fund to pay tax arrears on the current reservation at their GoFundMe page.