TRUMBULL, Conn. (AP) — Aurelius H. Piper Sr., hereditary chief of the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Tribe, died on Aug. 3 at the tribe’s reservation in Trumbull. He was 92.
His death was announced by tribal officials.
Mr. Piper, known as Big Eagle, was named chief in 1959 by his mother, Chieftess Rising Star, and later assumed responsibility for the tribe’s quarter-acre reservation in Trumbull.
Though small, the tribe, which has small reservations in Trumbull and Colchester, has been recognized by the State of Connecticut for more than 300 years. In 2004, however, the Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the tribe’s request for federal recognition.
In the fight to be recognized, the Paugussetts filed claims to more than 700,000 acres of land, setting off a flurry of legal challenges. The land claims, which stretched from Middletown to Wilton and from Greenwich through lower Westchester County in New York, were eventually dropped, but could have been revived if the tribe had received federal recognition.
In 1993, Mr. Piper’s son Kenneth, also known as Moonface Bear, was the central figure in a 10-week armed standoff between state police and the Colchester faction of the tribe, over the sale of untaxed cigarettes on the reservation. Kenneth Piper died in 1996.
Mr. Piper traveled the world as a representative of the Golden Hill Tribe, Native Americans and other minority groups.
He served on many boards and commissions throughout Connecticut, fighting for the rights of American Indians and other minorities. He also served as a spiritual adviser to Native Americans in prison.
Mr. Piper served in the United States military during World War II, and took part in the troop landings in North Africa, according to the tribe.
He is survived by his wife, the former Marsha Conte; five children; and several stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.