This project examines the armed standoff between the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation and the Connecticut state police in the summer of 1993. In what would come to be known as the Siege of 1993, state troopers surrounded the Paugussetts’ 70-acre Colchester reservation for nearly three months, where tribal war chief Moonface Bear held out with a heavily armed security force. What began as a dispute over untaxed cigarettes exploded into a battle for Indian sovereignty that attracted the attention of civil rights leaders, right wing extremists and the national media. Meanwhile, Moonface Bear’s half-brother led a rival faction of the tribe that filed lawsuits for hundreds of thousands of acres of tribal lands in southwestern Connecticut in his own struggle for sovereignty.
The Siege of ‘93 stands at the confluence of complex issues such as tribal rights to sovereign governance, racial prejudice against mixed-race Indians, and the shortcomings of bureaucratic processes for unrecognized tribes. Our research provides valuable insight into these phenomena as they relate to the historical experience of the Golden Hill Paugussetts. In order to gain such insights, we have analyzed local and national newspaper articles, legislative testimonies, letters, political cartoons, tribal documents, and conducted phone interviews with relevant individuals.
Our research has pulled the Siege of ‘93 from historical obscurity into the light of modern academia, where its significance can be studied and debated. Being a tribe of less than one hundred people, very few academic studies have examined the Golden Hill Paugussetts, and even fewer have looked specifically at the Siege of ‘93. In this way, our work this summer represents a unique contribution not only to Connecticut or New England history, but also to modern Native American history.