HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The Connecticut Appellate Court has affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit the Schaghticoke tribe filed against the state in 2016, which claimed that the tribe’s land was unlawfully seized two centuries ago.
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation v. State was filed in 2016 after the tribe said that the state’s seizure and sale of a piece of land were against the state and national constitutions, and was a breach of fiduciary duty.
The court’s advance release opinion, which is scheduled to be formally published on Tuesday, rules that the case was right to be dismissed, citing that the state has sovereign immunity protecting it from lawsuits and that the tribe didn’t point to any law that supported its claim that it is entitled to money.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s opinion and will ask the Connecticut Supreme Court for review,” Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky said in a written statement to News 8.
The tribe’s lawsuit asked for $610 million in damages.
In 1754, Connecticut lawmakers passed a resolution that said the tribe could use the land, located along the Housatonic River, for cutting wood and timber.
Then, in 1801, a state-appointed overseer of the tribe asked the state to sell part of the land in order to settle a tribal debt, according to the ruling. The sale was approved.
That 1754 resolution, the appellate court ruled, was “not tantamount to a cognizable property right” because the state had given the tribe permission to use the land and therefore had the right to take it away.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court case Tee-Hit-Ton Indians v. the United States, the state court pointed to the ruling language that said “Indian occupancy, not specifically recognized as ownership by action authorized by Congress, may be extinguished by the government without compensation.”
“In our view, the court properly concluded that the plain text of the 1752 resolve granted the tribe no more than a right to occupy the land which the state could revoke at any given time,” the Connecticut judgment reads.
The case was argued before the court in February.