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Shelton Group Approves, Then Rescinds Permission For Tribe To Use Land

by Fred Musante | Feb 3, 2013 9:33 pm

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Posted to: Shelton

A local Native American tribe and a Boy Scout leader are angry at the Shelton Land Conservation Trust for waiting seven months to rescind approval for a pow wow festival at the Nicholdale Farm open space property.

Now they have to find a new location for the event, which is scheduled for October.

Shoran Piper, a tribal leader of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe, and local Scout Leader Keith Rood said Shelton Land Conservation Trust officials have refused to give them a reason for the decision.

They are irritated that it was relayed to them by a secretary and not by a member of the Land Trust board.

“We just don’t understand why it was cancelled,” Rood said.

Rood and Piper said it takes more than a year to line up Native American dance and drumming groups, food vendors, craft vendors and other attractions for a pow wow.

Rood fired off his frustration in a letter to the editor to the Jan. 30 edition of the Shelton Herald, in which he called it “just another instance of promises being made to our local Native Americans and having them disregarded when they are inconvenient.”

Click here to read the letter.

Rood is also a Native American, but not a member of the Paugussetts.

In response, Shelton Land Conservation Trust President Joe Welch released a statement Friday saying the Trust’s Board of Directors decided the pow wow would cause too much disturbance at the Nicholdale Farm property.

In an e-mail Sunday, Welch said the Land Trust board approved the tribe’s request at its September 2012 meeting. A site walk appeared to resolve the board’s concerns about litter and other issues.

But the matter came up again at the board’s November meeting.

“At our November meeting we discussed there were still aspects about the proposed event that made us realize we are straying from the intended use of the parcel and our jobs as stewards of the land,” Welch said in an e-mail.

They didn’t meet in December. Then, at their January meeting, the Land Trust nixed the event.

The complete text of Welch’s statement is at the end of this article.

According to Rood, in May he and Shoran Piper joined Land Trust officials, apparently including Welch himself, on a “walk-through” at Nicholdale Farm, a 44.87-acre property along Leavenworth Road (Route 110) in White Hills.

The Land Trust open space property — and two adjoining properties that bring the total acreage to over 90 acres — have two modest parking lots to accommodate visitors who want to use the hiking trails.

Rood said Nicholdale Farm has two grassy fields where the Paugussetts could hold their pow wow and that local Boy Scouts frequently hold campouts there without causing any problems.

At that time, Rood said, Welch raised concerns about litter, vehicle traffic and parking, and the impact of large numbers of people visiting the open space.

He and Piper said they had made arrangements to control litter and that the Jones Family Farms about a half mile away had agreed to let visitors use its parking lot and take shuttle buses to the and from the Pow Wow.

“Everything was all set, all done,” said Piper, who holds the title of Clan Mother for the tribe.

When Europeans first came to Connecticut, the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe controlled much of this part of Connecticut on both sides of the Housatonic River.

The tribe filed lawsuits against property owners in a number of local towns in the 1990s asking for compensation for its lands, which tribal leaders said was stolen by the European settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The tribe lost when the Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected its claim for official recognition as the descendants of the original Golden Hill Paugussett tribe.

Rood and Piper said a secretary called Rood on the telephone in mid-January to notify him that the Land Trust had rescinded its original approval.

They said that put the event in jeopardy, because if they can’t find an alternate site soon they must call back all the vendors and Native American re-enactors and let them know it has been called off.

“For them to tell us now, at the last minute, that everything is cancelled, it’s hard to contact everybody,” Piper said. “I’ve never encountered a problem like this before.”

According to Rood and Piper, the pow wow would have been held on the same weekend as Shelton Day.

Rood said he thought it would be a good way for local scouts and Shelton residents to learn about Native American culture. “It was going to be a community event,” he said.

But now, if another location is found in time for the pow wow, it would probably be outside the area, he said.

Statement by Joseph Welch, Shelton Land Conservation Trust President:

I am sorry that Mr. Rood feels upset with the Land Trust Board’s decision on the use of Nicholdale for a Pow Wow. One of the main reasons we initially entertained the idea of the Pow Wow is our respect for the Native American culture and view them as some of the best land stewards there ever were, by taking care of the land and not exploiting it as is so common in today’s world.

For several years the trust has been involved in the maintenance of woodland trails as well as restoration of the parcels old farm fields which are now maintained for early successional habitat. Nicholdale is open to the public for hiking and nature study. There is also a woodland camping area for local scout groups, this is low impact for the most part with just one vehicle permitted into the site for emergency purposes.

The trust had never allowed such an intense use of the property as was proposed by Mr. Rood with multiple vehicles and retail vendors on site, so we had to really make sure an event of this magnitude was the right decision. I was part of a site walk with Mr. Rood in the fall to go over details and logistics, and report back to the board for further discussion. While there are many good aspects Nicholdale did not seem like the best choice.

I expressed my concerns to the Board about potential upset to the wildlife we are trying to benefit, damage to the property, sanitation & liter concerns, and liability concerns that our insurer would likely not cover, and the Board agreed that this would not be an appropriate use for the site as it was too intense. As an all-volunteer group we try to do our best to be good stewards of the land by protection of the wildlife habitat, managing invasive plant species and giving public access to these lands for passive recreation. Some uses may do more harm than good. If Mr. Rood trying to equate this to anything else is simply out of line.

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posted by: Marie Hynds on February 4, 2013  8:58am

why not try Warsaw park on pulaski highway in ansonia?

posted by: Dameon Rood on February 4, 2013  12:21pm

Unfortunately the tribe has already spent a lot of money on this event, and most other parks and acceptable areas are now no longer affordable.

Maybe the land trust committee should help pay for the new location due to the damage they have caused by their “Indian giving”.

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