Paugussett chief embroiled in tribe's claim for federal recognition dies at 76

Photo of Peter Yankowski
Chief Quiet Hawk (Aurelius Piper Jr.) of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe, waits to sign a contract with the city at City Hall in Bridgeport, Conn., in this Dec. 19, 2002, file photo.

Chief Quiet Hawk (Aurelius Piper Jr.) of the Golden Hill Paugussett tribe, waits to sign a contract with the city at City Hall in Bridgeport, Conn., in this Dec. 19, 2002, file photo.

DOUGLAS HEALEY / AP

Aurelius Piper Jr., Chief Quiet Hawk of the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian tribe, who became embroiled in the tribe’s battle for federal recognition, died last week at the age of 76.

His death was confirmed through an online obituary, which said he passed away peacefully at Waterbury Hospital on April 26. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Piper became a central figure in the tribe’s ultimately unsuccessful push for recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The federal agency rejected the tribe’s first bid for recognition in 1996, and then a second time in 2004.

At play was the possibility federal recognition of the tribe and its reservations in Colchester and Trumbull as a sovereign entity would allow it to build a casino.

The tribe also made claims to some 700,000 acres of land from Middletown to Wilton and Greenwich to southern Westchester County, The News-Times previously reported.

Those claims were later dropped.

In 1993, Piper’s brother Moonface Bear, also known as Kenneth Piper, led a 10-week armed standoff with state police over the tribe selling untaxed cigarettes.

Aurelius Henry Piper Jr. was born in Derby on Jan. 16, 1945 to Aurelius H. Piper Sr., known as Big Eagle, and Lena Sanders Piper, according to his obituary.

He was raised in Ansonia and graduated from the town high school in 1962. His obituary said he served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, before obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern Connecticut State University and a Master of Arts in Social Studies from the University of New Haven.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine A. Pointe Piper, three sisters and a brother, four children along with grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

A private service will be held Thursday at the Wakelee Memorial Funeral Home in Ansonia.