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Schaghticoke tribe sues state for hundreds of millions of dollars

HARTFORD - Connecticut-based Native American tribe the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation is suing the state for hundreds of millions of dollars for land it says was taken from the tribal reservation starting centuries ago.

The tribe said in the suit filed Thursday that the state took 2,400 acres of land it was managing for the tribe without compensation. Tribal officials say the "theft" occurred between 1801 and 1918 and left its reservation decimated, and reduced to 400 acres.

The lawsuit said the tribe is owed at least $613 million, but the actual amount may be more.

Attorney Austin Tighe contends the state took land from the tribe on 91 different occasions over 117 years, promising to pay for the property but "repeatedly broke its promise."

"That is all we seek with this lawsuit. Compensation that we are owed. This is not about recouping land or anything else and I want to make that very clear," said Richard Velky, chief of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. "With this lawsuit our tribe is seeking justice that has long been denied to us."

The Schaghticokes are not federally recognized, a designation the tribe has sought for many years. Former Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut had opposed their recognition when he was in office but now represents the tribe as an attorney in this case.

"Looking back on what happened 12 years ago, for me, the opportunity to be involved in this litigation on behalf of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, might be called a second chance to do right by them," Lieberman said.

A spokeswoman for the state's attorney general said the complaint is under review and any response will be made in court.