Prior to her death on July 15, 1929, Alice Melinda Storey appointed her son, John Hamilton, Grand Sachem of the Mohegans. Alice Story was at that time known as the Queen of the Mohegans, and was a direct descendant of Uncas, acknowledged leader of the Mohegan Indian Tribe during the "Pequot War" of 1637, and thereafter. This title was affirmed as "Sachem for Life" by the Officers of Tribal Council of Mohegan Indians on November 18, 1933. Hamilton’s leadership was recognized and supported by the Mohegans, including Courtland Fowler, from 1933 through the 1960s. In the late 1960s, Hamilton was authorized by the Council of Descendants of Mohegan Indians to act on its behalf in matters pertaining to the relations between the Mohegan Indian Tribe and the State of Connecticut. At that time, Fowler served on the Council under Hamilton.
In 1970, a faction of Mohegans became dissatisfied with the prospects of the Mohegan Indian Tribe filing a land claim suit, and at an unofficial Council meeting in May 1970, sought to elect a new leader of the Mohegan Tribe. Hamilton rejected the asserted authority of the Council to replace him, and he and his followers left the meeting. The remaining Mohegan Indians at the meeting elected Courtland Fowler as their leader. The total number of persons casting votes was fewer than 10 according to public statements made by Courtland Fowler. Fewer than 10 people overthrew the Constitutional government and leadership tradition older than recorded history. Despite this schism, however, from the 1970s until 1994, no Mohegan Indian was excluded from participation in traditional practices, events or ceremonies by virtue of association with either the Hamilton or Fowler faction of Mohegan Indians.
Hamilton continued to pursue a land claim suit on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe, and retained counsel for the purpose of prosecuting the land claim suit. In 1977, "The Mohegan Tribe," acting through Hamilton, filed a land claim suit in federal district court in Connecticut against the State of Connecticut, asserting that aboriginal and historic claims and titles to over 2,000 acres in Montville, Connecticut had been extinguished in violation of the Non-Intercourse Act.Hamilton further filed a notice with the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") seeking federal acknowledgment of "The Mohegan Tribe" in 1978. Both the land claim suit and the acknowledgment petition were filed on behalf of the Mohegan Tribe by attorney Jerome Griner, who had been retained by Hamilton under his authority as Grand Sachem.
From May 1970 through 1979, the Fowler faction continued to actively and publicly oppose both the land claim suit and the federal acknowledgment petition. From 1979 to 1981, the Fowler faction organized an entity called the "Mohegan Tribal Council" and adopted a constitution for its governance in 1980. At around this time, Griner, counsel of record for the Mohegan Tribe in the land claim suit and the federal acknowledgment petition, ceased accepting direction from Hamilton and instead began to take direction from the Fowler faction, without notifying either the federal court or the BIA of his change in clients. Upon discovering that Griner had begun to serve the interests of the Fowler faction in 1981, Hamilton discharged Griner and retained separate counsel, Robert Cohen. Although the State raised the issue of the propriety of filings by two attorneys on behalf of "The Mohegan Tribe" in the land claim suit when Cohen filed his appearance in 1981 and then later in 1989, the issue of authorization for the filings of Griner and Cohen was never resolved by the district court.
The Fowler faction amended its constitution in 1984 and renamed itself the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut ("MTIC").
In 1985, Griner filed detailed documentation before the BIA in support of the 1978 acknowledgment petition on behalf of "The Mohegan Tribe, petitioner." Griner submitted an MTIC membership roll of 1,017 members, claiming that this roll relied on lists of Mohegan Indians prepared by the State of Connecticut. The BIA then placed the petition under "active consideration."
Also in 1985, the State of Connecticut filed a formal opposition to federal acknowledgment with the BIA, characterizing Hamilton and his followers and the Fowler group as two factions of a single, unitary Mohegan Tribe. In support of this position, the State relied on a 1979 letter from a member of the Fowler faction stating that "‘they do not have a tribal organization because they are going to organize to form a tribal group for the sole purpose of combating John Hamilton.’"
In November 1989, the BIA announced its proposed decision that the United States would not acknowledge the Mohegan Tribe, based on its finding that from 1941 to the date of the rejection, the Mohegan Tribe did not demonstrate sufficient social community or sufficient political authority and influence as required under 25 CPR 83.7 (b) and (c). The BIA did not examine the files and records of Hamilton or the Council prior to issuing the proposed rejection. In 1990, Cohen submitted a response to the BIA pointing out that the BIA had never examined these files, and in which he narrated the internal leadership and external political and land claim efforts of Hamilton from 1941 until his death in 1988.
At the same time, another Mohegan tribal faction did exist as the Mohegan Tribe and Nation, under the leadership of Eleanor Fortin. The Mohegan Tribe and Nation is an incorporated tribal organization representing the interests of its membership, Native Americans of Mohegan ancestry, community and traditions. The Mohegan Tribe and Nation’s membership consists of the living descendants of the aboriginal Mohegan Indian Tribe who are followers of the Mohegan leadership of John Hamilton during his lifetime, and of his successor Eleanor Fortin, who was appointed by Hamilton in his will following his death in 1988. In 1995, Randolph Johnson showed up on the doorstep of the Mohegan Tribe and Nation. He offered to assist the tribe in its work towards recognition. In a very short time he gained the trust of the leadership and was allowed access to the papers of John Hamilton and tribal archives. After perusing these records, he claimed the discovery of papers showing himself as the illegitimate son of John Hamilton. Shortly thereafter, Johnson gained control of the Mohegan Tribe and Nation. Within four months, the original Mohegan Tribe and Nation tribal government denounced Johnson’s claim and a schism occurred. As a result, the original Mohegan Tribe and Nation tribal government and most of the tribal membership reestablished themselves as the Native American Mohegans (NAM) with Eleanor Fortin, acknowledged successor to John Hamilton, as their Tribal Leader.
(For more information on Randolph Johnson, refer to information originally from the "Northeast Confederated AIM" web site, article entitled , "Standing Bear - Randolph T. Johnson, Fake, Fraud, Public Enemy #1")
MTIC issued new membership restrictions in 1990, which limited membership in the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut to lineal descendants of Francis Fielding and his wife Rachel Hoscott Fielding (1802 to 1860), or of Amy Cooper, whose children were adopted by William Fielding, a child of Rachel Hoscott Fielding and Francis Fielding. NAM claims that "MTIC maintains that there were no other Mohegan Indians alive in the first half of the nineteenth century with living descendants and that the families of any and all Mohegan Indians alive during 1802-1860 (other than the family of Rachel Fielding) are ‘extinct.’" After adopting this restriction, MTIC removed approximately 118 people from its membership roll whom it had previously determined to be Mohegan, and whom NAM claims were on the membership roll originally submitted to the BIA in 1985. NAM claims that these 118 excluded people are Mohegan by standards known and employed in Mohegan tradition prior to 1990. After the federal acknowledgment petition was rejected by the BIA in 1990, MTIC wrote to certain followers of Hamilton who were also lineal descendants of Rachel Fielding or Amy Cooper and invited them to join MTIC.
NAM has approximately 1000 members. Even though members of NAM can prove their Mohegan ancestry, they cannot qualify for membership in MTIC because they are not lineal descendants of Rachel Fielding or Amy Cooper.
In 1994, the BIA reversed its position as to the pending petition of "the Mohegan Tribe," and published notice of intent to grant federal recognition to "The Mohegan Tribe of Indians of the State of Connecticut." This was the final action on the original acknowledgment petition filed by Griner in 1978 on behalf of "‘The Mohegan Indians, of which I, John E. Hamilton, am Grand Sachem.’" The BIA recognition decision expressly relied on Cohen’s 1990 submission detailing Hamilton’s leadership and political activity, as well as, the activity of other members of NAM that had been opposed by the Fowler faction, and NAM alleges that absent the leadership and activities of Hamilton and the Council, the BIA would have had no basis for reversing its 1989 proposed rejection.
Upon receipt of federal recognition in 1994, MTIC negotiated and executed agreements with the State of Connecticut and the Town of Montville, in which the parties agreed to seek federal legislation ratifying those agreements. In the State Agreement, the parties agreed to seek enactment of federal legislation extinguishing all aboriginal land claims in the State of Connecticut, and to ratify all conveyances of aboriginal or historic Mohegan title to the State which might have violated the Non-Intercourse Act. The parties also agreed that the State would transfer certain land to the United States and that MTIC would acquire and transfer additional land to the United States, which would be held in trust for MTIC as the reservation of the Mohegan Tribe.
During hearings on the proposed federal legislation, the BIA advised Congress that this proposed legislation would extinguish all Mohegan land claims in the State of Connecticut. The Department of the Interior also expressed uncertainty as to whether MTIC was the sole successor in interest of the aboriginal Mohegan Indian Tribe in Connecticut. At the time the BIA gave this testimony, the BIA was aware that the 1993 acknowledgment petition filed by Fortin was then pending, and was aware of irregularities that undermined the claim that MTIC was the sole successor in interest to the Mohegan Indian Tribe.
Notwithstanding this uncertainty as to MTIC’s status as sole successor of the Mohegan Indian Tribe, the United States Congress enacted Public Law No. 103-377, the Mohegan Nation of Connecticut Land Claims Settlement Act of 1994. The Settlement Act states that "The Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut is the successor in interest to the aboriginal entity known as the Mohegan Indian Tribe."It extinguished "[a]ny claim to land within the State of Connecticut based upon aboriginal title by the Mohegan Tribe" and "[a]ny other claim to land that the Mohegan Tribe may have with respect to any public or private lands or natural resources in Connecticut, including any claim or right based on recognized title." The 1994 Settlement Act further provides that "[a]s used in this Act . . . the term ‘Mohegan Tribe’ means the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, a tribe of American Indians recognized by the United States pursuant to [BIA acknowledgment regulations]." The Act also provides that "[u]pon publication of the determination and the State Agreement in the Federal Register pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, a transfer, waiver, release, relinquishment, or other commitment made by the Mohegan Tribe in accordance with the terms of the State Agreement shall be in full force and effect."
To complicate matters further, in 1996, an unnamed "Third Attorney" entered an appearance in the federal court land claim suit, using the case caption Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut v. Connecticut, rather than Mohegan Tribe v. Connecticut. The "Third Attorney" represented to the court that the land claims of the Mohegan Tribe had not yet been extinguished pursuant to the terms of the Settlement Act. On December 30, 1996, under a stipulation of dismissal filed by the Third Attorney for MTIC and the State of Connecticut, the land claims suit was dismissed. This stipulation bore the caption Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut vs. State of Connecticut. Neither MTIC nor its counsel consulted with any other Mohegan Indians who were not members of MTIC prior to dismissing the land claims action.
In December 1994, the Department of the Interior approved the Gaming Compact, and published the approval at 59 Fed. Reg. 65,130 (Dec. 16, 1994). This was the "determination" referred to in the Settlement Act. However, the State Agreement was not published in the Federal Register as required by the Settlement Act. The United States has accepted title to the trust lands as described in the State Agreement, and MTIC Gaming Authority has entered into management contracts and other agreements under which it has built and is operating the Mohegan Sun Casino.
On July 8, 1996, MTIC filed a lawsuit in New London Superior Court to prevent any corporations from using the Mohegan name. On February 13, 2001, the Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut decided that MTIC could not prohibit other descendents of the historic Mohegan tribe from using the Mohegan name. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s findings of fact that "(t)he incorporators of the Mohegan Tribe and Nation are Mohegan by virtue of ancestry.
In 1999, NAM filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. The defendants in the complaint were MTIC, the State of Connecticut, and the Federal Government.
The complaint seeked to remedy the legal wrong defendants have caused NAM, an organization of Native Americans of Mohegan ancestry. The legal wrongs at issue are embodied in the enactment of federal legislation that defendants intended would effect the extinguishment of NAM’s rights to pursue claims based on Mohegan aboriginal right and historic title to real property situated in the State of Connecticut. This federal legislation was promoted and its passage secured by the defendants, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut and the State of Connecticut, with the intention of vesting exclusively in the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut.
Chief among the Mohegan rights and benefits that the current-day faction, MTIC, has sought to appropriate exclusively to itself, in violation of law and equity, are all fruits of a Mohegan Indian Tribe Non-Intercourse Act suit and a Mohegan Indian Tribe petition for federal acknowledgement as a tribe.
NAM alleged that MTIC has been unjustly enriched through: (1) obtaining the valuable and exclusive right under a certain "Tribal-State Compact Between the Mohegan Tribe and the State of Connecticut" to conduct certain gaming activities; and (2) the derivative benefits from federal acknowledgement of for-profit casino gambling operations conducted on the lands the United States accepted and now holds in trust for the benefit of Defendant Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, without sharing any such rights, proceeds and profits with NAM, with the intention of precluding NAM from acquiring any such right on their own behalf. By federal legislation, the United States has sought to endorse and ratify this exclusive misappropriation of tribal rights and benefits to one faction of the aboriginal and historic Mohegan Indian Tribe.
The NAM complaint asserted that the extinguishment of land claims in the Settlement Act does not apply to any land claims of any tribe, band or group of Native Americans of Mohegan Ancestry except MTIC; that MTIC is not the sole successor in interest to the claims of the aboriginal Mohegan Tribe; and that any purported relinquishment of rights, including land claims, at the behest or consent of MTIC is null and void, and of no effect as to NAM.
NAM also sought an imposition of a constructive trust on the proceeds of the Gaming Compact, which NAM claimed inures to the benefit of NAM as well as MTIC, and alleges that MTIC and the MTIC Gaming Authority have been unjustly enriched by the proceeds of the Gaming Compact.
NAM also challenged that the 180 day statute of limitations in the Settlement Act was unconstitutional because it deprived NAM of due process and violated the principle of separation of powers. NAM further challenged the merits of the Settlement Act, and sought a declaratory judgment that the Act is unconstitutional, because it denies NAM equal protection of the laws, is an uncompensated taking of property without the provision of just compensation and is a taking of property not for public use.
NAM also claim a breach of trust by defendant United States for recognizing MTIC as the sole successor in interest of the Mohegan Indian Tribe and the United States violated the trust obligation owed to NAM and all individuals of Mohegan ancestry, community and traditions.
MTIC and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, the State of Connecticut and the United States of America moved to have the case dismissed on the grounds of the statue of limitations and sovereign immunity.
On February 12, 2002, Judge Judy Arterton dismissed the case brought by NAM against MTIC, the State of Connecticut, and the Federal Government principally on the grounds of the statue of limitations and sovereign immunity.