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HB 5141:

An Act Concerning A Commission on American Indian Affairs


An Act Concerning A Commission on American Indian Affairs would create a new mechanism to increase understanding about American Indian affairs within the state of Connecticut. The "alternative proposed language" found below was developed over a period of several months by a working group of concerned Connecticut residents -- American Indians and professionals with extensive experience in American Indian affairs.



Quick facts

  • An American Indian Affairs Commission will be an autonomous body responsive to all Native American residents of Connecticut, the Connecticut General Assembly and the Office of the Governor.


  • An American Indian Affairs Commission is fair.  Like the African American Affairs & Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commissions, it will advocate for matters of interest to an important group of Connecticut citizens – the indigenous and non-indigenous Indians of the state – while acting to educate all Connecticut residents about their Native neighbors.


  • An American Indian Affairs Commission is a better “fit”.  Indian Affairs do not belong in the Department of Environmental Affairs.  Indians are people, not natural resources.  Indian Affairs Commissions are established in more states than not.


  • An American Indian Affairs Commission is supported by Indians who are citizens of Connecticut’s acknowledged tribes, federally recognized tribes and non-Indians well versed in public policy, American Indian studies, archaeology and anthropology.


Bill language


At a February 25, 2008 public hearing of the Environment Committee, Rep. Brendan Sharkey (88th District Hamden) introduced "alternative proposed language" that has been developed by a working group composed of concerned American Indian citizens and professionals with extensive experience in American Indian affairs within the state of Connecticut.


Introduction: An Act Concerning a Commission on Native American Indian Affairs

This proposed bill establishes a Commission on Native American Indian Affairs, replacing the existing Indian Affairs Council.  Under current law, the council must provide services to the state’s Indian reservation community and formulate programs suitable to its needs.  The bill instead gives the commission a wider range of duties.


Under the proposed bill, the commission consists of (1) fifteen voting members, including the five tribal representatives appointed by the tribes, six American Indians indigenous to Connecticut, and four persons who are either non-indigenous American Indians, Alaskan Natives or Native Hawaiians residing in the state of Connecticut to be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders and (2) seven non-voting representatives from various state agencies, organizations and interested groups to be appointed by the American Indian affairs commission.


Under the proposed bill language, the commission may (1) employ any necessary staff and an executive director within available appropriations, subject to the State Personnel Act; (2) use funding from federal, state, or other sources; and (3) enter into contracts to fulfill the bill’s purposes and adopt regulations.


The proposed commission would serve as state-wide resource. It would: review and comment on legislation that impacts American Indians; advance education about American Indian peoples, their histories, and their cultures; and act as a liaison between American Indian communities and branches of the state and federal government and their agencies.


EFFECTIVE DATE:  Upon passage.

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Commission on Native American Indian Affairs

(Note: the following is the "alternative proposed language" currently being reviewed by the Environment Committee)


Under the bill, the commission’s purpose is to (1) promote unity and understanding among the state’s American Indian people and communities and (2) serve as a liaison between the state’s American Indian people and tribal governments, municipal and private sector entities, non-American Indians, organizations, state and federal agencies and departments, and the state’s legislative and executive branches.



  • prepare and issue an annual report on its findings and recommendations concerning state American Indian affairs to the governor, general assembly, each municipality’s legislative body, and recognized state tribal nations; 
  • conduct annual public hearings on issues affecting the state’s American Indians’ well-being; 
  • review and comment on any proposed state legislation and regulations and American Indian law that would affect the state’s American Indians; 
  • serve as a state-wide reference and resource center to increase public knowledge of American Indian history and heritage and document American Indian influence on State history and culture; 
  • develop public relations programs and projects related to the cultural, educational, and social development of the state’s American Indian communities and disseminate related materials, including developing public projects to further the understanding of American Indian communities; 
  • act as a liaison between the American Indian communities, the state and federal governments and educational and social service agencies; 
  • encourage American Indian representation at all levels of state government, including state boards and commissions; 
  • secure appropriate recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of the American Indian population of the state; 
  • advocate on behalf of American Indians who have been subject to prejudice and discrimination or other human rights violations; 
  • investigate reports of potential damage to sacred or significant items or places to American Indian communities and reservation lands (in coordination with the Native American Advisory Council, when appropriate); 
  • make recommendations to protect and facilitate access to spiritual, social, and burial places for the state’s American Indians (in coordination with the Native American Advisory Council, when appropriate); and 
  • work with, and notify the Chief State’s Medical Examiner, the Office of State Archeology and the Native American Heritage Advisory Council when American Indian remains are discovered.



The fifteen (15) appointed commissioners must be knowledgeable in areas of interest and concern to American Indians and are appointed as follows:

  • two appointed by the governor; 
  • one appointed by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders;
  • the Senate president and House Speaker each appoint two commissioners
  • one appointed by the Schaghticoke, Paucatuck Eastern Pequot, Mashantucket Pequot, Mohegan, and Golden Hill Paugussett tribes.

The seven (7) non-voting representatives must be knowledgeable in areas of interest and concern to American Indians and are appointed from the following:

  • elected or appointed officials from state departments, offices or committees including but not limited to Environmental Protection (DEP), Social Services, Public Health, Transportation, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Insurance, Labor, Veteran’s Affairs, Education and Archaeology;
  • Professional assemblies including but not limited to the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, Association of the Study of Connecticut History, the Connecticut Library Association, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, and the Institute of American Indian Studies;
  • Individuals knowledgeable in areas of interest and concern to American Indians.


Commissioner Terms, Attendance, Reimbursement, and Filling Vacancies

The bill provides that:

  • for the first term only, appointments will be staggered as follows: five appointees will serve for three years, five appointees will serve for four years and five appointees will serve for five years;  
  • each term thereafter, a commissioner will be appointed for up to three years and may not serve more than two consecutive terms;  
  • any commissioner absent from three consecutive meetings is deemed to have resigned from the commission, effective at the end of the third consecutive missed meeting;
  • commissioners are not compensated, but may be reimbursed within available appropriations for any necessary expense incurred while performing their duties; and
  • the respective appointing authority fills a vacancy for the balance of an unexpired term.
  • each non-voting representative is appointed for up to three years and may not serve more than two consecutive terms;   
  • during the first term, two non- voting representatives will serve a one year term; two representatives will serve a two year term and three representatives will serve a three year term; 



The DEP commissioner must convene the commission's first organizational meeting by October 1, 2008.  The commission must select a chairperson and vice-chairperson from the commissioners.  The commission must meet as often as the chairperson or the commission’s majority deem necessary.

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Testimony before Environment Committee, February 25, 2008 public hearing


Testimony of Mikki Aganstata


Written Testimony of Nicholas Bellantoni PhD


Letter of Support of Robert L Bee PhD


Letter of Support of Debra Sharkey


Letter of Support of Cedric Woods


 American Indian people in Connecticut speak out in favor of HB 5141


L. Mixashawn Rozie (Mahicanu), Mikki Anganstata (Eastern Cherokee), Sherman Paul (Maliseet), Ruth Garby Torres (Schaghticoke Tribal Nation), Trudie Lamb Richmond (Schaghticoke Tribal Nation), and Cedric Woods (Lumbee) speak with J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Ph.D. about the proposed Connecticut Commission on Native American Indian Affairs. Listen here.

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Legislative history


Track the bill (HB 5141) as it progresses through Connecticut's state legislature. Information about business before the General Assembly can be found here: www.cga.ct.gov

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Support the legislation - contact your representative

Locate your representative by zip code here


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Existing Connecticut Commissions


Beginning in the 1970s, the Connecticut General Assembly began authorizing the creation of a number of commissions:


African-American Affairs Commission

The mission of the African-American Affairs Commission (AAAC) is to improve and promote the economic development, education, health and political well-being of the African-American community in the State of Connecticut. The AAAC accomplishes these goals through information sharing, promoting cultural awareness, community networking, and legislation.


Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission

It is the mission of the State of Connecticut Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Commission (LPRAC) to develop and recommend, to the governor and the legislature, policy for the advancement of In 2007, the LPRAC focused its energy on a legislative agenda that successfully addressed issues of quality education, civil rights and immigration reform, economic opportunities, issues in health care and judicial reform.


Permanent Commission on the Status of Women

According to their website, the "(PCSW) was established by the State Legislature in 1973. Seventeen appointed volunteer Commissioners join a staff and volunteers to work to eliminate sex discrimination in Connecticut. They are to inform leaders about the nature and scope of discrimination, to serve as a liaison between government and private interest groups concerned with services for women, to promote consideration of women for governmental positions, and to work with state agencies to access programs and practices as they affect women.

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Native American and American Indian affairs commissions in other states


Over 30 states have Indian affairs commissions. For information on their work, see this August 1999 Office of Leglislative Research report on state Indian affairs commissions in the United States.


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