Bob Engelhart’s Golden Hill Paugussett Cartoon

In her book, Cash, Color, and Colonialism: The Politics of Tribal Acknowledgement, Renee Cramer made a passing reference to a cartoon in the Hartford Courant on the controversy over the potential federal acknowledgement of the Golden Hill Paugussetts in Connecticut. The small tribe, mostly located in the southwest part of the state, had a large percentage of members with African American heritage, which hindered their application for recognition because they didn’t “look Indian.” The acknowledgement proceedings had been (and remain) contentious because opponents viewed the process as an opportunist move to exploit federal acknowledgement to build a casino. The Golden Hill Paugussetts were ultimately denied recognition but not before Bob Englehart, the longtime political cartoonist for the Hartford Courant, produced a cartoon that Cramer described as a “racist cartoon…depicting the Golden Hills as a tribe of six African American opportunists with names like ‘Chief So Sioux Me’ and ‘Nike Hide Tanner’."[1]

While Cramer only made a quick sentence reference to the cartoon, I wanted to track it down not only because it would’ve been a good addition to the historiography paper I wrote on tribal recognition and casinos in Connecticut, but the nature of the cartoon was so striking given it was produced some time in 1990s Connecticut. Unfortunately Cramer didn’t reference the cartoon in the notes and being in Oklahoma my online searches of available Courant databases turned up nothing. I was reminded of the cartoon a few years later when the BIA proposed to change the requirements for tribal acknowledgement and the controversy flared up again. Yet I still couldn’t find the cartoon. I emailed Cramer but forgot to follow up and even if she did have a copy, she admitted it was probably buried somewhere in her office and probably wasn’t worth the effort to find. I also emailed Englehart but only received a short reply that the cartoon had been done a long time ago and he probably couldn’t find anything on it. So I again let the issue fall out of my mind because it wasn’t really important to anything I was working on.

Skip forward to yesterday when I was browsing through some old issues of News From Indian Country and found a reprint of the cartoon in their issue from August 1993:

As far as I can tell this is the cartoon Cramer mentions in her book, although it’s missing the “Nike Hide Tanner” she mentioned, but it’s still nevertheless shockingly racist and ignorant of native issues for 1993.

  1. Cramer, 149.