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The Schaghticoke reservation dates to the mid-1700s, but it has been carved up to a tenth of its original size. As recently as 1960, Russell said, the town fire department would come out to burn down homes on the reservation when tribal members died to prevent others from occupying them.
When Russell’s own house burned down in 1998, however, the townspeople from across the Housatonic River helped him to rebuild. Russell, who grew up hunting and fishing on the reservation, said if the tribe wins recognition it can work something out with the town on the land claims.
"That’s what I want them to understand," he said. "We’re not the enemy."
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