|Enrolled members: 785|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States Connecticut|
|English, formerly Pequot|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Mohegan and Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation|
The Mashantucket Pequot are a federally recognized Native American nation in the state of Connecticut. They are descended from the Pequot people, one of the Algonquian-languages family. Within their Reservation in Ledyard, New London County, Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequot operate Foxwoods Resort Casino. It is the world's largest resort casino in terms of gambling space and number of slot machines, and one of the most economically successful.
In the course of its successful federal land claims suit against the state, the tribe achieved federal recognition in 1983 by an act of Congress, as part of the settlement of the suit. It was the eighth tribal nation to have gained recognition through the political rather than administrative process. Tribal membership is based on proven descent from tribal members listed in the 1900 Census. They are one of two federally recognized tribes in Connecticut; the other are the Mohegan Indian Tribe. Both have developed large and successful casino resorts on their reservations.
In addition, the state recognizes the Schaghticoke tribe, whose reservation dates from 1637; the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, with a reservation from 1683; and the Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation,with a reservation from 1736.
The Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation is a land base held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Ledyard, Connecticut, in New London County, in the Norwich-New London metro area, and on the Pequot River, now known as the Thames River. The Tribe also has about 3.47 acres (14,000 m2) of off-reservation trust land in the town of Preston. The Pequot reservation was created by the Connecticut Colony in 1666. The Pequot population reached a nadir of 20 or 30 in the early 20th century. In 1973, when the last person living on the 214-acre reservation died, the state government started planning to take back the land.
In 1976 the Mashantucket Pequot brought a successful federal lawsuit that contested the illegal appropriation of reservation lands by the state of Connecticut. When finally settled by federal legislation in 1983, their land claims case became the means by which they achieved federal recognition as a tribe. The Mashantucket Pequot have since added to their reservation by purchase and placed the additional lands into trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on behalf of the tribe. As of the 2000 census, their total land area was 2.17 square miles (5.6 km2).
According to the 1990 census, the Mashantucket Pequot population was recorded as 320. By 2005, tribal membership had increased to 785. As a federal tribe, it sets its own membership rules. The tribe requires members to be of proven descent from those members listed in the census of 1900.
The 2000 census showed a resident population of 325 persons living on reservation land, 227 of whom identified solely as Native American. (That census was the first in which people could claim more than one ethnic or racial identity.)
As of 2008, the Mashantucket Pequot Elders council includes:
The seven members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council are:
The current administration's seven-member council has stated that the nation's priorities are protecting tribal sovereignty; focusing on the educational, emotional and physical well-being of members; and working to leverage the tribe's financial and economic strengths through partnership initiatives, both locally and abroad. Mashantucket Pequot's most recent efforts include investment in North Stonington, Connecticut. Tribal development there, such as the recently opened $80 million Lake of Isles golf resort, has proven to be a positive addition to the town's tax base.
Members are elected to the Council for three-year terms. There are roughly 450 eligible voting members of the tribal nation. Tribal Members must be at least 18 years old and in good standing with the Tribe to be eligible to vote.
Since 1992, the Mashantucket Pequot have operated what has developed into one of the largest resort casinos in the world. The Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis, a research center at the University of Connecticut, analyzed the casino's effects on the Connecticut economy. Their report stated that the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and its Foxwoods casino have had a positive economic impact on the neighboring Town of Ledyard and the state of Connecticut, which receives a portion of gaming proceeds.
The Mashantucket Pequot claim descent from the historic Pequot, an Algonquian language-speaking people who dominated the coastal area from the Niantic River of present-day Connecticut east to the Wecapaug River in what is now western Rhode Island, and south to Long Island Sound. A second descendant group is the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, who gained federal recognition in 2002.
Archeological and linguistic research has revealed that the recorded historic tribes encountered by the Europeans emerged at different periods and often undertook migrations. Various tribal oral histories also attest to major migrations of tribes and the emergence of new tribes over time.
In the early years after European contact through trading with fishermen, the coastal tribes began to suffer high fatalities from new infectious diseases. During the colonial years, Europeans recorded intertribal warfare, shifts in boundaries and changes in power.
At one time some scholars believed that the Pequot migrated from the upper Hudson River Valley into central and eastern Connecticut around 1500. The theory of Pequot migration to the Connecticut River Valley can be traced to Rev. William Hubbard, a Puritan colonist. In 1677 he suggested that the Pequot had invaded the region sometime before the establishment of Plymouth Colony. In the aftermath of King Philip's War, Hubbard wrote Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England, to explore the ferocity with which New England's Native peoples had attacked the English. He did not recognize Connecticut and the Massachusetts Bay Colony's failed diplomacy and conflicts through encroachment on Native lands. Hubbard may have projected the colonists' status by classifying the Pequot as "foreigners" to the region. He described them as invaders from "the interior of the continent" who "by force seized upon one of the places near the sea, and became a Terror to all their Neighbors." The book was published in the mid-nineteenth century.
Contemporary scholars have generally concluded that archaeological, linguistic, and documentary evidence show the Pequot and their ancestors were indigenous for centuries in the Connecticut Valley before the arrival of Europeans. By the time the English colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were being established, the Pequot had established their dominance of the political, military, and economic spheres among Native Americans in what is now central and eastern Connecticut. Occupying the coastal area between the Niantic River of present-day Connecticut and the Wecapaug River in western Rhode Island, the Pequot numbered some 16,000 persons in the most densely inhabited portion of southern New England.
The smallpox epidemic of 1616–19, which killed roughly 90% of the Native inhabitants of the eastern coast of present-day New England, failed to reach the Pequot, Niantic and Narragansett. The epidemic likely contributed to their rise to dominance.
But, an epidemic in 1633 devastated the entirety of the region's Native population. Historians estimate that the Pequot suffered the loss of 80% of their entire population. By the outbreak of the Pequot War in 1637, they may have numbered only about 3,000 in total.
In 1637, Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay colonies overwhelmed the Pequot during the Pequot War. This followed the Indians' attack on Wethersfield, Connecticut that left several settlers dead. When the military forces of the two colonies, led by John Mason and John Underhill, launched an assault on the Pequot stronghold at Mystic, a significant portion of the Pequot population was killed.
The colonists enslaved the surviving Pequot, and some were forced to become household servants of the Puritans in New England. Most were sent to the West Indies, and others were transferred to the Mohegan and Narragansett, enemies of the Pequot who had allied themselves with the English. A few Pequot returned or survived in their traditional homeland, as marginal inhabitants of the territory they had once controlled.
Through the years they intermarried with other ethnic groups, and the majority culture assumed they had assimilated or disappeared. But, many of the Pequot descendants, while multi-racial, retained a sense of culture and continuity. They absorbed others into their culture and identified as Pequot.
By the time of the 1910 US Census, only 13 tribal members lived on the reservation. In 1973, Elizabeth George (?–1973) died on the 214-acre (0.87 km2) tract of forest reservation land. Her death left no one from the tribe remaining on the land, and the federal government started the process to reclaim it.
In 1975 Richard Arthur Hayward became the tribal chairman. He worked to gain federal recognition for the tribe. The tribe achieved political success by persuading Congressmen and appropriate committees in making the case for recognition and land claims.
On October 18, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the Connecticut Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, which included recognition of the Mashantucket Pequot. They were the eighth American Indian tribe to gain federal recognition through congressional approval rather than the administrative process through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
In his book Without Reservation (2001), Jeff Benedict suggested that the Mashantucket were not descended from the historical Pequot tribe, but rather from the Narragansett tribe. The Pequot denounced the book but did not deign to respond to it. Dr. Laurence Hauptman, a State University of New York Distinguished Professor of History and specialist in Native American history, disputed many aspects of Benedict's book. He argued with Benedict's assertions on the genealogy of current members. The anthropologist Katherine A. Spilde also criticized Benedict's book.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs' had established criteria, in consultation with tribes, by which tribes seeking recognition had to document cultural and community continuity, a political organization and related factors. Among the criteria are having to prove continuous existence as a recognized community since 1900, with internal government, and tribal rules for membership.
In 2002, the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation of North Stonington, Connecticut, also gained recognition, as did the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation in 2004, but in 2005, the Bureau of Indian Affairs revoked recognition of both Connecticut tribes.
The Mashantucket Pequot tribe receives numerous requests from individuals applying for admission as members. They base tribal membership on individuals' proving descent, by recognized genealogical documentation, from people included on the 1900 census of the tribe. This is similar to the Cherokee Nation's reliance on proven direct descent from Cherokee listed in the early 20th-century Dawes Rolls. In addition, the Mashantucket Pequot have begun to require genetic testing of newborns whose parents claim them as members, to ensure they are descended from the parental tribal members.
The interpretation of laws related to tribal sovereignty on Native American lands have enabled some tribal nations to develop new businesses and sources of revenue. The Mashantucket Pequot decided to use gambling as a revenue generator to support other economic development and welfare programs.
In 1992, the Mashantucket Pequot opened their resort casino, called Foxwoods. Now one of the largest casinos in the world, it has become one of the most successful. It is located near a large metropolitan area. It provides a variety of jobs for tribal members but, more importantly, the tribe has used revenues to invest in other community development, such as its adjacent museum.
Adjacent to Foxwoods, the tribe maintains the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. This interprets Pequot history and culture of several millennia. The museum is an educational center for both school children and adults, and has attracted international visitors. The museum hosts local and international indigenous artists and musicians, as well as mounting changing exhibits of artifacts throughout the year.