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The Mashantucket Pequot Nation

The Pequot indians have been residents of southern New England for centuries. They frequently fought the neighboring Niantics and Narragansets for control of territory. According to the Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, that is how they got their name - Pequot or Pequod means "Destroyers" (ENAT, 184-185). If this name sounds familiar, the boat in Herman Melville's novel "Moby Dick" is the "Pequod", a fitting name when one knows this particular translation! BUT - this is incorrect according to Mr. Arthur Henick of the Public Relations Office of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The name Mashantucket Pequot means “People of the Much Wooded Land”, a theme reflected in their flag and seal.

The Pequot resented the increasing presence of British colonists in New England in the early 1600s. War finally broke out between the British and the Pequots in 1636 (Ibid). Just prior to the war, one group of Pequot that opposed the war broke off from the main tribe under the leader Uncas and became the Mohegan.

Under great chief Sassacus, the rest of the Pequot nation took up arms against the British, starting with the killing of coastal trader John Oldham. Massachusetts Bay Colony sent forces under John Endicott to avenge Mr. Oldham's death. The forces under Endicott were not to concerned who they attacked, first invading Block Island and massacring and burning the villages of Narraganset Indians. After that, they sailed to the mainland of Connecticut and burned several Pequot villages and killing one warrior. The mantel of revenge now covered the Pequot. They conducted a series of raids culminating with the death of nine colonials at the settlement of Wethersfield in Connecticut.

The English mounted a major effort against the Pequots after that, forming alliances with the Narraganset, the Mohegan and the Niantics. They attacked Sassacus' village and set fire to it. Anyone trying to escape was shot. Those who stayed in the village died in the fire - mostly women and children. Over 600 Pequot died that day. A handful of Pequot escaped, including Sassacus.

They fled first to nearby swamps, later to the lands of the Mohawk. To prove to the British they were not a part of the "Pequot War", the Mohawk beheaded Sassacusand many others were sold into slavery or given to the Mohegan and other allied tribes as slaves.

In 1655, Pequot slaves were freed and they settled along the Mystic River in easternmost Connecticut. Today the Pequot still live in that region. The Reservation of the Mashantucket Pequots is just a few miles north of the town of Mystic, Connecticut.

The Mashantucket Pequot are possibly the most successful Indian nation in the United States. Their revenue from the huge gambling casino complex, estimated at between $600 million and $900 million annually a decade ago, afforded the Pequots the ability to donate $10 million to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington for the development of the "Museum of the American Indian" in New York City. This gift, in 1994, was the largest donation ever received by the Smithsonian for that project (How a Decimated Tribe Turned to Casino Profits", The Times, Trenton, NJ, Mar. 19, 1995).

In early 1995, the Mashantucket Pequot warned the State of Connecticut that if it passed a law permitting gambling casinos in the state beyond those on reservations, the Pequot would consider it a breach of the treaty Connecticut concluded with them. The Pequot warned that if that treaty were broken, they would feel no longer obligated to donate to the State of Connecticut the $200 million currently funneled from the Pequot casinos into the Connecticut treasury. The situation was resolved amicably. Today, the 700 plus members still contribute greatly to the financial well being of the “Nutmeg State”.

The seal of the Mashantucket Pequot is round ("The Mashantucket Pequot", pamphlet, undated). It bears a prominent knoll upon which a lone tree is silhouetted against a green-blue sky. The knoll and tree represents "Mashantucket", the "much wooded land" where the Pequot used to hunt and where they kept their identity alive for hundreds of years. In front of the tree appears a fox, in white. In their native language, the Pequot are known as "the Fox People". The combination give name to the casino and entertainment complex situated on their reservation - Foxwood. On the black knoll is the sign of Robin Cassasinnamon, the Masantucket Pequot's first leader after the massacre at Mystic Fort in 1637.

The seal appears on a white background when used as a flag. The flag also appears with a series of seven short vertical lines and six sets of thre horizontal lines alternating across the top and bottom of the banner. When this motif appears, it is usually in the turquoise color used as a background of the seal.

Thanks to Mr. Arthur Henick of the Public Relations Office of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation for verifying the information in this article.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603