7 Things You Should Know About the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation

Vincent Schilling

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation is a federally recognized tribal people that have been occupying Southeastern Connecticut for well over 10,000 years. Their history is one of dramatically changing fortunes as they overcame a near extinction of people after the Pequot Wars to a current massive comeback with their Foxwoods Resort Casino facility and the Pequot Museum.

More than just a tribe residing in Connecticut, here are 7 things you should know about the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

Their name is pronounced “Pee-kwot”

Though the exact origin of the word is not definite, many historians claim the Pequot word was derived from the Narragansett word ‘Paquatauog’ meaning ‘Destroyers.’ This name possibly could have come from their reputation as a fierce tribe. However according to the Pequot’s office of public relations, the name Mashantucket Pequot represents the “People of the Much Wooded Land,” and the imagery is reflected in their tribal seal and nation’s flag. Nevertheless, Pequot is pronounced ‘Pee-kwot.’

The Pequot tribe once combined with the Mohegan tribe

By the early 17th century, the Pequots had approximately 8,000 members living in a 250 square mile radius. The Pequot War in 1636-1638 between colonists and the Pequots influenced them to join with the Mohegans, eventually becoming the Mashantucket (Western) Pequots. It wasn’t until the 1970s that tribal members began to come back to their original tribal lands.

A Tragedy Turns Into a Thanksgiving Tradition

In 1621, though the Pilgrims celebrated a feast, it was not repeated in the years to follow. In 1636, a murdered white man was found in his boat and the Pequot were blamed. In retaliation settlers burned Pequot villages, killing and burning hundreds of men, women and children.

The day after the massacre, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Bradford, wrote that each annual day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots and for the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was “in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”

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Reclaiming more than 1,000 acres of land

With the assistance of the Native American Rights Fund and the Indian Rights Association, the tribe filed suit in 1976 against neighboring landowners and the state of Connecticut that lands had been illegally obtained in 1856. Their efforts were rewarded and their reservation lands now total 1,250 acres.

Recognition through legislation

In connection to their land claims, the Pequots also received support from the state of Connecticut. Due to their efforts, Connecticut legislators unanimously passed legislation to petition the federal government to grant federal recognition to the tribe. In 1983, the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Land Claims Settlement Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Reagan on October 18. In a double punch – the act granted the tribe federal recognition, enabling it to repurchase and place in trust their land.

Pequot success

In 1986, the Mashantucket Pequot opened its first Bingo operation, paving the way for their world famous Foxwoods Resort Casino which has since grossed as high as $900 million dollars annually. Though their profits have fluctuated throughout the years, their profits have allowed the tribe to support their members and charities.

Museum is out of this world

Thriving due to the monetary support of the Pequot Tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum is one of the most profoundly amazing Native American museums in the world. With hundreds of exhibits and a full scale Pequot village, the museum is a must-see for anyone traveling to Mystic, Connecticut.

The ceremonial groundbreaking for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center took place on October 20, 1993, in a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of federal recognition of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.

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Bob G.'s picture
Bob G.
Submitted by Bob G. on
I was taught, by Indians, that the battle against the Pequots occurred in 1637. Settlers from Plymouth, Boston and Salem joined forces with the Narragansett, the Wampanoag and several other tribes in the area to eradicate the Pequots. I was also told their name meant The Destroyers, and that the battle was joined to eliminate the threat the Pequots posed. Those who were not killed but captured were mostly sent to the sugar islands as slaves.