October 31, 2006

Casino fosters culture

An Undocumented History Made Real

Historic Connecticut: Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research CenterBe prepared for a journey back in time when you visit the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center. Four acres of permanent exhibitions depict 18,000 years of Native and natural history, concentrating on the history and traditions of the Pequot tribe.

Your journey will begin with a visit to the Ice Age and a simulated glacial crevasse. You'll shiver as you step onto an escalator or into an elevator and descend into a glacier, traveling through thick blue walls dripping with water, feel the chilling air and listen to the recorded sounds of an actual glacier, with its creaking ice and whistling winds.

The highlight of the museum tour is a visit to a re-created 1550 Pequot village. Using life-size replications of daily life in the 16th century, the 22,000-square-foot diorama shows daily life over the course of 50 years leading up to European contact. Visitors view Pequots at play, cooking, making baskets and other activities of daily life, enhanced by atmospheric sounds and smells. All figures were cast from Native American models, and the traditional clothing, ornamentation and wigwams were made by Native craftspeople. A portable, digital audio system permits viewing unobstructed by signage.

7 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
The only problem here is this: the Pequots are not Natives. Some 20 years ago, a group of mostly Black people got together and decided to revivify an Indian tribe that had been destroyed. It took most of 25 years before the Fedral Government officially recognized them as a tribe and then they almost immediately began the building of tribal casinos, until they are the most successful 'Native' operation in the United States. Their success is not disputed by other tribes and certainly is not detracted from by any other tribe. There is a film presented in their tribal tour produced in 1999 that purportedly depicts their history, except for the fact that none of their own people appear in the feature. And they never have paid any Screen Actors Guild residuals for the three-times-a-day showings of the movie. Something's wrong, and neither of the two tribes seems willing to solve those claims.
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Aren't they? Who says they don't have a "genetic racial memory" of their ancestors, or at least an "awareness granted by heredity"? If they're even slightly aware of their past, they're using this awareness to respect and revive their heritage--just as they should be.

Here's the short version of the Pequots' story: They sought federal recognition in the 1970s and gained it in 1983. Congress didn't pass the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act until 1988. At worst the Pequots went to all the trouble of getting recognized just to open a lowly bingo hall, with no prospects of becoming rich via a mega-casino.

As for people like Brett Fromson and Jeff Benedict who have challenged the validity of the Pequots and other Connecticut tribes, see The Critics of Indian Gaming--and Why They're Wrong. I've disputed their views in the Stereotype of the Month contest almost 20 times and no one has topped my arguments yet.

In particular, see Sioux Red Shirt Says Eastern Indians Aren't Real Indians. There you'll find several real Indians who defend the Pequots' legitimacy.

As I think I said before, I don't discriminate among tribes by the pureness of their blood. If they're federally recognized, that's good enough for me.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
There is another group in New Jersey that has been seeking recognition as a tribe for the past 35 years. There is no Native blood in them, either (hence no awareness granted by heredity). But by your standard, if they do get recognized as the Pequots were, they will be Natives. Rather cavalier in such extent, to be sure, somewhat like calling a duck by any other name and telling everyone you have a pterodactyl.
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

By "my" standard, I gather you mean the standard accepted by Native nations in general. Yes, if the New Jersey group can pass the tough federal tests for recognition, it will deserve recognition. If it can't, it won't.

Below is a brief modern history of the Pequots from Wikipedia. Note that the revival started some 35 years ago, not 20 years ago. Perhaps that's why you think they (re)formed to get rich--because you weren't clear on their timeline.

"By the 1910 census, the Pequot population was enumerated at a low of 66.[8] In terms of population, the Pequot reached their nadir several decades later. Pequot numbers grew appreciably--the Mashantucket Pequot especially--during the 1970s and 1980s when Mashantucket Pequot Chairman, Skip Hayward was able to enjoin Pequots to return to their tribal homeland by implementing the push to Federal recognition and sound economic development.[9]

"In 1976, with the assistance of the Native American Rights Fund and the Indian Rights Association, the Pequot filed suit against neighboring landowners to recover land that had been illegally sold by the State of Connecticut in 1856. After seven years the Pequot and landowners reached a settlement. The former landowners agreed that the 1856 sale was illegal, and joined the Pequot in seeking the Connecticut state government's support. The Connecticut Legislature responded by unanimously passing legislation to petition the federal government to grant tribal recognition to the Mashantucket Pequot. The Mashantucket Pequot Indian Land Claims Settlement Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan on Oct. 18, 1983.[10] This settlement granted the Mashantucket Pequot federal recognition, enabling them to repurchase and place in trust the land covered in the Settlement Act.[11]"

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Luckily or unluckily, the situation is far more complex than even you realize. Tribes that supposedly went extinct or otherwise vanished, simply had transformed into other tribes, or other tribes transmogrified into those that had disappeared. Classic example is the Mohicans (as in THE LAST OF THE...), for within two years of such an extinction, suddenly there were 'Mohicans' out there in the forest. They lived like the Mohicans, they spoke a language that was Mohican, and for all intents and purposes, they were Mohicans. But what has been determined since is that smaller tribes and groups always moved into the ecological niches that had been abandoned and became the missing tribes. Darwin observed the same processes in his original studies in the Galapagos Islands. If an adaptation failed, and a species died out, others took up the same territories and tried to make a success of the failed group, usually succeeding. When the Anasazi 'disappeared', the Hopi and the Navajo moved into their ecological niche and became 'successful Anasazis', so much so that the Hopi now claim to be the descendants of the Anasazi. It's true only to the extent that they replaced the Anasazi and made a go of it.
Does that mean that the current apparent trend of non-Natives taking on a 'Native' history and existence, and evolutionarily becoming the successors to the 'vanished' ones, thus achieving recognition as Natives when they really and truly are not, are by some rule of science successfully stealing their identities?
Weird, but not that impossible in the white man's skewed view of the world and his own existence...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

Writer, I know some New Agers (white, wouldn't you know) who claim this exact sort of thing, about some sort of spiritual emination from the continent causing whites to become Indians.

Rob said...

Actually, the Hopis' ancestors were the Basketmaker cultures that either were the Anasazi or co-existed with the Anasazi. As I explained via e-mail, this is established archaeological theory.

Of course, there's no evidence that your "transformation" happened in the case of the Pequots. Or if there is, you haven't presented it.