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.


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.

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]"

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.