Today public attitudes have begun to change.
US (Mohawk Heritage): I think mainly the public began to get educated.
They began to realize that here was not just a drunken savage. They began
to realize that we had very high artistic cultural background, that our
beliefs. Well now you've got the environmentalist groups that are
practicing beliefs that we've practiced since the very beginning of time.
LYDEM: They were an invisible minority. Today, they're not so invisible
and they're out there. They're in the political arena and they're taking a
stand in what they believe in and what they stand for. And they're
becoming more visible, they're gaining strength by number. And people
are listening, people are finally listening to the plight of Native
One sign of the growing visibility of Connecticut's Native Americans
is the increasing number of contemporary powwows.
THOMASON: I think there's a revival of awareness of us. And that we
have always been here. And we've always remembered. We've always
survived and we continue. So perhaps the revival isn't so much in us
as it is in other's awareness of us.
DEER WITH HORNS (Two Kettle Band, Lakota-Sioux): My name is Wendell
Deer With Horns and I'm Two Kettle Band, Lakota, one of the many
tribes in South Dakota from the Chine River Sioux Reservation in South
Dakota. I came out here in 1984.
Wendell Deer with Horns is a hospital nurse's aide at Waterbury
DEER WITH HORNS: Having powwows, what we call powwow, is where we meet
and socialize and have dancing and demonstrate our dancing, and
demonstrate our food, our cooking, our games. It's a big event. You
can meet new friends, maybe meet new non-Indian friends, bring them
into our circle and invite them in and make them feel at home.
AGANSTATA: I think all Indian individuals really anticipate the time
of getting together and sharing, talking, laughing and having a good
time together. But the opportunity to educate non-Indians seems to be
the focus of most of the ones here in Connecticut. And I think it's
like the only classroom that Indians really have today and that we
should perhaps take it very seriously.
CUNHA (Pawcatuck Pequot Chairperson): Everyone thinks Pequots are
Pequots. They’re not. They’re two separate groups.
Near the wealthy and powerful Mashantucket Pequot nation is a
historically linked tribe -- the Pawcatuck Eastern Pequot, who have
experienced decades of disagreement over tribal membership.
CUNHA: Well right now it's kind of tough because we have 224.6 acres.
And we can't even use all of it because we have non-Pequots living on
our land, that's occupying our land.
Agnes Cunha and her son Jim are leaders of one tribal faction, the
Pawcatuck Eastern Pequot.
CUNHA: We know that these people are not who they claim they are. For
20 years we've been in legal limbo because of this. It's holding up
our land claim.
SEBASTIAN (Eastern Pequot Chief): We have the documentation, we have
the history, we have the authentic research material. And it goes all
the way back to the 1600’s.
Roy Sebastian is the chief of the Eastern Pequot, located on the other
side of the divided reservation property.
SEBASTIAN: It's probably apprehension on the other side because our
tribal family outnumbers their side in many, many numbers This would
give us the power in the tribal government.
The Pawcatuck Eastern Pequot internal dispute is similar to other
questions of identity and membership that have periodically beset all
SERABIA (Connecticut Indian Affairs Coordinator): Both groups believe
they are the group. Both groups believe that they are legitimate. And
both groups believe they have tribal leadership and/or tribal
government approval to do what they can and want on the reservations.
It's been rather a fierce split.
Bill Bingham is the lawyer for the Eastern Pequot faction.
BINGHAM (Attorney): There is, going back into the 1920s, when the
state government was attempting to dictate to the tribe who could live
on the reservation, there was a question over who the legitimate
tribal leadership was and who was legitimately here. And that's
continued unfortunately, to the present day.
think the problem really is based on the same thing that historically
has been the problem with Native Americans, is that because the US
Government and local governments have tried to force them to accept
certain conditions in order to gain favor from the government, they've
pitted groups against each other.
SEBASTIAN: We've been fighting for three, four hundred years for our
rights, for our heritage, for our family and we'll continue to fight.
CUNHA: We're gonna sit here and fight for our rights. And that's all
we're asking is our constitutional right, our civil rights and our
birthright. That's all we want.
Green Corn Festival
CHAPMAN (Mohegan Tribe): We're standing right in the center of the old
Mohegan Fort. This is where the ancient tribe lived. And this area is
very, very unique in that there are about 100-foot cliffs around on
all sides of this little point of land. It's a natural drop where you
could defend yourself. And it's still a very, very important site to
us today because we have our powwow here.
The return of Fort Shantok State Park and its ancient Mohegan burial
ground was an essential Mohegan demand during negotiations with the
state following federal recognition.
the tribe's annual powwow at Fort Shantok continues the Mohegan's
traditional Wigwam -- or Green Corn -- Festival, which was held from
1860 annually until 1936.
TANTAQUIDGEON: It would have been, oh - probably 85 years ago that I
would have remembered about. And through the winter-months the men and
women would be busy making the baskets and doing all kinds of
handwork, making items they would have for sale.
annual green corn festival was homecoming for many of our Mohegan
people and visitors from all over the country. So it was quite an
occasion for them to come and meet some of our people and have a
chance to have some good Mohegan-made succotash, the corn and beans.
And the men would go clamming and get clams. And they'd make their own
clam chowder -- and women, they made their own bread and cake and
things like that.
The Mohegan tribe has always prided itself on cooperation with
non-Indians. In 1861, the tribe decided to forego their reservation in
favor of individual ownership. Today, federal recognition has led to
plans for a reconstituted reservation of more than 700 acres.
FAWCETT: Years ago my great grandfather was instrumental in deciding
that the Indians didn't want an overseer. We wanted to make our own
decisions. And he felt that this was an important move, which is why
the reservation was dissolved at the time. We're now thinking that
perhaps there are other advantages, but at that time it was important
to us and we became participating citizens in this town. And there has
been a mutual spirit of respect.
For many years the last tribal-owned property was the Mohegan
Congregational Church, which has long served both the tribe and its
CHAPMAN: It's like the center of the universe to the Mohegan tribe.
Everything starts here and radiates outward.
FOWLER (Mohegan Tribe): The missionaries kept coming around. And the
Mohegans were getting tired of them coming around bothering them. So
the church was founded in 1831 by Sarah Huntington. And two Mohegan
women donated the land to the church. I remember coming at night and
then they had kerosene lamps and it was very smoky. And I remember
putting up pennies when they made up the collection. I'd put my penny
in the collection box. There wasn't too many people here then.
CHAPMAN: Right from the start this church has been a mixture of
Indians and non-Indians, where there could be interaction between the
Indians and non-Indians. The Mohegan always wanted to learn about
The Mohegan tribe plans to turn an old 244-acre nuclear industry site
in Montville into Connecticut's second gambling/resort complex.
chief Ralph Sturges negotiated the reservation and gaming settlement
with the state.
STURGES (Mohegan Chief): Tribal chiefs today have to be familiar with
the laws of the land. And the chief today has to be thinking of what
you can do to move this tribe into the 20th century so that they not
only can maintain their heritages but they can also maintain their
livelihoods. Tribes today have got to become self sufficient and the
only way we can do that is by taking advantage of all the educational
systems and the different other systems that are available to the
Indians and the minorities in the country.