Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Who are the Mashantucket Pequot?


Full article Dorreen Yellow BirdOh this one was a good one, with a title like "On the 'Indianness' of Indians" you knew it was going to dig up some dirt. We open with the introduction of the new National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. With this new opening, came a flood of "indians" and I use that term very loosely now-a-days. (In my mind, if you're not a card carrying member, shut the fuck up!)I particularly liked the article because she brings to light the numerous people who make claim to their heritage and look nothing like the stereotypical Indian."It was then that I realized my knowledge of Indian tribes needed reorienting. The influence of Indian gaming probably is the reason I am seeing a new kind of Indian. For example, the tribal chairman from the Mashantucket Pequot, whom I saw at the press conference, looked black rather than Native American. His aide did, too. I realize that for the past 20 or so years, I haven't gotten out much past Canada and the states surrounding North Dakota. The Indian people in this area usually are Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, Chippewa or from the Three Affiliated Tribes - Arikara, Mandan and Hidatsa. And I absolutely know there are Native Americans who are mixed blood; I have blond grandchildren, for example. But these two Pequot men certainly turned my head when they walked into the room. Since that press conference, I have paid more attention to Indian gaming issues. "A good read that I plan on looking into is "Without Reservation: How a controversial Indian tribe rose to power and built the world's largest casino," by Jeff Benedict. It's about the Mashantucket Pequot. Granted the Mashantucket Pequot give money to their people, regardless of tribal affiliation, so at least their giving back to the community."Over the next 30 years, the reservation grew to 2,000 acres and 600 people claiming to be Pequot. Their Foxwoods casino grosses more than $1 billion a year. There is a murmuring in Indian country about tribes who, it seems, have jumped on the bandwagon because federal benefits and, more recently, casino wealth. ""So it twisted my gut a little when I saw Thomas boasting about their Indian gaming successes. In some parts of Indian country, a word used to describe these tribes is "opportunists," not Indian people trying to regain a culture and language. That word crosses my mind on occasion, too. And I still have questions about the federal government and Congress' role in granting federal recognition. " I like that word opportunists. I'll have to use it instead of my choice word "money grubbing-whore", it makes me sound intelligent rather than just another pissed off indian. I'm glad I'm not the only person out there wondering about these things, especially since she writes a weekly column. Maybe it'll put a bug in the ear of some people, and they'll wonder why too!