Pequot Museum Exhibit showing Mashantucket Pequot warrior
|Regions with significant populations|
Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, Lantern Hill, North Stonington Connecticut: 1,130
|Historically, Pequot, a dialect of Mohegan-Pequot (an Algonquian language), now English|
Eastern Woodlands Natives
Pequot people (pronounced //) are a tribe of Native Americans who inhabited much of what is now Connecticut in the 17th century. They were of the Algonquian language family, originally named Mohegans. They adopted the name Pequot after conquering most of Connecticut, although the Mohegan tribe also continued in the area now known as Norwich, Connecticut. The Pequot War and Mystic massacre reduced the Pequot's presence in southern New England.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut are a federally recognized tribe as of 1983, the descendants of the historic Pequots. The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (EPTN) gained federal recognition in June 2002, but the State of Connecticut challenged and lobbied against their status. The Department of the Interior revoked the recognition in 2005, as they also did that year in the case of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation of Connecticut. These were the first instances since the 1970s that the BIA had terminated federal recognition.
Etymology of "Pequot"
Pequot is an Algonquian word, the meaning of which is in dispute among language specialists. Considerable scholarship pertaining to the Pequot claims that the name came from Pequttôog, meaning "the destroyers" or "the men of the swamp". This relies on speculations of an early twentieth century authority on Algonquian languages. However, Frank Speck had doubts, a leading early 20th century specialist of Pequot-Mohegan. He believed that another term meaning "the shallowness of a body of water" seemed much more plausible, given their territory along the coast of Long Island Sound.
Historians have debated whether the Pequot migrated about 1500 from the upper Hudson River Valley toward what is now central and eastern Connecticut. The theory of Pequot migration to the Connecticut River Valley can be traced to Rev. William Hubbard who claimed in 1677 that the Pequot had invaded the region sometime before the establishment of Plymouth Colony, rather than originating in the region. In the aftermath of King Philip's War, Hubbard detailed in his Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England the ferocity with which some of New England's Native peoples responded to the English. Hubbard described the Pequot as "foreigners" to the region; not invaders from another shore, but "from the interior of the continent" who "by force seized upon one of the goodliest places near the sea, and became a Terror to all their Neighbors."
Much of the archaeological, linguistic, and documentary evidence now available demonstrates that the Pequot were not invaders to the Connecticut River Valley but were indigenous for thousands of years. By the time of the founding of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, the Pequot had already attained a position of political, military, and economic dominance in what is now central and eastern Connecticut. They occupied the coastal area between the Niantic tribe of the Niantic River of present-day Connecticut and the Wecapaug River; and the Narragansett in what is now western Rhode Island. The Pequot numbered some 16,000 persons in the most densely inhabited portion of southern New England.
The smallpox epidemic of 1616-19 killed many of the Native inhabitants of the eastern coast of present-day New England, but it failed to reach the Pequot, Niantic, and Narragansett tribes. In 1633, the Dutch established a trading post called the House of Good Hope at present-day Hartford. The Dutch seized and executed the principal Pequot sachem Tatobem because of a violation of an agreement. After the Pequot paid the Dutch a large ransom, they returned Tatobem's body. His successor was Sassacus.
In 1633, an epidemic devastated all of the region's Native population. Historians estimate that the Pequot suffered the loss of 80% of their population. At the outbreak of the Pequot War, Pequot survivors may have numbered only about 3,000.
In 1636, long-standing tensions between the Puritan English of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay colonies and the Pequot escalated into open warfare. There was much confusion on both sides and, when the tribe killed an Englishman thinking he was Dutch, war was soon upon them. The Mohegan and the Narragansett sided with the English. Perhaps 1,500 Pequot were killed in battles or hunted down. Others were captured and distributed as slaves or household servants. A few escaped to be absorbed by the Mohawk or the Niantic on Long Island. Eventually, some returned to their traditional lands, where family groups of "friendly" Pequots had stayed. Of those enslaved, most were awarded to the allied tribes, but many were also sold as slaves in Bermuda. The Mohegan in particular treated their Pequot captives so severely that colonial officials of Connecticut Colony eventually removed them.
Connecticut established two reservations for the Pequot in 1683: the Eastern Pequot Reservation at North Stonington, Connecticut and the Western Pequot, or Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Ledyard. While the land bases of the two tribes have been much reduced, the two groups have held on to their land and maintained community continuity.
By the 1910 census, the Pequot population was enumerated at a low of 66. 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. The tribal chairman Richard A. Hayward encouraged the Pequot to return to their tribal homeland. He worked for Federal recognition and sound economic development.
In 1976, with the assistance of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the Indian Rights Association, the Pequot filed suit against neighboring landowners to recover land which had been illegally sold in 1856 by the State of Connecticut. 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 for resolution.
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. This settlement granted the Mashantucket Pequot federal recognition, enabling them to repurchase the land covered in the Settlement Act, and place it in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for reservation use.
Mashantucket Pequot Nation
The Mashantucket Pequot Nation land base totals 1,250 acres (5.1 km2). The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation has engaged in several entrepreneurial enterprises to become economically viable. These included selling fire wood, harvesting maple syrup, and growing garden vegetables. The Mashantucket Pequot have also raised swine, and opened a hydroponic greenhouse. They also purchased and operated a restaurant, and established a sand and gravel business.
In 1986, they opened a bingo operation, followed in 1992 by the establishment of the first phase of Foxwoods Resort Casino. Revenues from the casino have enabled development and construction of a cultural museum. The ceremonial groundbreaking for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center took place on October 20, 1993. This date marked the 10th anniversary of federal recognition of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation.
The new facility, opened on August 11, 1998, is located on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, where many members of the nation continue to live. It is one of the oldest, continuously occupied Indian reservations in North America.
Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation
The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation was recognized in 2002. Since the 1930s, both Pequot tribes had serious tension over racial issues, with some people claiming that darker-skinned descendants should not be considered fully Pequot. Two groups of Eastern Pequot filed petitions for recognition with the BIA; they agreed to unite to achieve recognition. The state immediately challenged the decision and, in 2005, the Department of the Interior revoked recognition for the EPTN. That same year, it revoked recognition for the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, who had gained sovereignty only in 2004. Worried that the newly recognized tribes would establish gaming casinos, the Connecticut state government and Congressional delegation, as well as anti-gaming interests, opposed the BIA's recognition.
Nearly all individuals who are identified as Pequot live in the two above-named communities. They are multi-racial but identify as Pequot. No members of the tribe have solely full-blooded Pequot ancestry.
Historically, the Pequot spoke a dialect of the Mohegan-Pequot language, an Eastern Algonquian language. After the Treaty of Hartford concluded the Pequot War in 1637, the colonists made speaking the language a capital offense. Within a generation or so, it became largely extinct. The Pequot from both the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and Mashantucket Pequot speak English as their primary language.
In the 21st century, the Mashantucket Pequot are undertaking aggressive efforts to revive the language through careful analysis of historical documents containing Pequot words and comparison with extant closely related languages. So far they have reclaimed over 1,000 words, though that is a small fraction of what would be necessary for a functional language. The Mashantucket Pequot have begun offering language classes with the help of the Mashpee Wampanoag. The latter recently initiated the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. The southern New England Native communities who are participants in the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project are Mashpee Wampanoag, Aquinnah Wampanoag, Herring Pond Wampanoag, and most recently, Mashantucket Pequot.
- Willy DeVille (1950–2009), rock and roll guitarist, songwriter and singer, Pequot through maternal grandmother's lineage, explored his Native American roots in his post-2000 works
- The Pequod, the fictional 19th-century Nantucket whaling ship featured in Herman Melville's novel Moby-Dick (1851), is named after the Pequot tribe.
- The town of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota is believed to have been named after the tribe.
- Dean R. Snow and Kim M. Lamphear, "European Contact and Indian Depopulation in the Northeast: The Timing of the First Epidemics," Ethnohistory 35 (1988): 16-38.
- Salwen, Bert (1978). "Indians of Southern New England and Long Island: Early Period." In Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger. Vol. 15 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 175
- Frank Speck, "Native Tribes and Dialects of Connecticut: A Mohegan-Pequot Diary", Annual Reports of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology 43 (1928): 218.
- the Pequot Relationships, as Indicated by the Events Leading to the Pequot Massacre of 1637 and Subsequent Claims in the Mohegan Land Controversy", Archaeological Society of Connecticut Bulletin 21 (2947): 26-33.
- William Hubbard, The History of the Indian Wars in New England 2 vols. (Boston: Samuel G. Drake, 1845), vol. 2, pp. 6-7.
- For archaeological investigations disproving Hubbard's theory of origins, see Irving Rouse, "Ceramic Traditions and Sequences in Connecticut," Archaeological Society of Connecticut Bulletin 21 (1947): 25; Kevin McBride, "Prehistory of the Lower Connecticut Valley" (Ph.D. diss., University of Connecticut, 1984), pp. 126-28, 199-269; and the overall evidence on the question of Pequot origins in Means, "Mohegan-Pequot Relationships," 26-33. For historical research, refer to Alfred A. Cave, "The Pequot Invasion of Southern New England: A Reassessment of the Evidence," New England Quarterly 62 (1989): 27-44; and for linguistic research, see Truman D. Michelson, "Notes on Algonquian Language," International Journal of American Linguistics 1 (1917): 56-57.
- Refer to Sherburne F. Cook, "The Significance of Disease in the Extinction of the New England Indians," Human Biology 45 (1973): 485-508; and Arthur E. Speiro and Bruce D. Spiess, "New England Pandemic of 1616-1622: Cause and Archaeological Implication," Man in the Northeast 35 (1987): 71-83.
- Lion Gardiner, "Relation of the Pequot Warres," History of the Pequot War: The Contemporary Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent, and Gardiner (Cleveland, 1897), p. 138; Ethel Boissevain, "Whatever Became of the New England Indians Shipped to Bermuda to be Sold as Slaves," Man in the Northwest 11 (Spring 1981), pp. 103-114; and Karen O. Kupperman, Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 172.
- Rootsweb: Pequot-Bermudian Reconnection Festival 2002
- "Thirteenth Census of the United States taken in the year 1910" United States Bureau of the Census, (Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1912-1914).
- See Laurence M. Hauptman and James Wherry, eds. The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an Indian Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990); Wayne J. Stein, "Gaming: The Apex of a Long Struggle," Wicazo Sa Review, vol. 13, No. 1. (Spring, 1998), pp. 73-91; and Jace Weaver's review of Jeff Benedict's polemic, "Without Reservation," Wicazo Sa Review, vol. 17, no. 2 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 210-213.
- See Reagan's initial response in "Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Claims Settlement Bill", April 5, 1983, University of Texas.
- Mashantucket Pequot Indian Claims Settlement Act (1983), S. 366.
- Heller, Louis G. (1961). "Two Pequot Names in American Literature," American Speech 36(1): 54-57
- Gardiner, Lion. Leift Lion Gardener his Relation of the Pequot Warres (Boston: [First Printing] Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 1833).
- Hubbard, William. The History of the Indian Wars in New England 2 vols. (Boston: Samuel G. Drake, 1845).
- Johnson, Edward. Wonder-Working Providence of Sion's Saviour in New England by Captain Edward Johnson of Woburn, Massachusetts Bay. With an historical introduction and an index by William Frederick Poole (Andover, MA: W. F. Draper, [London: 1654] 1867.
- Mason, John. A Brief History of the Pequot War: Especially of the Memorable taking of their Fort at Mistick in Connecticut in 1637/Written by Major John Mason, a principal actor therein, as then chief captain and commander of Connecticut forces; With an introduction and some explanatory notes by the Reverend Mr. Thomas Prince (Boston: Printed & sold by. S. Kneeland & T. Green in Queen Street, 1736).
- Mather, Increase. A Relation of the Troubles which have Hapned in New-England, by Reason of the Indians There, from the Year 1614 to the Year 1675 (New York: Arno Press,  1972).
- Orr, Charles ed., History of the Pequot War: The Contemporary Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent, and Gardiner (Cleveland, 1897).
- Underhill, John. Nevves from America; or, A New and Experimentall Discoverie of New England: Containing, a True Relation of their War-like Proceedings these two yeares last past, with a figure of the Indian fort, or Palizado. Also a discovery of these places, that as yet have very few or no inhabitants which would yeeld speciall accommodation to such as will plant there . . . By Captaine Iohn Underhill, a commander in the warres there (London: Printed by I. D[awson] for Peter Cole, and are to be sold at the signe of the Glove in Corne-hill neere the Royall Exchange, 1638).
- Vincent, Philip. A True Relation of the late Battell fought in New England, between the English, and the Salvages: VVith the present state of things there (London: Printed by M[armaduke] P[arsons] for Nathanael Butter, and Iohn Bellamie, 1637).
- Boissevain, Ethel. "Whatever Became of the New England Indians Shipped to Bermuda to be Sold as Slaves," Man in the Northwest 11 (Spring 1981), pp. 103–114.
- Bradstreet, Howard. The Story of the War with the Pequots, Retold. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1933.
- Cave, Alfred A. "The Pequot Invasion of Southern New England: A Reassessment of the Evidence," New England Quarterly 62 (1989): 27-44.
- ______. The Pequot War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996).
- Cook, Sherburne F. "The Significance of Disease in the Extinction of the New England Indians," Human Biology 45 (1973): 485-508.
- Hauptman, Laurence M. and James D. Wherry, eds. The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.
- Kupperman, Karen O. Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).
- McBride, Kevin. "The Historical Archaeology of the Mashantucket Pequots, 1637-1900," in Laurence M. Hauptman and James Wherry, eds. Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), pp. 96–116.
- ______. Prehistory of the Lower Connecticut Valley. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Connecticut, 1984.
- Means, Carrol Alton. "Mohegan-Pequot Relationships, as Indicated by the Events Leading to the Pequot Massacre of 1637 and Subsequent Claims in the Mohegan Land Controversy," Archaeological Society of Connecticut Bulletin 21 (1947): 26-33.
- Michelson, Truman D. "Notes on Algonquian Language," International Journal of American Linguistics 1 (1917): 56-57.
- Newell, Margaret Ellen. Brethren by Nature: New England Indians, Colonists, and the Origins of American Slavery. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015.
- Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
- Rouse, Irving. "Ceramic Traditions and Sequences in Connecticut," Archaeological Society of Connecticut Bulletin 21 (1947).
- Oberg, Michael. Uncas: First of the Mohegans (Ithaca, NY:Cornell University Press, 2003).
- Simmons, William S. Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984. Dartmouth, NH: University Press of New England, 1986.
- Snow, Dean R. and Kim M. Lamphear. "European Contact and Indian Depopulation in the Northeast: The Timing of the First Epidemics," Ethnohistory 35 (1988): 16-38.
- Spiero, Arthur E., and Bruce E. Speiss. "New England Pandemic of 1616-1622: Cause and Archaeological Implication," Man in the Northeast 35 (1987): 71-83.
- Vaughan, Alden T. "Pequots and Puritans: The Causes of the War of 1637," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd Ser., Vol. 21, No. 2 (Apr., 1964), pp. 256–269; also republished in Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
- _______. New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1980.