Gambling ... land claims ... sovereignty ...
Native Americans have high visibility and growing influence --
often engaged in controversial issues.
natives have always been here, struggling for more than 350
years with assimilation, racism and economic stress.
today's headlines are stories of culture, of identity, and of
AS WE TELL OUR STORIES
HANDSMAN (Archaeologist): For almost 100 years Corning fountain
has stood in the heart of Hartford. It is a statue which
celebrates progress and the growth of Hartford into industrial
city. This particular statue has four Indian males encircling
the bottom. Each one is supposed to represent a particular phase
in the historical development of native Americans.
this first figure, we see Native Americans represented in their
primitive pre-civilized phase. This particular figure shows an
Indian male fishing. The second figure of the Native American
male kneeling is supposed to represent the first comings of the
colonists to Hartford. He's looking out over the horizon,
dressed in a headdress never worn in Southern New England,
looking at the colonists coming up from the Connecticut River
Valley. The third figure shows an Indian man with a raised
striking out in resistance and defense of his homelands. It is
supposed to represent the time period in the 17th century when
Native Americans and colonists often solved their differences
through armed warfare and massacre.
last figure was really typical of the best Indian in the late
19th century. He represents a civilized, peaceful figure, much
more white than Indian, a figure who by becoming civilized left
the Indian traditions behind.
LAMB RICHMOND (Schagticoke
Tribe): The bottom line is that this fountain portrays an
inaccurate picture of Indian people's history and culture. I
would hope that people will learn that there's a great deal of
cultural diversity, that some of us live in reservations, some
of us don't. We come from all different walks of life and all
different occupations and in spite of all of that, we struggle
to maintain our identity as Indian people.
ON THE NICKEL
BEAR (Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe): What the hell do you got
against me, white man? Who am I supposed to be but who I am?
Who are the native people of Connecticut?
Tribal Chairman Skip Hayward knows as well as anyone. His mother
is a direct descendant of Mashantucket Pequots, his father's
ancestors came over on the Mayflower.
1974 Hayward has been the driving force in leading 300 members
of his tribe back to the reservation.
“SKIP” HAYWARD (Mashantucket Pequot Chairman): Until we get
our museum going to show people what we're all about, they don't
understand why we're black, red, white, yellow. "You're not
Indian, you don't look Indian." Well, what does an Indian
look like? You got to look like the guy on the nickel. You got
to have blue-black straight hair and your nose has got to be
just so and your lips got to look just so. You got to look the
part or you're not one of those original natives.
have one very small remnant of people and had all their land
taken away. And you put them on this reservation in the 1600s
and then you start moving in all of Europe and the whole world
into their backyard, you're gonna change your looks. If you're
Indian, what difference does it make what color you are, if
you're black or white. The main thing is you can prove who you
say you are.
CARTER (Mashantucket Pequot Tribe): You're gonna find light,
dark, long hair, short hair, tight hair. We've been called
extinct, so we're a very mixed tribe, but that doesn't mean that
I'm not an Indian or I'm not a Native American.
As with other federally recognized tribes, Mashantucket Pequot
tribal applicants must prove direct descent from Pequot
ancestors before being accepted into the tribe.
tribal spokesman Joe Carter came to live on the reservation in
CARTER: We've got quite a few people coming out of the woodwork
as far as claiming their Pequot heritage. We are a federally
recognized tribe, so we have to go through a federal genealogy
which we trace back our ancestors to Western Pequots. Being a
nation of people who were almost totally extinct causes us not
to be able to marry within our tribe, which causes the bloodline
of Native Americans to dissipate.
Although federal guidelines for tribal membership are stringent,
individual Indian identity is for many natives a cultural issue.
US: It's very hard to say "you are an Indian and you are
not." Just because you happen to have less bloodlines or
less blood than the other one? No. You can't do that.
Janice Us teaches art to Indian children.
US: I treat everyone of my children as an equal. They are to me
all Native American children. One may have more blood, one may
not, I don't care. I have children in my classes right now who
are blonde-haired and blue-eyed but can trace their descent to
an Indian. I say that if a person is recognized culturally as a
Native American within the community then he should be
considered a Native American. I couldn't say that you could put
a blood quota on anybody. Not only would that be wrong but so
many of these records that were kept were destroyed.
BEAR (Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe): I don't feel that I look
Black, that I act Black, or there is anything Black about me at
Moonface Bear is a Paugussett tribal leader.
BEAR: My mother is Black. My mother's people came from Nigeria.
They were native people and they had a way with their land, they
had a culture, they had an understanding. And so that native
person intermarried with an Indian Native person and those
native people shared the common interests and the common enemy.
VANVALKENBURGH (Schagticoke Tribe): My father is one-quarter
Native American and my mother she's a mixture of Polish and she
is definitely White, so I had the balance, so I was definitely
assimilated into the White world if you will.
Lee VanValkenburg is a Schagticoke tribal member.
VANVALKENBURGH: But as I got older I found that it's easier to
identify with it. I went through a stage where maybe it wasn't
so easy because in high school was peer pressure and people just
trying to be individuals, you just kind of didn't want to call
so much attention to yourself especially when you look - maybe
like me, where you have to explain yourself so much it was just
easier to assimilate and just blend in, which was really what I
wanted to do.
I don't think you can say you can look at someone and say
"oh, they're Native American because they have black hair
and braids," or "I'm not because I have blue eyes and
brown hair." I think it's who you feel you are and some
people identify closer to it with it than others
AGANSTATA (Cherokee Heritage): The average Indian person is like
the average person in the State of Connecticut and you may find
them anywhere. You may find them employed as part of state
government, like myself. You may find them in private industry.
You may find us doing technical jobs that you would never
associate an Indian person as being interested in. On the other
hand, you might find us at times highly visible and involved in
things that are identified as Indians.
TANTAQUIDEON, MEDICINE WOMAN
People in the town of Montville have long been aware of the
continuing existence of the state's Indians due to the efforts
of the area's Mohegan tribe.
FAWCETT (Mohegan Tribe): Well I don't ever remember a time when
the museum wasn't a large part of my life. My aunt Gladys was
always the teacher, always being certain that we didn't forget
Gladys Tantaquidgeon runs the museum since the death of her
brother, Harold, in 1989. In 1993 she was officially recognized
as the Mohegan tribal medicine woman
TANTAQUIDGEON (Mohegan Tribe): My father, John Tantaquidgeon,
and my brother Harold Tantaquidgeon -- they built this little
stone room in 1931 for the purpose of having some place
display many of the Mohegan made items: basketry, woodwork, and
some of those things. The baskets in this one section were made
by my father, John Tantaquidgeon. He was the last Mohegan basket
maker. And some of the bowls and spoons and other cooking
utensils were also made by him. He used oak for his splints for
the baskets. It's really tough -- it doesn't wear out. And for
the cooking utensils, they used maple.
FAWCETT: It's very difficult to really dislike or hate someone
when you really understand where they're coming from. And that's
what the museum does: It teaches the non-Indians in town. And
that, I think, was the genius of my aunt Gladys really, and my
FAWCETT SAYET (Mohegan Tribe): Yeah, she's one, I would say, in
a great line of great survivalists and great thinkers in our
tribe -- her being a major person in a sense that she spans the
last century and this century, being born in 1899. So she helped
us make it through the 20th Century. But really what has enabled
the Mohegan to survive aside from just certain flukes of
history, like the fact that we weren't wiped out initially by
disease, were the decisions of key individuals within the tribe.
You know -- survivalists, conscious survivalists. It's not a
passive thing, it's something that you have to be actively
engaged in all the time.