we just assumed that what we're seeing is a process of assimilation. What
we've discovered is just the opposite. We found a great deal of continuity
in terms of Pequot social patterns, political patterns, ritual behavior,
the way they use space, the way they continue to hunt.
think there's two stereotypes that western Europeans/American culture has
about natives in the past, and to a certain extent, the present. One is, I
think people equate technological differences with inferior/superior and
of course the bottom line is history is always written by the victor. I
think the other great myth is that the natives led a completely idyllic
view -- that before the Europeans, these were people of the forest and
they were in tune with nature. And to a certain extent that's obviously
for example, evidence in the record, the archaeological record, if you
believe it, you know, they too had conflicts, they too had social
they too had political problems. They occasionally over-fished or
over-clammed an area. But I think the basic difference in the
societies is their view of the land and the environment.
THOMASON (Lakota/Kiowa Apache
I'm from plains peoples, northern and southern plains, and as such we
were more of hunting peoples. We were not gatherers and we didn't have
the agriculture that people here have had. So to see the significance
of plants in stories here, the different animals in stories, the whole
society that built around corn in this part of the world means
something very different than what I'm familiar with, where life
centers around the buffalo.
HANDSMAN: Between about 1,000 and 500 years ago the Weantinock Indians
lived and planted corn in this field at the Housatonic River. It was
used to grow corn, it was hunted in, it was fished along, those kinds
of things. And it was also the place where they started to bury their
ancestors probably about 2,000 years ago. So there's a real spiritual
connection both to the planting fields, to the ancestral burying
sites, as well as to the traditional fishing sites, which would have
been used generation after generation after generation.
when the colonists come, the Weantinock and other Indian peoples agree
to share the land with the Colonial peoples but they never really give
it away. And so they continue to visit, they continue to use the
traditional fishing sites. And they try to continue to use the
traditional planting fields. When you lose access to a traditional
planting field it makes surviving and social reproduction --that is
the matter of being able to continue to live in traditional
communities and relatively large numbers -- a lot more difficult.
are a whole series of strategies that Indian peoples like the
Weantinock use to basically submerge or to some extent hide their
Indian identity for some parts of the 18th and 19th Century. But they
continue to be Indian, they would continue to visit the homelands.
splint baskets, for instance, are a way for people to travel from
place to place, from homeland to homeland in the 19th century and they
were given away as gifts to kin, to their neighbors, to people they
hadn't seen in awhile, as well as being given or sold or bartered away
to non-native people. So baskets are really a way to maintain links
with one another.
of the Indian Nation
LAMB RICHMOND: I think the real struggle is holding onto the land. We
have lost so much, that the fragments of land that we have left, the
reservations that we have left, this is our culture.
BIG EAGLE: Indian land is the survival of the Indian nation, without
it you have no identity.
HORSE: Miantinomo was a sachem of the Narragansetts in 1642. This is a
petition to the English.
you know our fathers had plenty of deer and skin. Our plains were full
of deer and also our woods, and of turkeys. And our coves were full of
fish and fowl. But these English having gotten our land, they would
scythe and cut down the grass with axes fell our trees. Their cows and
the horses eat the grass, and their hogs spoil our clam banks and we
shall all be starved."
THOMASON: The land is the people. I was always told -- my grandmother
always told me -- and it's something that's echoed by many native
voices, is that people cannot own land, that the earth owns the
people. In that way the earth, who we call mother, gives us
everything. We get our foods, our traditions, our stories -- all
things emerge from the land. We're told that, in my tradition, we
emerged from the land.
BEAR: When the English first came here and wanted to utilize the land,
and so we did some dealings and treaties and we exchanged symbolic
things to say "you know, we understand, here's our hospitality,
come and live amongst us.
was fine, everything was good. We was happy to see them. We understood
about needing land to survive, to live. But the problems didn't really
come until like a fence -- when a fence like this was where maybe we
walked down to the waterhole to fish. And the fence being there the
next day, and crossing that fence and somebody hollering at us or
shooting at us, running out with some paper or some deed saying, you
know, "what are you doing? You're trespassing on my land."
we'd say, "well, you know we've always gone down this way to go
down to the water." And they'd say, "well you can't go down
there no more. That's trespassing, that's illegal, that's against the
law. You sold the land. You do not have that right no more."
that's when problems arose. That's when it hit home to us, what they
meant by selling the land.
AGANSTATA: There was such a different perspective on each side.
Indians who were caretakers of the land in no way could even grasp the
idea of land ownership. And from the European point of view, they
really couldn't see where being Indian was anything other than a
US: To put it bluntly, most Native Americans feel that through
trickery, deceit, drunkenness with the whiskey, which they kept
passing out, which Native Americans were not used to -- they managed
to roughly steal away the land. They had the chiefs and the
sub-chiefs, what have you, put "x's" on pieces of paper that
they couldn't even read and didn't know what they were doing.
AGANSTATA: When you look at the individual histories of the lands, the
tribal lands, here in Connecticut as well as the other northeast
areas, it is just astounding that there's any land in tribal control
today. And it's almost equally astounding that there really are
reservations. There are these little areas where people have managed
to hang on. You have to admire that.
Since Colonial times, state tribal leaders have repeatedly sought
redress from state authorities, citing unfair treatment and the loss
of their land. The Schagticoke tribe's experience is typical.
Lamb Richmond is one of the few tribal members who still live on the
LAMB RICHMOND: Schagticoke reservation was established in the early
1700s. And almost immediately, we started losing land, after the land
had been set aside and had been reserved. And almost immediately,
native people began requesting for some kind of assistance. Because
once you're on the reservations your whole way of life changed. Your
way of being able to provide for yourself was becoming more and more
there were so many petitions with the General Assembly. The General
Assembly would listen to these complaints and then say, "well
we've looked into it and there's nothing more that we can do." We
were constantly being encouraged to leave rather than to remain here,
until our reservation today is 400 acres and there's six families that
Chief Big Eagle lives on one of the two Paugussett reservations -- a
one-quarter-acre plot by a busy Trumbull road.
BIG EAGLE: There's not enough land for the population to live on. And
it's always been hard because you was a ward of the state up until
'73. In order to live here the statement was you had to make friends
with the settlers. You could be removed without cause. If you wanted
to come spend the night with your mother you had to get a written
letter of permission from the state in order to come.
Securing sovereignty over their reservations is essential to
Connecticut's native people for both economic and cultural reasons.
Golden Hill Paugussetts have sparked several controversies: armed
defense of untaxed cigarette sales on their Colchester reservation,
extensive land claims in southwestern Connecticut and a gambling
casino proposal in Waterbury.
Bear leads the Colchester Paugussett group, called Paugeesauk by
Moonface and his tribal group.
BEAR: And so how are you going to have somebody being concerned about
their culture and their identity when they have to make "x"
amount of dollars every day to sustain just some kind of life. Because
if I don't take care of my kids without insurance, DCYS will certainly
be here and take them away from me. So that's the kind of pressure
that we have, which is basically anybody can identify. So without
economy, let's face it, how could you see a thriving community?
grew up in the movement - I grew up in change. I grew up that
everything that is going on for Indian people didn't happen because
one day somebody decided to say, "let's be nice to the
Indians." There were fights, confrontations, a lot of deaths, a
lot of destruction in native communities to get what we have today. So
I'm an adamant believer in the warrior society, and I believe in the
right of nations to have our own military, I believe the right in us
being a free state in the defense of
ourselves and the defense of our laws.