NARRATOR: What we know about the American Indian we
probably learned in the darkness of a movie theater or on Saturday morning TV. Cowboys and
Indians, the Wild West, Cochise and Custer have captured our collective imagination, and
in the process turned history into myth.
It was hundreds of years before Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, that the first
contact between white settlers and native people took place. It happened not in the Old
West but in the forests and on the shores of the land the Europeans called New England.
The natives welcomed the newcomers and traded with them. But soon, brutal conflicts arose,
fueled by politics, economics and racism.
The first struggle for dominance in the New World occurred in what is now southeastern
Connecticut in 1637 between the English and the Pequot Indian nation, the most powerful
and feared tribe in New England. In just a few years, the tribe would be nearly swept from
the face of the earth, decimated by disease, defeated in battle, its leaders executed or
put into slavery, many of its women and children massacred, its very name outlawed.
From then on, the remnant of the Pequot nation would be subject to the whim of the
white man, to fight and die in his wars, and watch their land and their way of life taken
from them piece by piece.
Today, the Pequot name is often used by Connecticut businesses in reference to a people
thought to be extinct. But in fact, this ancient nation is now reclaiming part of its
empire and heritage. It is a small nation, but still a sovereign one whose borders and
population are ever expanding.
In the nineteen-sixties, there were just two elderly Pequot women living on what was
left of their ancestral land, a 200-acre rocky tract that the state wanted for a park.
The Pequot nation was a heartbeat from extinction.
Today the 1600-acre reservation is home to more than 110 Indians and their families.
That today's Pequots have survived is impressive. That they are prospering is
It is a uniquely American story. It is the story of the new Pequot.