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COLT: LEGEND & LEGACY

LEFT TO DIE

THE MARK OF UNCAS

SCHEMITZUN!

USS NAUTILUS

CONNECTICUT

AS WE TELL OUR STORIES

BETWEEN BOSTON & NY

CONNECTICUT  & THE SEA

CRUSADERS & CRIMINALS

EAST OF THE RIVER

FROM HERE TO THERE

THE GREEN

THE NEW PEQUOT

SUBURBIA

HARD TIMES, TOUGH DECISIONS

 

NARRATOR: The Pequot/Mohegan split in the early 1630s evolved in part from a dynastic quarrel between Uncas and the Pequot sachem Sassacus, who was his father-in-law.  Uncas claimed to be the rightful Pequot sachem.

 

CARLTON EICHELBERG: Uncas was married to one of Sassacus’s daughters and what happened was that it got to the point where with the English coming stronger and stronger, Sassacus wanted to fight the English, Uncas thought his wisdom was better, that we were too few in numbers and that we should try to befriend the English rather than fight them. Their philosophical differences forced a split and Uncas took his family and his followers and came here to Mohegan.

 

ELLA SEKATAU (Ethno-Historian and Medicine Woman, Narragansett Tribe): Sassacus and Uncas had good relations until the newcomers’ arrival and colonization. They were not mortal enemies, they were relatives, and a new social strata was evolving with the newcomers, something that was totally unfamiliar with the indigenous or the Indian people, and that is the reason why they had their disagreements and parted company several times.

NARRATOR: Uncas’s open rebellion against Sassacus caused him to finally be banished from the Pequot tribe. And so it was that Uncas traveled with his followers in 1636 across the Thames River to settle on the ancestral land of his father.

 

SAM DELORIA (Director, American Indian Law Center, Standing Rock Sioux): In strictly non-Indian historical terms not too many tribes can have a founder’s day. This is our founder. Why not? You know exactly who it is and you can practically pinpoint the date when the tribe was founded in the sense that we look at it as a tribe. And because they can trace genealogies, they know who’s descended from him and all of that, it makes it much more difficult for the tribe to mythologize him; he becomes a very distinct historical figure for them and he has to remain that because there’s too much of a tribal memory.

 

NARRATOR: In 1637, Uncas joined forces with the English in a plan to attack the dominant Pequot Tribe.  The English/Mohegan alliance created friction with other local tribes with whom Uncas was connected by royal bloodlines.

                               

ELLA SEKATAU: The colonists’ goal was to divide and to conquer. They did it through rumor; they did it through gossip.

 

JOHN BROWN (Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Narragansett Tribe): The Indian people were just played. We did not understand the nature of the beast that we were dealing with. They had created the device that they wanted in that triad of power between the Mohegan, the Narragansett and the Pequot and it worked.

 

The Pequot War was nothing more than feuding factions of the Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut colonies opting and vying for power and attempting to use the Indians as their pawns.

 

NARRATOR: The English colonists declared war on the Pequot in 1637. Plans were made for an attack on the main Pequot village fort in Mystic under the command of Captain John Mason.  He led about 90 colonists, joined by several hundred Narragansett Indians and about 100 Mohegan and Connecticut River Indians under Uncas.  The attack took place on May 26, 1637.

 

JOE BRUCHAC: During the days before that event a number of the Indian allies were deserting. However, Uncas had no doubts. In fact, his exact words are worth quoting. He said, “Though all the Narragansetts leave, and I am certain most of them will, the Mohegans will remain faithful to the end.”

 

When the battle began in the fort at Mystic there were more Pequots than there were English. And the English discovered that if they set fire to the buildings that they would even the odds

 

A couple of things began to occur. One is that fire spread very rapidly and the people would not come out of the fort because they would be shot down. Because of the fire their bowstrings caught fire, they could no longer use bows and arrows. They had no distance weapons and, therefore, they had to fight with ax and knife, hand-to-hand, a very unequal combat. And I can imagine as that battle was going on, as Pequot men were running out with their clothes on fire attacking the English hand to hand I wonder what was going through Uncas’s mind. Because I think Uncas felt, well, this would be a typical battle on a fortification, the English will overcome them, they will surrender and maybe I’ll be able to take these people into my group. But instead everyone, 400 to 700 people were wiped out.

 

I cannot help but think that Uncas was horrified when he saw what happened, when he saw the tremendous violence that was unleashed by the English on the Pequot people and yet he does not turn against the English because he knows there’s nothing else he can do right now. It has begun. He has to follow it through to the end.

 


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Last modified: September 03, 2012