In 1907, when “Buffalo Bill” Cody visited the Mohegan Royal Burial
Gounds in Norwich, Connecticut, it was a show of respect to the place
where Mohegan tribal leaders had been buried for centuries.
TANTAQUIDGEON: This burial ground is particularly sacred and important
to the Mohegan people because all who have been buried here represent
the lineage of Uncas. The tribe owned these lands according to an
original agreement that was made between Uncas and the City of Norwich
in 1659, when Uncas deeded the city to Norwich -- with the exception
of the 16 acres in the middle of Norwich, which he had agreed with the
settlers would always remain the Mohegan burial ground.
remains at this burial ground is a scant eighth of an acre, when
originally it was a full 16 acres. Those 16 acres were desecrated as
houses were built in this area and more and more non-Indian people
came into the community.
the mid-1840s, the best recorded desecration of this burial took place
and was witnessed by our Medicine Woman Emma Baker. Emma came here
with her grandmother and watched while piles of bodies with pipe in
them were being burned and people were being excavated in order for
all the homes that are now in this area to be built.
Uncas sold or gave away vast tracts of land. But until 1790, the tribe
held 2,700 acres in reservation. As desecrations and theft of
tribal land by corrupt state overseers continued through the 1800s,
the tribe successfully petitioned the state to disband the reservation
in 1872. Once-tribal lands became privately owned by tribal members
and others. In the early 20th Century, Uncas’s former village at
Shantok was turned into a state park.
LEFF: Well, as part of the settlement of the Mohegan land claims, we
were to turn Fort Shantok back to the tribe. And I say, “back to the
tribe” because originally it belonged to them.
had been part of the state park system since beginning in the 1920s
and the actual getting the job done of making the transfer fell to me.
The business with the different kinds of legal maneuvers and documents
went back and forth and lasted to the very day of the transfer.
Shortly before the ceremony was to take place. I came down here in my
old yellow truck and with the document in hand. I drove in and handed
off the deed to Roland Harris. The ceremony that followed was a very
emotional experience and it’s something I’ll never forget as long
as I live.
Uncas was the first Mohegan sachem. Through the centuries many others
followed his path. Tribal Elder Roberta Cooney has known many chiefs.
COONEY: The Mohegan chiefs that I have known all have followed
Uncas’s stance as far as being loyal to his people. They all had the
same feelings to do for their people, to do the right thing by their
people, to be honest with their people.
was Occum, who was my grandfather’s brother. He was a peace chief.
Chief Occum was Lemuel Occum Fielding. Lloyd Harris was Chief Pegee.
My grandfather was Chief Matagha, he was a war chief --
Burrill Hyde Fielding.
Loretta Roberge is also a granddaughter of Chief Matagha.
ROBERGE: He was a great person because he always tried to keep the
tribe together. He was the one who tried to keep the wigwams and the
powwows going, which was a dying tradition.
then I knew Cortland Fowler, who was the next chief. He was absolutely
wonderful. He had a very, very kind gentle way about him.
I forgot Harold Tantaquidgeon was there too before Cortland. And he
was, too, because he was so involved in all the activities with
children and making sure that nothing was ever lost.
I have a great deal of respect for all of them, for that they’ve
then the last one we had, and we still have, is Ralph Sturges. And he
was one of the main forces for us getting federally recognized. He
worked extremely hard.
On March 7th, 1994, the Mohegan Tribe of Montville received official
STURGES (Lifetime Chief, Mohegan Tribe): When we got recognition, the
one thing I told the people in that tribe is there’s three words
that they got to remember: They’ve got to have perseverance, honor
and integrity. They’ve gotta have that. That’s three things that
Uncas actually stood for. And those are three words that it’s very
simple for any human being to live by. But you’ve got to do it. You
can’t get carried away with money and crazy things. They gotta
remember what they stand for and what they should be trying to
develop, you know?
not saying that everybody does it but they should. They should
remember what their forefathers said.