Pequot, Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Pequot are of the Eastern Woodlands cultural area (see under Natives, North American). Originally they were united with the Mohegan, but when Uncas revolted, the Pequot moved southward to invade and drive off the Niantic. The warlike Pequot, under their chief, Sassacus, had by 1630 extended their territory west to the Connecticut River. Numerous quarrels between settlers in the Connecticut valley and the Pequot led to the Pequot War (1637). The precipitating cause was the Pequot's murder of John Oldham, an English trader. The English under John Mason and John Underhill attacked their stronghold on the Pequot River and killed some 500 Pequot.

The remaining Pequot fled in small groups. One party went to Long Island, and a second escaped into the interior. A third, led by Sassacus, was intercepted near Fairfield, Conn., where almost the entire party was killed or captured. The captives were forced into slavery, mainly in New England and the West Indies. A few Pequot, including Sassacus, who managed to escape were put to death by the Mohawk. A remnant of the Pequot was scattered among the southern New England tribes; the colonial government later settled them in Connecticut. Today they live on two reservations in SE Connecticut. At Ledyard the Mashantucket Pequot established (1992) a casino, which has proved to be one of the largest and most profitable gambling establishments in the world; they also sponsor an elaborate tribal museum. In 1990 there were 679 Pequot in the United States.

See J. W. De Forest, History of the Indians of Connecticut (1851, repr. 1988); K. I. Eisler, Revenge of the Pequots: How a Small Native American Tribe Created the World's Most Profitable Casino (2001).

See Main articles:

The Pequot are a tribal nation of Native Americans who, in the 17th century, inhabited much of what is now Connecticut. The Pequot War and Mystic massacre eliminated the Pequot as a viable socio-political entity in southern New England.

Today, there are two independent Pequot tribal nations in Connecticut-- the Mashantucket Pequot and the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation (a.k.a. Paucatuck Pequot).


Etymology of "Pequot"

Pequot is an Algonquian word, the meaning of which is in dispute among French language specialists. Much of the scholarship pertaining to the Pequot claims that the name comes from "Paquatauoq," meaning, "the destroyers," and thus, relies on the speculations of an early twentieth century authority on Algonquian languages. However, Frank Speck, a leading specialist of Pequot-Mohegan had doubts, and believed that another term the translation of which referred to the shallowness of a body of water seemed much more plausible.

The Question of Origins

The Pequot and the Mohegan were at one time a single socio-political entity. Anthropologists and historians contend that sometime before contact with the English, the Pequot were split into the two warring groups.

Debate still exists as to whether the Pequot migrated toward what is now central and eastern Connecticut sometime around 1500, from the upper Hudson River Valley. The theory of Pequot migration to the Connecticut River Valley can be traced to Rev. William Hubbard who, in 1677, claimed that the Pequot, rather than originating in the region, had invaded it sometime before the establishment of Plymouth Colony. In the aftermath of King Philip's War, Hubbard had sought in his Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England, to explain the unmitigated ferocity with which New England's Native peoples responded to the English. Seeking answers not in Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay Colony's own failed diplomacy and the colonial rapacity for Native lands, Puritan divines such as Hubbard may have projected their own position and behavior onto the Pequot by defining the Pequot as "foreigners" to the region-- invaders not from another shore, but "from the interior of the continent" who "by force seized upon one of the goodliest places near the sea, and became a Terror to all their Neighbors."

Much of the archaeological, linguistic, and documentary evidence now available clearly reveals that the Pequot were not invaders to the Connecticut River Valley; that they were in fact indigenous to it. Certainly, contemporaneous to the establishment of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, the Pequot had already assumed a position of political, military, and economic dominance in what is now central and eastern Connecticut. Occupying the coastal area between the Niantic tribe of the Niantic River of present-day Connecticut and the Wecapaug River and Narragansetts in what is now western Rhode Island, the Pequot numbered some 16,000 persons in the most densely inhabited portion of southern New England.

The smallpox epidemic of 1616-19, which killed roughly 90% of the Native inhabitants of the eastern coast of present-day New England, failed to reach the Pequot, or the Niantic and Narragansett. In 1633, The Dutch established a trading post at present day Hartford, called the House of Good Hope. Because of a perceived violation of an agreement, the Dutch seized the principal Pequot sachem Tatobem. They paid the Dutch a large ransom and received Tatobem's murdered body in return. Tatobem's successor was Sassacus.

In 1633, an epidemic devastated the entirety of the region's Native population. Historians estimate that the Pequot suffered the loss of 80% of their entire population. At the outbreak of the Pequot War then, the Pequot may have numbered only about 3,000.

The Pequot War

Main article: Pequot War

In 1637, long-standing tensions between the Puritan English of Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay colonies and the Pequot escalated into open warfare. The Mohegan and the Narragansett sided with the English. Perhaps 1,500 Pequot were killed in battles or hunted down. Others were captured and distributed as slaves or household servants. A few escaped to be absorbed by the Mohawk or the Niantic on Long Island. Eventually, some would try to return to their traditional lands, while family groups of "friendly" Pequots stayed. Of those enslaved, most were awarded to the allied tribes, but many were also sold to plantations in the West Indies. The Mohegan in particular treated their Pequot hostages so severely that colonial officials of Connecticut Colony eventually removed them. Two reservations were established by 1683. While both of their land bases were exceedingly reduced by what would eventually became the state of Connecticut, they continue to exist to the present.

Modern History

By the 1910 census, the Pequot population was enumerated at a low of 66. In terms of population, the Pequot reached their nadir several decades later. Pequot numbers grew appreciably--the Mashantucket Pequot especially--during the 1970s and 1980s when Mashantucket Pequot Chairman, Richard A. Hayward was able to enjoin Pequots to return to their tribal homeland by implementing the push to Federal recognition and sound economic development.

In 1976, with the assistance of the Native American Rights Fund and the Indian Rights Association, the Pequot filed suit against neighboring landowners to recover land that had been illegally sold by the State of Connecticut in 1856. After seven years the Pequot and landowners reached a settlement. The former landowners agreed that the 1856 sale was illegal, and joined the Pequot in seeking the Connecticut state government's support. The Connecticut Legislature responded by unanimously passing legislation to petition the federal government to grant tribal recognition to the Mashantucket Pequot. The Mashantucket Pequot Indian Land Claims Settlement Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan on Oct. 18, 1983. This settlement granted the Mashantucket Pequot federal recognition, enabling them to repurchase and place in trust the land covered in the Settlement Act.

Currently, 1,250 acres comprise the Mashantucket Pequot Nation land base. As the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation settled its land claims, it also engaged in several entrepreneurial enterprises in order to become economically viable. These including the sale of fire wood, harvesting maple syrup, and the growing of garden vegetables. The Mashantucket Pequot also tried their hand at a swine project and the opening of a hydroponic greenhouse. The Mashantucket Pequot also purchased and operated a restaurant, and established a sand and gravel business. In 1986, they opened a bingo operation, followed, in 1992, by the establishment of the first phase of Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Revenues from Foxwoods provided sufficient revenue to the Mashantucket Pequot to create a cultural museum. The ceremonial groundbreaking for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center took place on Oct. 20, 1993. This date marked the 10th anniversary of federal recognition of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation. The new facility, opened on August 11, 1998, is located on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, where many members of the Mashantucket Pequot Nation continue to live. It is one of the oldest, continuously occupied Indian reservations in North America.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has constantly lead the fight against recognition of the Pequot People as a separate nation.


The 1130 member Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation has a reservation called "Lantern Hill." The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation is recognized by the state of Connecticut and the United States Federal government.

The 800+ Mashantucket Pequot or Western Pequot gained federal recognition in 1983 and have a reservation in Ledyard.

Nearly all individuals who are identified as Pequot live in the two above-named communities.


Historically, the Pequot spoke a dialect of Mohegan-Montauk-Narragansett language, an Eastern Algonquian language. After the Treaty of Hartford concluded the Pequot War, speaking the language became a capital offense, and it became largely extinct. The Pequot from both the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and Mashantucket Pequot currently speak English as their primary language.

The Mashantucket Pequot are currently undertaking aggressive efforts to revive the language through careful analysis of historical documents containing Pequot words and comparison with extant closely related languages. So far over 1,000 words have been reclaimed, though that is a small fraction of what would be necessary for a functional language. The Mashantucket Pequot have begun offering language classes with the help of the Mashpee Wampanoag who recently initiated the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project The southern New England Native communities who are participants in the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project are Mashpee Wampanoag, Aquinnah Wampanoag, Herring Pond Wampanoag, and most recently, Mashantucket Pequot.




Primary Sources

  • Gardiner, Lion. Leift Lion Gardener his Relation of the Pequot Warres (Boston: [First Printing] Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 1833).
  • Hubbard, William. The History of the Indian Wars in New England 2 vols. (Boston: Samuel G. Drake, 1845).
  • Johnson, Edward. Wonder-Working Providence of Sion's Saviour in New England by Captain Edward Johnson of Woburn, Massachusetts Bay. With an historical introduction and an index by William Frederick Poole (Andover, MA: W. F. Draper, [London: 1654] 1867.
  • Mason, John. A Brief History of the Pequot War: Especially of the Memorable taking of their Fort at Mistick in Connecticut in 1637/Written by Major John Mason, a principal actor therein, as then chief captain and commander of Connecticut forces; With an introduction and some explanatory notes by the Reverend Mr. Thomas Prince (Boston: Printed & sold by. S. Kneeland & T. Green in Queen Street, 1736).
  • Mather, Increase. A Relation of the Troubles which have Hapned in New-England, by Reason of the Indians There, from the Year 1614 to the Year 1675 (New York: Arno Press, [1676] 1972).
  • Orr, Charles ed., History of the Pequot War: The Contemporary Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent, and Gardiner (Cleveland, 1897).
  • Underhill, John. Nevves from America; or, A New and Experimentall Discoverie of New England: Containing, a True Relation of their War-like Proceedings these two yeares last past, with a figure of the Indian fort, or Palizado. Also a discovery of these places, that as yet have very few or no inhabitants which would yeeld speciall accommodation to such as will plant there . . . By Captaine Iohn Underhill, a commander in the warres there (London: Printed by I. D[awson] for Peter Cole, and are to be sold at the signe of the Glove in Corne-hill neere the Royall Exchange, 1638).
  • Vincent, Philip. A True Relation of the late Battell fought in New England, between the English, and the Salvages: VVith the present state of things there (London: Printed by M[armaduke] P[arsons] for Nathanael Butter, and Iohn Bellamie, 1637).

Secondary Sources

  • Boissevain, Ethel. "Whatever Became of the New England Indians Shipped to Bermuda to be Sold as Slaves," Man in the Northwest 11 (Spring 1981), pp. 103-114.
  • Bradstreet, Howard. The Story of the War with the Pequots, Retold (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1933).
  • Cave, Alfred A. "The Pequot Invasion of Southern New England: A Reassessment of the Evidence," New England Quarterly 62 (1989): 27-44.
  • ______. The Pequot War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996).
  • Cook, Sherburne F. "The Significance of Disease in the Extinction of the New England Indians," Human Biology 45 (1973): 485-508.
  • Hauptman, Laurence M. and James D. Wherry, eds. The Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993).

, Karen O. Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

  • McBride, Kevin. "The Historical Archaeology of the Mashantucket Pequots, 1637-1900," in Laurence M. Hauptman and James Wherry, eds. Pequots in Southern New England: The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), pp. 96-116.
  • ______. "Prehistory of the Lower Connecticut Valley" (Ph.D. diss., University of Connecticut, 1984).
  • Means, Carrol Alton. "Mohegan-Pequot Relationships, as Indicated by the Events Leading to the Pequot Massacre of 1637 and Subsequent Claims in the Mohegan Land Controversy," Archaeological Society of Connecticut Bulletin 21 (1947): 26-33.
  • Michelson, Truman D. "Notes on Algonquian Language," International Journal of American Linguistics 1 (1917): 56-57.
  • Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).
  • Rouse, Irving. "Ceramic Traditions and Sequences in Connecticut," Archaeological Society of Connecticut Bulletin 21 (1947).
  • Oberg, Michael. Uncas: First of the Mohegans (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003).
  • Simmons, William S. Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620-1984 (Dartmouth, NH: University Press of New England, 1986).
  • Snow, Dean R. and Kim M. Lamphear. "European Contact and Indian Depopulation in the Northeast: The Timing of the First Epidemics," Ethnohistory 35 (1988): 16-38.
  • Spiero, Arthur E., and Bruce E. Speiss. "New England Pandemic of 1616-1622: Cause and Archaeological Implication," Man in the Northeast 35 (1987): 71-83.
  • Vaughan, Alden T. "Pequots and Puritans: The Causes of the War of 1637," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd Ser., Vol. 21, No. 2 (Apr., 1964), pp. 256-269; also republished in Roots of American Racism: Essays on the Colonial Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
  • _______. New England Frontier: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1980) (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995 Reprint).

External links

Search another word or see Pequoton Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature