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).
North American Indian people now living in eastern Connecticut, U.S. Pequot is an Algonquian language, and the name is derived from an Algonquian word meaning “destroyers.” Pequot subsistence was based on corn cultivation, hunting, and fishing. The people were at one time united with the Mohegan. For a brief period the Pequot lived amicably with the American colonists, but relations became strained as land pressures grew. Puritan clergymen encouraged violence against the Pequot as infidels, and in 1636 war broke out, resulting in large losses for both sides. Further destruction of the Pequot resulted when the remaining tribal members were placed under the control of other tribes. In 1655 the few remaining Pequot were resettled on the Mystic River. Early 21st-century population estimates indicated some 3,000 Pequot descendants.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Nearly all individuals who are identified as Pequot live in the two above-named communities.
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.
, Karen O. Providence Island, 1630-1641: The Other Puritan Colony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).