One version of the American Dream come true—or, depending on your viewpoint, of perfect revenge.
In 1637, writes former Washington Post financial reporter Fromson, a mixed party of Englishmen and Mohegans attacked the capital of the Pequot Indians near what is now Saybrook, Connecticut, set it afire in a “hellish inferno” (is there another kind?), and killed some 400 men, women, and children. Though other Pequot people survived, their nation was effectively destroyed, and three centuries later their postage stamp of a reservation was a camp numbering only a few Pequot families augmented by “poor whites, blacks, and others at the bottom of the New England social ladder” who intermarried back and forth, in time producing lines of descendants with little Native blood. Recognition in the mid-1970s by the Connecticut state government, then under Gov. Ella Grasso, if only for the purposes of revenue sharing, helped the Pequot tribe reestablish itself as a political entity, though its spokesman identified only 32 men, women, and children, “most his close relations,” as truly Pequot. Enter the casino-building boom of the early Reagan years, when the tribe established a high-stakes bingo operation, and soon “more and more people sought membership in the new tribe,” many of mixed African-American and Pequot ancestry. Though some of the old guard opposed their enrolment—“the goddam niggers are going to take over this place,” complained the tribal chairman’s father—the “new black Pequots” were eventually admitted. Funding from Asian investors brought about a massive expansion of the tribe’s gaming operations in the ’90s, producing more than $150 million in annual revenues for its members, who had grown to some 600 as of 1998—making them, in the words of one Pequot, “the luckiest tribe in history,” if the objects of scrutiny and no small controversy.
An engaging exploration of the tangled politics surrounding Native American affairs—and an inspiration, no doubt, to other disenfranchised and forgotten groups.