Categories: Colonization and Settlement, Imagining Connecticut, Native Americans, Pequot War

Algonquin Man 1645

Twenty-three-year old Virginia Algonquian man

Unus Americanus ex Virginia. Aetat 23, Twenty-three-year old Virginia Algonquian man, half-length portrait – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The Native American presence in Connecticut represents an important part of our state’s heritage. The Algonquin title refers to a large group of native peoples occupying territories including Canada and New England, as well as the plains states.  These groups are connected primarily by commonalities in language.  Southeastern Connecticut is one of the locales within the state that is very active in terms of Native American affairs.  For example, native peoples have continuously occupied the Mashantucket region for over 10,000 years.  The Pequot tribe is one of the most prominent occupants of this area.  In the early 17th century, just before European contact, the tribe had approximately 8,000 members and inhabited 250 square miles (160,000 acres). The Pequot War of 1636-1639, a conflict with arriving colonists, had a devastating effect on the tribe.  In the following years battles to keep their land and other various forces almost decimated the Pequots.  By 1774 there were only 151 tribal members in Mashantucket.  By the early 1800s, that number had dipped to somewhere between 30 and 40 members. In 1856 the Pequots suffered under illegal land sales that brought their holdings from 989 acres to only 213.  After centuries of declining numbers, in the early 1970s, the Mashantucket Pequots began a revival.  Tribal members moved back to their ancestral lands hoping to restore their community, develop economic self-sufficiency, and revitalize their tribal culture.  In 1983 the tribe was granted federal recognition and the land that had been illegally seized was restored.  The Mashantucket Pequot Reservation currently holds 1250 acres and is one of the oldest continuously occupied Indian reservations on North America.

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