NLM healing totem journey – about Uncasville, CT (Mohegan Tribe)

From Syracuse and the Onondaga, it was on to Uncasville, CT, home of the Mohegan Tribe for the NLM Healing Totem.

The Mohegan were originally part of the Delaware Tribe in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York and called themselves the Wolf Clan. They changed their name to Mohegan shortly after migrating to the Thames River Valley in southeastern Connecticut and just before Europeans arrived in the area in the mid-17th century.

Contact with the early settlers proved fatal. The Mohegan lost almost 30 percent of the tribe in two smallpox epidemics. It was during this period that their great chief, Uncas, rose to prominence and forged a short-lived political and cultural identity for the tribe.

A small stone building made of granite fieldstones houses the Tantaquidgeon Museum

The Historic Tantaquidgeon Museum opened in 1931. (Courtesy of the Mohegan Tribe)

However, after 1790, and in violation of a law signed by U.S. President George Washington, the State of Connecticut began seizing and selling tribal lands. By 1861, the Mohegans petitioned for freedom from the state-appointed overseers who were selling off their lands, but it was too late. By 1872, the tribe held only their Mohegan Church and Shantok burial ground.

In the 20th century, with its members scattered to the four directions, Mohegan culture almost vanished. Practically against all hope, tribal leaders strove to hang on and, in 1931 John Tantaquidgeon and his children, Harold and Gladys, stepped forward to found the Tantaquidgeon Museum, which became the repository of Mohegan artifacts and the center of its culture.

The statue of Dr. Gladys Iola Tantaquidgeon shows a small, elderly woman in traditional dress holding an offering

Dr. Gladys Iola Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan Medicine Woman and Co-founder of the Historic Tantaquidgeon Museum, lived from June 15, 1899 to November 1, 2005. (Courtesy of the Mohegan Tribe)

Subsequently, in the 1970s Mohegan leaders formalized a tribal constitution and applied for federal recognition as a tribe. Despite a setback in 1989 denying the tribe federal status, Mohegan leaders persisted and in 1994, the Mohegans gained U.S. government recognition. The tribe then settled their land claims going back to 1790 with Connecticut, which acknowledged the tribe’s right to pursue economic development on their own terms, including casino gambling, on their reservation.

Today there are about 1700 members and the tribe operates the popular Mohegan Sun casino and resort.

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