Published on January 4, 2013 by Amy
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The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut is a federally recognized tribe and sovereign tribal nation of Mohegan people (pronounced /ˈmoʊhiːɡæn/). Their reservation is the Mohegan Indian Reservation, located on the Thames River in Uncasville, Connecticut. Mohegan’s independence as a sovereign nation has been highlighted by treaties and laws for over 350 years, such as the Treaty of Hartford secured by their Sachem (Chief) Uncas after his cooperation and victory with the English in the Pequot War. Even though the Treaty of Hartford established English recognition of the tribe’s sovereignty in 1638, the Federal government of the United States did not recognize the tribe until 1994.
The Mohegan Tribe’s Council of Elders adopted the following Vision Statement in 1997:
The early 1600s was a critical time of change for Connecticut tribes. The pressure from rapidly expanding European settlements created competition for land and resources, while disease was decimating Indian populations at an alarming rate. Within the Pequot Tribe at that time, a dispute erupted between the Pequot Sachem (head chief) Sassacus and Uncas. Uncas left with his followers, calling themselves Mohegan, or Wolf People, like their ancestors. Each tribe had its own idea of how to deal with European conflicts.
Uncas (1598-1683) became Sachem of the Mohegan Tribe, which favored collaboration with the English. The Pequots under Sassacus chose to fight them, with other local tribes taking sides. Seeing the loss brought on by continued fighting, Uncas befriended the European invaders. This controversial decision left Uncas and the Mohegans in an uneasy alliance with the English in an ensuing war with the Pequots. But staying true to their word, the Mohegans helped the English defeat the Pequots.
Uncas settled his people in a village at Shantok, which the Tribe defended from a Narragansett invasion sparked by European as well as Indian conflicts. Finally, the Mohegan Tribe’s affiliation with the English kept its people relatively safe during King Philip’s war and beyond.
The Mohegan Tribe has used its sovereignty to perpetuate an independent governmental structure since before Europeans arrived in America. The Mohegan Government has evolved to confidently exercise full civil and criminal jurisdiction over their lands using the Constitution of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut. Mohegan Nation is governed by the Mohegan people, who are represented by the elections of a Tribal Council of nine Tribal Members and a Council of Elders composed of seven Tribal Members. All legislative and executive powers of the Tribe not granted to the Council of Elders are vested with the Tribal Council. The Council of Elders oversees judicial matters and the tribe’s cultural integrity. The Council of Elders also exercises legislative powers with respect to tribal membership and enrollment. The Tribal Court adjudicates on all non-gaming matters.
Mohegan Nation utilized its cooperative relationship with the State of Connecticut to begin negotiating a gaming compact following the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, that progressed to the opening of Mohegan Sun in 1996, two years after gaining federal recognition. The compact created between Connecticut and the Mohegan Tribe secured 25 percent of slot revenues to the state to help fund services and became a historical agreement by making Connecticut’s Native American tribes the state’s largest source of revenue outside of the federal government. The government-to-government relationships that have developed between Connecticut and Mohegan have produced quick resolutions to concerns that have been raised such as: indoor smoking, alcohol service, and state police presence.
The Mohegan Tribe has utilized gaming as an effective economic engine for the development of the Tribe, its members, and the surrounding communities. Mohegan Sun employs about 10,000 individuals internally, while utilizing hundreds of small and medium-sized vendors and local companies that also employ thousands of individuals. Employees of the Tribes and Casinos pay all federal and state income taxes as well as other employment taxes, providing tens of millions of dollars more to the state and federal government.
As mandated by federal law and the Mohegan Tribe’s Constitution and laws, profits from Native American gaming go to support the health, education, welfare, and infrastructure of tribal governments. Although tribes are entitled to certain federal grants, by 1997 the Mohegan Tribe was in a position to return or reject funds, beginning with $2.2 million in grant funds that went back to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to be redistributed to other Native American nations.
Since its opening in October 1996, Mohegan Sun has generated some amazing numbers for Connecticut’s economy: