ABORIGINAL INDIGENOUS : Black Indians Strike it Rich
NEW YORK, Apr 4 1999 (IPS) - Who is, and who is not an Indian is a subject of debate among the 2.5 million Native Americans – few of whom can claim to be “pure blood.” One tribe of so-called ‘black indians’, who have both Indian and African-American ancestry, have now become the focus of discussion about Indian identity. The racially-mixed Mashantucket Pequot Indians may be small in number – there are currently only 502 officially registered members – but they comprise the richest, most powerful Indian community in the United States. They own Foxwoods Resort Casino, situated about 30 miles south of Hartford, the capital of Connecticut state – about a one hour’s drive from either New York or Boston. The casino grosses more than a billion dollars a year, much of which, the Mashantucket Pequots say, has gone towards rebuilding Indian life in the United States. They cite, for example, the 200 million dollar Indian museum they recently built on their reservation, and the annual festival they host on their reservation which draws around 50,000 Indians from 500 tribes from across the U.S. and Canada.
Yet, despite all of this, the Mashantuckets are viewed by many as falling short of being truly Native American, says Arlene Hirschfelder, author of The Native American Almanac.
“There are Native American people who react to tribal groups who’ve inter-married with blacks. They’re criticised for not having their language and traditions. They see them as people without a culture.
I look at it as these Pequot people are trying to re-learn who they are.”