What is the Mohegan Tribe?

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  • Written By: Brenda Scott
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In 1620, when the Pilgrims arrived in New England, the Pequot Tribe was located nearby on the Thames River in Connecticut. The Pequot were under the leadership of a sachem, or head chief by the name of Sassacus. There was a rebellion in the tribe led by a sub-chief named Uncas over how to respond to European settlement. Uncas broke with the Piquet and led his followers to another village where he founded the Native American Mohegan Tribe. Uncas formed an alliance with the white settlers, and after the defeat of the Pequot in the Pequot War of 1637, he became chief of both the Mohegan and remaining Pequot.

Like other northern natives, the Mohegan Tribe lived along the water in wigwams and longhouses built of poles covered with bark. They hunted, fished, farmed and traveled in birch bark dugout canoes. They remained allies of the English against the French and managed to maintain their land and autonomy longer than many of their neighbors, but eventually much of their land was taken by white settlers.

In the eighteenth century, many Mohegan members converted to Christianity. Samson Occum was one of the first Indians to become an ordained Christian minister. He started a Christian Indian school and spent some time in England raising money from the King and other patrons to support the organization. He returned to the colonies only to find that his school had been taken over and moved to New Hampshire, where it eventually became Dartmouth College.


In 1827 the federal government demanded the relocation of all uncivilized and non-Christian tribes to western territories. One legacy Samson Occum left his people was a reputation for being a Christian tribe. To reinforce this, three tribal women established the Mohegan Church, and the Mohegan Tribe was exempted from the forced resettlement.

The Mohegan tribe received federal recognition as an independent nation in 1994 and finally settled its land claims with Connecticut. The nation has a constitution and is governed by a democratically elected nine-member Tribal Council and a seven-member Council of Elders. The Tribal Council oversees judicial and cultural matters and has legislative authority over tribal membership and enrollment. The Council of Elders has both executive and legislative power in areas specified in the constitution. The Tribe has two courts: the Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court, that hears cases regarding gambling, and the Mohegan Tribal Court, which hears all non-gaming issues.

The long heritage of community service and involvement is still very active in the Mohegan Tribe. They have a large gaming resort, spa and dining and retail area called the Mohegan Sun which provides jobs for many tribal members. The tribe uses revenues earned to support its own housing and other needs. Each year the tribe returns three-quarters of its federal monetary allotment to be redistributed to other Indian nations who are in greater need.

In addition, the Mohegan Tribe and the Pequot Tribe, who own the two Indian casinos in the state, have voluntarily agreed to give 25% of their slot earnings to the State of Connecticut in lieu of the 8% corporate gaming tax. As a result, the tribes actually pay twice what their corporate tax would be and are the largest source of revenue for the state next to the federal government. The Mohegan Tribe believes that it has an obligation to care for its own, and has made numerous donations and grants to schools, hospitals and other community services.


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