Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS Author Takes On Rich Indian Tribe
(Are Pequots Really Pequots?)
60 Minutes II 23May00 P2
LEDYARD, CONNECTICUT -- An LDS author has taken a look at the richest tribe
of American Indians and called foul. Jeff Benedict, a Boston law student,
says in his new book, "Without Reservation" that Connecticut's Pequot tribe
is a farce, contending that tribe leaders decieved the Federal government to
gain recognition as a tribe, millions in Federal funding and permission to
open a casino in the state.
In 1994, CBS News looked at the tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot, which had
been considered by some extinct for more than 300 years. But in the 1970s,
Skip Hayward, a enterprising former pipefitter, grandson to the last
remaining resident of the Pequot reservation, moved there when his
grandmother died. He hired a lawyer and sued the state of Connecticut over
land claims and persuaded the U.S. Congress to recognize the Pequot as a
tribe. The fledgling group eventually landed on the idea of opening a
high-stakes bingo parlor with a loan from the Federal Bureau of Indian
Affairs. By 1994 the resulting casino was bringing in more than $300 million
Benedict contends that the whole thing is a fraud, "This group of people
isn't the same Pequots that inhabited Connecticut a couple hundred years
ago," he says. "They're not even close." After two years of researching
court records and census tracts, Benedict says that these Pequot's can't
trace their bloodlines to the original tribe. Initially, the new group said
that anyone that could prove at least one of his or her
great-great-grandparents were listed in the tribal census of 1910, could
join the tribe. CBS News says that the tribe has since dropped even that
In "Without Reservation," Benedict further contends that the tribe had
ceased to exist, hadn't functioned for decades by the 1970s, and that even
Hayward had identified himself as white or Caucasian on public documents. He
says that what Hayward and the rest of the current group did is simply
unethical, "Frankly to go to the Congress of the United States and to
portray yourself as something that you're not and to get benefits, dollars,
as a result of it...is fraudulent." At one point, joining the tribe made you
eligible for comfortable housing, free college tuition and a tribal job
starting at $60,000 a year plus bonuses.
Naturally, these contentions provoke an emotional reaction from Hayward,
"That is the biggest crock of crap I've ever heard in my life," he responds.
"(Benedict) is nothing but a damn lunatic. I mean either someone has paid
him to do this....Or he is an Indian hater, who can't stand what we've been
able to accomplished here."
But at least Benedict has touched a chord with neighbors of the Pequots'
casino. Fed up with the traffic and congestion and the tribe's plan to annex
more land, they are asking for a Congressional investigation of the Pequots'
credentials. "What ever happened to one nation under God indivisible?" asks
neighbor Bob Congdon, of Preston, Conn. "I have a real problem with this
country being set up where there are different rights for different groups -
different privileges, different immunities."