Losing ground: Land loss among the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribes in the nineteenth century

Date of Completion

January 2009


History, United States|Native American Studies




In the nineteenth century, the Mashpee Wampanoags of Massachusetts and the Mashantucket Pequots of Connecticut were each subjected to close scrutiny by legislative committees appointed by their respective state governments. The Mashpee were praised by their committee as an example of a successful Native American community that deserved to be rewarded with autonomy and American citizenship, while the Pequots were condemned by their committee as a failed community destined only for extinction. Despite the difference in the committees' decisions, both tribes lost the majority of their lands as a result of those decisions. This dissertation is a study of how this process occurred, focusing on the relationships that existed between the tribes, their state-appointed guardians, and the Anglo-American towns surrounding their reservations in a complex struggle for land and autonomy. The guardians were invariably men living in those Anglo-American communities, and how they reconciled their duties to the tribes with their loyalty to their own friends and families inevitably had a tremendous impact on the futures of the Pequots and the Mashpee. ^