Jewish World Review
Oct. 23, 2000 / 24 Tishrei, 5761
Tribulations of a dubious 'tribe'
THE MASHANTUCKET PEQUOTS are in
trouble again. And with the new
controversy, an old question
resurfaces: If an Indian tribe isn't really
Indian, why does the federal
government allow it to take advantage of
special programs, legal exemptions, and
enormous wealth? A few months ago, I
reviewed "Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe
and Foxwoods, the World's Largest Casino,"
by investigative journalist and attorney Jeff
Benedict. The book exposes the dubious
historical claims of the Mashantucket Pequot
tribe and its founder, Skip Hayward. Hayward
had never lived on an Indian reservation, never
called himself an Indian, and never showed any
interest in embracing his alleged roots until
some clever lawyers created an opportunity to
turn his grandmother's land in Ledyard, Conn.,
into a gambling mecca.
According to Benedict's research, Hayward's
grandmother may not have been connected to
the Pequots at all -- but instead, had remote
links to the Narragansett Indians of Rhode
Island. In 1983, against the objections of
skeptical Reagan administration officials,
Congress granted Hayward and nearly 200
family members official tribal status without
ever verifying the clan's genealogical claims.
The Pequots annexed hundreds of acres of
additional land and finagled key regulatory
exemptions from clueless state officials (including then-Connecticut
attorney general Joseph Lieberman). Seventeen years later, the Pequots
run the world's largest gambling complex, Foxwoods, which reported
more than $300 million in revenue in the first five months of this year
alone and continues to take in an estimated $1 million a day.
Congress has never sought the truth about the Pequots. Connecticut's
congressional delegation ignores calls from local officials and residents
to investigate the tribe. Democrat Rep. Sam Gejdenson, who authored
the bill that granted the Pequots federal status and all its attendant
benefits, has been unresponsive to inquiring media and to his own
constituents in the district where he is running for re-election this year.
|Purchasing this book|
-- linked in 1st paragraph --
helps fund JWR
"He was somewhat aloof when he sponsored the legislation, and now
that it's 17 years after the fact and it's pretty well proven that the
legislation has enormous problems, he's nowhere to be found," author
Benedict recently told The Hill, a weekly D.C.-based newspaper.
When I spoke with a staffer from Gejdenson's office in June, he
questioned why I was writing about the Pequots' origins and dismissed it
as a "local" issue of little interest to the rest of the nation. He said he
would get back to me. I'm still waiting for the call.
Meanwhile, the Pequots are in the national headlines again. A new audit
by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector
general reports that the wealthy tribe used a government health program
intended for low-income Indians to acquire $7.1 million in heavily
discounted prescription drugs for non-Indian casino employees and their
The federal drug discount program was initially established to help
American military veterans pay for prescription medicines, but was
expanded to cover federally recognized tribes. The Pequots have
parlayed their casino empire into a number of expansive enterprises,
including a $15 million-a-year mail-order prescription drug business with
more than 2 million subscribers and a pharmaceutical network that
dispenses discounted drugs to 16 other tribes.
The HHS audit (which can be found on the Internet at
how the Pequots failed to follow federal guidelines for determining
eligibility in the drug program. The inspector general noted that the tribe's
violations could undermine support for the program -- hurting the truly
needy (and truly Indian) Indians who participate in it.
The Pequots have refused to respond to the feds' request to cease
dispensing the drugs to non-Indians. A tribal spokesman, Arthur Henick,
told the press that Foxwoods' non-Indian employees are "members of
the tribal family" and, therefore, entitled to the federally discounted drugs.
Washington is responsible for helping breed this incorrigible arrogance.
If this "tribe," which never was required to document its origins as
required by law, can continue to scam taxpayers with impunity, what's to
stop others from donning feathers and headdresses, claiming Indian
status, and cashing in? It's time for Congress to investigate and rein in
JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate