When I worked in public relations at Foxwoods, some of the most common questions I received from news reporters were about the Pequot’s relationship with the Mohegan tribe, as well as any other New England tribe who might one day build a casino of their own.
“Are you guys worried about future competition?”
“What if that tribe expands their business across the river?”
“What if those tribes build resorts near Boston?”
I usually replied in a way that let people know we not only embrace other tribes, we also wished them well in their endeavors. There’s a very good reason for that.
When Foxwoods opened to the public, our tribal council recognized our success was not simply “all about us”. Our newfound fortune represented something radically unique and unusual – an opportunity for tribes across the country to create sustainable economic development for their own people. If it worked for us, perhaps it might work for them.
The Mashantucket Pequots had a legal monopoly in the early nineties. We did not have to re-open our gaming compact with the state of Connecticut to allow another tribe to build another resort. We chose to do it, and the rest is history. Now, with more than 240 tribes operating 460 casinos in 28 states, Indian gaming has mushroomed into a $27 billion dollar industry in only 20 years, and it all began right here at Mashantucket.
So when I read a national news article about our tribal council chairman and the Mohegan tribe’s chairman coming together to build lasting relationships and inter-tribal unity, and share resources to address common issues, I was encouraged! After all, building unity between our tribes has not been easy, because historically, the Pequots, Mohegans and Narragansetts were often as much bitter rivals as they were brotherly neighbors.
Each spring, our tribe commemorates the Pequots’ survival of one of the very first genocidal massacres against an Indian tribe within what we now know as the continental United States. Nearly 400 years ago, the Mohegans and Narragansetts joined forces with the English against the Pequots and murdered approximately 400 Pequot women, children and elders in less than one hour. So are we finally over it? Have we really set aside our respective grudges so we can focus our energies on forgiveness, friendship, and unity?
As more and more cultural and recreational tribal unity events are planned to bring local tribes together, there appears to be a growing conscious effort to get to know one another and build positive relationships. But let’s face it…if our tribes are serious about building relationships and if these unity efforts are authentic, the resulting effects really ought to permeate our communities as well as our resort enterprises.
It’s my hope that by encouraging authentic inter-tribal unity, we might squelch the potential for any hypocritical actions of non-tribal executives and business consultants who may scramble and scheme behind closed doors, squandering each tribe’s resources in self-serving attempts to one-up and out bid each other in marketing sponsorships, advertising and brand placement efforts. Granted, that kind of activity would represent a worst-case scenario…but I’m just saying.
I want to know what you think. Are inter-tribal unity events working to foster real unity among tribes? Have we really let bygones be bygones and buried the hatchet from offenses that happened hundreds of years ago? Are there ways we can do better, and if so, how?