QUEBEC-RESEARCH-L ArchivesArchiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2005-04 > 1113004720
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2005 19:58:40 EDT
Family Protests its Exclusion From Mashantucket Rolls
Symonds Clan Members Cite ‘proud Pequot' Ancestry, Want Tribal Rights
Mashantucket— Members of the Symonds family marched along the edge of the
Mashantucket Pequot reservation Thursday to protest continued exclusion from a
tribe they say has “used” their ancestry to build itself into one of the
world's wealthiest Indian nations.
Displaying poster-board messages such as “Weare the Mashantuckets,” and “We
want our schooling and our good jobs,” 25 people of various ages and skin
tones walked along Route 214 from Route 2 to Pequot Trail. They passed an
access road to Foxwoods Resort Casino, the enterprise that has made the people
they claim as relatives some of the wealthiest of Native Americans.
“We've been pushed aside for so long,” said Wilma Smith of Pawtucket, R.I. “
It's time we take a stand.” She limped along the protest route on a foot
brace, having recently undergone surgery.
“Anything for my people,” she said.
The Symondses document their presence on the Pequot reservation from the
1700s to 1858. Members say they are descendants of Simeon Simonds, who helped
George Washington cross the Delaware River, and that they can trace their Pequot
roots to Robin Cassacinamon, an 18th-century tribal leader who helped
re-establish the reservation following the Pequot War. Those who carry the family
name spell it several ways, including Symonds, Simonds, Simons and Simmons.
Mashantucket leaders have acknowledged the Symonds family's Pequot roots and
at times tribal councilors have promised to help “bring them home.” But to
date the tribe has not enrolled the Symondses — who number at least 250 and
maybe as many as 500 — because their ancestors were not listed as reservation
citizens on the 1900 or 1910 federal census on which the tribe based its
enrollment when it re-emerged in the 1980s.
The Symondses say the Mashantuckets are currently limited to one family line
— the Georges — but that there are actually seven core families.
The tribe, which numbers about 800, closed its enrollment in 1996 to all but
the children of current members. In a letter to Symonds family member Agnes
Price last month, Mashantucket Chairman Michael Thomas said there was nothing
he could do unless members amend the constitution.
“We have Congress to blame,” said Ormond Northup, who is married to Pequot
tribal member Corinne Northup, sister of Tribal Vice Chairman Kenneth M.
Reels. “If they went through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they would have done
the core genealogy.”
Northup and others said some enrolled members of the tribe do not even meet
the Mashantuckets' own criteria. The Mashantuckets were federally recognized
by Act of Congress in 1983 rather than by the BIA's office of federal
acknowledgment, which conducts extensive research to determine tribes' legitimacy.
Once a tribe is federally acknowledged it is free to set its own enrollment
Symonds family member Jeanine Hall said the Mashantucket chairman's recent
letter acknowledged her ancestors were “proud Pequots.”
“It's all about money,” she said of the continued exclusion. “We're a big
Mashantucket spokesmen J. Cedric Woods and Arthur Henick delivered a written
statement from the tribe to the protest site. The statement said the Symonds
family has petitioned to join the tribe in the past, and the criterion for
citizenship is ancestry traced to residency on the reservation in the 1900 and
1910 U.S. Census rolls.
“Around the world, there are Indians who claim Pequot heritage but do not
meet the main criterion as citizens of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation,”
the statement said. “Chairman Michael Thomas has met with members of the
Simonds family several times in the past, and their petition was reviewed
following those meetings. The tribe wishes to maintain friendly relations with the
Several passersby, including Mashantucket tribal members and employees,
beeped and waved to the protesters. But overall, the Symondses said they felt the
Mashantuckets were ignoring them and that they would have liked to speak
with somebody from the Tribal Council. Six family members are traveling to
Washington later this month to meet with BIA staff members, according to Kate
Trombley-Robinson, wife of Symonds descendant Brian Robinson.
“I've been in touch with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the ACLU
(American Civil Liberties Union) and congressional leaders,” she said. The
Symondses also are considering staging another protest soon with “seven busloads
of family members.” Family members had worked out details of Thursday's
demonstration prior to the event with Ledyard's resident state trooper, Sgt. Todd
Lynch. Lynch and a Ledyard police officer followed the marchers in cruisers
and briefly stopped traffic when the group crossed intersections. Members of
the Mashantucket Tribal Police set up a post at the intersection of Route 214
and Pequot Trail.
Like Northup, whose marriage to a tribal member permits him to live on the
Mashantucket reservation, many of the protesters have close ties to the
Mashantucket Pequots. Some are members of the Narragansett tribe who are related to
Sebastian family members who renounced their Narragansett membership to join
the Mashantuckets. The family resemblance is evident in their facial features
and coloring, which one woman said has been described as “miles of ruddy,”
or glowing skin.
Gloria J. Hazard said she wouldn't give up her Narragansett membership —
American Indians can belong to only one federally recognized tribe — but that
her children would like to take advantage of the many opportunities available to
“My kids want to be Pequots,” she said.
Her daughter, Leona Hazard, is a mother of three who worked for the
Mashantuckets for 10 years.
“There's more opportunities here — schooling, day care and job
opportunities,” she said. “It's my birthright. I belong here.”