sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 2, 2005

farewell, gladys tantaquidgeon!
posted by soe 6:45 pm

I was saddened to learn last night that Gladys Tantaquidgeon has died.

Of course the old medicine woman was 106, so it’s not like it was surprising or anything.

I met Gladys only once, through a grad class I took on Native Americans. She came to talk to us about how difficult it is to get tribal recognition because the ways tribes and the federal government keep records differ so drastically. What might have been considered a legitimate document by a tribe was dismissed by the government as unofficial. And so Gladys, as a trained anthropologist, was really an anomaly– and a blessing to her tribe — in her ability to work through fragments and documents and other ephemera.

You see, it was her boxes of names and dates and family trees that enabled the Mohegan tribe to be recognized by the U.S. government.

No matter your take on casinos, it is not unreasonable to expect that your ethnic heritage be honored. And very few people have to do more than make a statement saying, “I’m Irish,” for people to believe they are, in fact, Irish. In fact, a number of people had their racial background thrust upon them in the South where the terms octoroon and quadroon long outlasted slavery. But people who wanted to be federally recognized as a member of a tribe had to somehow prove their authenticity.

Gladys Tantaquidgeon made it possible for many Mohegans who had spread out over New England to reclaim their identity. She believed in the integrity of her people and her culture long before anyone thought to involve gambling with it. She moved back to the western Connecticut area to help remember the good parts of growing up Mohegan and to create a family museum celebrating all that came with that heritage.

So, Gladys, may your spirit live comfortably in the afterlife, knowing that your work — and your tribe — will carry on.

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