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    Saturday, January 28, 2023

    Tribes urge passage of upcoming bill mandating teaching of Native American studies

    Mashantucket — Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, urged passage Monday of a soon-to-be-proposed bill mandating the teaching of Native American studies in Connecticut public schools.

    Five state-recognized Indian tribes, including the Mashantuckets, voiced support for the proposal, which state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, plans to submit for a second time when the legislature convenes early next year. Tribal representatives were to join Osten on Monday at a press conference outside the State Capitol but the event was postponed amid inclement weather.

    The bill originally came up for a public hearing in March, just days before the 2020 legislative session stalled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Butler said Connecticut’s Native American tribes have “a long and storied history,” noting a sculpture on the Capitol’s north face memorializes Maj. John Mason, who led English forces that nearly wiped out the Pequot tribe in the 1637 “Massacre at Mystic,” the climactic battle of the Pequot War.

    “The Pequots persevered over centuries of subjugation to become one of the largest employers in Connecticut, establishing and operating Foxwoods Resort Casino, a worldwide entertainment destination,” Butler said.

    Osten has said she will seek the removal of the Mason sculpture, which some see as inappropriate, from the Capitol. A 19th-century statue of Mason, originally located in Mystic and moved to Windsor in 1995, is to be moved to another location in that town after renewed opposition from those who see it as a symbol of white colonialism and racism.

    Other tribal representatives issued remarks in support of Osten’s bill, including Beth Regan, vice chairwoman of the Mohegan Tribe's council of elders; Katherine Sebastian Dring, chairwoman of the Eastern Pequot Tribe; Leon Brown of the Golden Hill Paugussett Tribe; and Richard Velke, chief of the Schaghticoke Tribe.

    "As a retired social studies educator of 35-plus years at Tolland High School, I, with the assistance of my Mohegan Tribe and others, wrote and taught a Native American Studies course and curriculum that has endured for two decades,” Regan said. “I can tell you firsthand that students have not only benefited but have been inspired by this. Additionally, I can tell you they have also yearned for the true history of our first nations to be heard.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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