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    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    Eastern Pequot elder Wilson: Answering the call to help his people

    Eastern Pequot Tribal Elder Lawrence “Larry” Wilson. (Photo courtesy Wolf Matthewson)

    Lawrence E. (Larry) Wilson III had gone out into the world and established himself professionally, when he was first called home to help his tribe.

    Now, as an elder, Wilson, 71, again is helping the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and bringing his years of experience.

    Wilson, who grew up in Mystic, graduated from Robert E. Fitch High School and was one of the first recipients of the Dr. Martin Luther King Scholarship Trust Fund.

    Wilson said he descended from a boy, Henry Wilson, who was enslaved, stowed away on a clipper ship to escape slavery and then raised by a sea captain in Mystic. Henry Wilson married Mary Murillo Sebastian, who was half Pequot and half Cape Verdean, and they are Larry Wilson’s great-grandparents.

    Wilson majored in economics and music at Drew University in Madison, N.J. before earning his M.B.A. from the Wharton School.

    Wilson’s career included working as a corporate spokesperson for Philip Morris, working on client contracts for a small consulting firm in Glastonbury, and working as a car dealer. He worked for the School of Visual Arts in New York, having a prosperous career there for about 7 years, but he changed course when his father, Lawrence Wilson, Jr., gave him a parting message.

    “It is time for you to come home and help your people,” Wilson recalled his father saying.

    Three months after Wilson’s father died, the vice chairman of the tribe, Mark Sebastian, called Wilson and said he was needed to serve as CEO in charge of federal recognition for the tribe.

    Wilson said he led the team to achieve recognition and raise money to pay for the genealogists, historians, legal team, and lobbyists. He said he built on the foundation set by Roy Sebastian, then chairman of the tribe, and Roy’s brother, William Sebastian.

    “We are the only tribe today who was granted federal acknowledgment only to have it reversed for unfair, unjust, and very political reasons,” said Wilson.

    The Eastern Pequot Tribe earned federal recognition in 2002, but in 2005 the U.S. Department of the Interior reversed its decision. The tribal council in July approved a statement to ask the U.S. Department to reaffirm the recognition.

    Wilson said he has returned as a tribal councilor in a quest to reestablish recognition. While the council shares the responsibility for that effort, as an elder, he is looked to for his experience.

    Wilson is managing director for The Wilson Organization for diversity, equity and inclusion, a small Providence, R.I. consulting firm that he established as a way to give back.

    Wilson has two children, Lawrence Wilson IV and Jillian Gloria Wilson.

    Wilson said he and his sister, Elder Joyce Wilson Wallace, treasurer of the Council of Elders, live by an adage, said by their mother, Elsie M. Wilson, near the end of her life: “To always remember this: there’s reason to find joy, hope, fulfillment, and love, and gratitude in each and every day. All you need to do is look for it.”

    k.drelich@theday.com

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