[Congressional Record Volume 145, Number 90 (Wednesday, June 23, 1999)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1365-E1366]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                           HON. SAM GEJDENSON

                             of connecticut

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, June 23, 1999

  Mr. GEJDENSON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join every member of the 
Mohegan Tribe and countless residents across southeastern Connecticut 
in wishing a very happy 100th birthday to Gladys Tantaquidgeon. Gladys 
is an extraordinary figure in the history of the Mohegan Tribe and 
something of an institution in our area of Connecticut.
  Gladys was born June 15, 1899 and has lived in southeastern 
Connecticut for the past fifty years. She is an accomplished author, 
anthropologist and historian. She is widely recognized for her work 
researching and chronicling herbal medicines used by Native American 
tribes up and down the east coast of the United States. She is most 
well known in our area for helping to found, and maintaining for so 
many years, the Tantaquidgeon Museum--the oldest Indian-run museum in 
America today. Along with her father and brother, Gladys founded the 
museum in 1931. Over more than six decades, Gladys--often single-
handedly--maintained and expanded the museum. Thanks to her hard work 
and dedication, thousands upon thousands of school children have 
learned about Native American and Mohegan history. I have attached an 
article about Gladys from the New London Day which I request be 
included following my remarks.
  Mr. Speaker, on behalf of residents across eastern Connecticut I want 
to thank Gladys Tantaquidgeon for a century of dedication to Native 
Americans across our country.

                [From the New London Day, June 16, 1999]

                Celebrating a Life Lived for Her People

                           (By Karen Kaplan)

       Gladys Tantaquidgeon, one of Indian Country's most 
     venerated members, a keeper of Mohegan tribal culture, 
     longtime Mohegan Tribal Medicine Woman and a noted writer, 
     curator and herbalist, celebrated her 100th birthday Tuesday 
     with a gala party that gathered hundreds of friends, 
     relatives, tribal members and dignitaries.
       A crowd packed the tent set up late Tuesday morning on the 
     grounds of Shantok, Village of Uncas, the former Fort Shantok 
     State Park that is now part of the tribe's reservation.
       Tantaquidgeon, wearing a powder blue suit and seated to the 
     left of the podium at the front of the tent with her sister, 
     Ruth, received gifts on a blanket set in front of her. 
     Visitors said they were delighted to see Tantaquidgeon, as 
     there had been a question of whether she would be well enough 
     to attend.
       Because of her frailty Tantaquidgeon came to the party for 
     only an hour, and tribal officials did not permit visitors to 
     get close. Tantaquidgeon is perhaps best known as curator of 
     the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum, the oldest Indian-operated 
     museum in the country.
       The Mohegan Tribal Council, led by tribal Chairman Roland 
     J. Harris; the Mohegan Council of Elders, led by Carleton 
     Eichelberg; and Chief G'Tinemong, Ralph Sturges, greeted 
     Tantaquidgeon and guests upon their arrival and wished the 
     guest of honor a happy birthday.
       ``These girls have been around a long time,'' said Sturges 
     of the Tantaquidgeon sisters. ``They're very, very close to 
     the tribe and they helped me. . . . Gladys is a very 
     steadfast friend of mine. Happy birthday, and we'll catch up 
     to you someday, Gladdy.''
       Led by M.C. Bethany Seidel, daughter of Tribal Vice 
     Chairwoman Jayne Fawcett and sister of Tribal Historian 
     Melissa Fawcett, everyone in the tent next read ``Strawberry 
     Moon,'' an original poem written in honor of the centenarian. 
     Sidney J. Holbrook, Gov. John G. Rowland's co-chief of staff, 
     read a proclamation from Rowland that declared Tuesday to be 
     Gladys Tantaquidgeon Day in the state, prompting a huge roar 
     and lengthy applause from the crowd. ``This is a great day 
     for a great lady and a great people,'' he said.
       Kenneth Reels, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council chairman, 
     greeted Tantaquidgeon and wished her a happy birthday before 
     a brief talk.
       ``Thank you for all you've done for our people, thank you 
     for preserving the heritage of the Pequot people (and)keeping 
     our ways alive,'' he said, presenting her with an eagle 
     feather. ``The eagle climbs the highest, and also represents 
     balance, integrity and honor. We give this feather to you 
     because that's what you represent to us.''
       The Mashantuckets also gave Tantaquidgeon a large maroon-
     and-cream quilt embroidered with the tribe's familiar fox-
     and-tree logo and different scenes from the Mashantucket 
     Pequot reservation.
       James A. Cunha Jr., tribal chief of the Paucatuck Eastern 
     Pequots, greeted Tantaquidgeon and said he remembers his 
     grandfather telling stories about her when he was young. 
     Officials from other tribes also spoke, including the 
     Narragansetts of Rhode Island; the Schaghticokes of central 
     Connecticut; the Mashapee of Cape Cod and a representative 
     from the Connecticut Indian Council.
       Outside the ceremony, Harris said Tantaquidgeon exerted a 
     tremendous, positive influence on him as he was growing up.
       ``If I learned anything, she taught me never to give up,'' 
     he said. ``You always do what's right . . . The (Mohegan 
     Tribal) nation is truly where it is because of her.''
       Jayne Fawcett, who lived with her aunts Gladys and Ruth 
     while growing up during World War II, said she could not 
     overestimate the role her aunt Gladys played in her life. 
     Fawcett said Tantaquidgeon was a pioneer for women's rights 
     and accomplishments long before they became a political 
       Fawcett pointed out that Tantaquidgeon was the first 
     American Indian to work for the federal Bureau of Indian 
     Affairs, and also was the curator of the federal Museum of 
     Natural History and ran the federal Indian Arts and Crafts 
       ``She was responsible for working with Indian people and 
     helping them to bring back (their) traditions,'' Fawcett 
       ``She was one of the ones who refused to ride in the back 
     of the bus,'' Fawcett said. ``She appeared on national radio 
     in the '30s, and her book on natural herbal remedies has 
     become a standard. She fought to preserve traditional 
     ceremonies and to preserve our old stories and the meaning of 
     our ancient symbols. These are some of the things I think she 
     will be remembered for.
       ``This was being done at a time when women simply didn't do 
     these things. Women didn't go to college, and they didn't 
     strike out on their own, let alone minority women,'' Fawcett 
     added. ``The encouragement she's given to so many tribal 
     members, to seek higher education, myself included, has 
     helped strengthen us as a nation. Certainly she has served as 
     a strong role model in that respect.''
       Fawcett said Tantaquidgeon's dedication to the Mohegan 
     tribe and its culture and history was so complete that she 
     never married.
       ``Everything was focused on preserving and teaching--not 
     only Mohegans and (other) Indians but non-Indians as well--
     about Mohegans,'' Fawcett said. ``All of us felt for awhile 
     that we might have been on the brink of extinction, and this 
     made her work even more important.''
       Tantaquidgeon, whose accomplishments were recognized last 
     year in a book, ``Remarkable Women of the 20th Century: 100 
     Portraits of Achievement,'' played a major role in the 
     Mohegans' successful bid for federal recognition, a status 
     that made it possible for them to build a casino. Letters and 
     documents she stored in Tupperware containers under her bed 
     have been credited as important pieces of history that helped 
     the tribe obtain federal recognition.
       After working with the BIA and the Indian Crafts Board in 
     the 1930s and '40s, she returned home in 1948 to help her 
     family run the museum. She wrote a book, ``Folk Medicine of 
     the Delaware and Related Algonkian Indians,'' and has 
     received numerous awards, including honorary doctorates from 
     Yale University and the University of Connecticut.

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