Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 16, 2001 - Issue 38



Mohegans Give $10M to Smithsonian Museum


Donation meant to help in telling the stories of 'forgotten' eastern tribes


 by Ann Baldelli The Day Staff

Mohegan — Hoping to educate people about Eastern Indians, the Mohegan Tribe is giving $10 million toward the $220 million National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“The museum will depict the Native American story, including Eastern Indians,” said Mohegan Tribal Chairman Mark Brown. “In a lot of ways, we are the forgotten ones, so this is an important cause.”

The Mohegan Tribal Council is in Washington, D.C., at ceremonies where the gift, to be paid over 20 years, is being announced.

The Mashantucket Pequots, Connecticut's only other federally recognized American Indian nation, have also given $10 million to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, committing $1 million annually starting in 1994.

The two separate pledges of $10 million each from the Mashantuckets and Mohegans are the two largest single gifts toward the 260,000-square-foot museum building.

The museum on the National Mall is under construction and expected to open in 2003, according to public affairs director Thomas Sweeney.

It is one of three components mandated by a federal law passed in 1989 and signed by then-President George Bush.

In addition to the museum on the National Mall, the legislation appropriated funds for development of American Indian museums at the George Gustav Heye Center at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City, which opened in 1994; and the Community Resources Center, six miles southeast of the National Mall in Suitland, Md., which opened in 1998.

All of the facilities are managed by the Smithsonian Institution.

Brown, of the Mohegan Tribe, said it was hard to ignore requests for financing for the museum.

“Most people have the television image, that all Native Americans are west of the Mississippi River,” he said. “They forget that (Eastern Indians) had to deal with the early European contact. Individuals don't understand that we had to learn to work with the colonists and negotiate with them and get pushed aside by them.”

Oftentimes, tribal members find themselves explaining who they are and what sovereignty is, said Brown. “It's not that people don't have enough information, it's that they don't have the proper information.”

The museum on the National Mall will go a long way toward providing that information, Brown said.

“By doing this, we think we can help other Native American nations,” he said.

The tribal chairman said a letter sent to the 1,450 Mohegan members explains why the tribe is making the donation and why it is doing it over 20 years.

“We realize we have a fiduciary responsibility to pay down our debt and a responsibility to our membership,” he said. “But for too long, Hollywood executives have portrayed our people falsely, and this interpretation has created a false impression. We spend countless hours educating people about our true history and our inherent rights. It's amazing what we're faced with.”

In addition to the Mohegan Tribal Council, the state's congressional delegation is expected to attend the 10:30 a.m. ceremonies, in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Room, in the Senate Office Building. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and a sponsor of the legislation creating the museum sites, will also attend.

Lawrence M. Small, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and W. Richard West, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, will also be on hand.

Sweeney, public affairs director for the museum project, said the $10 million commitment from the Mohegans is a big boost for the second phase of fund-raising for the museum project. To date, $120 million of the $219 million for the project has been raised. The funds have come from individuals, corporations and foundations.

“We are most grateful to the tribe for its contribution,” Sweeney said. “It will help us launch the second phase of our fund-raising campaign.”

Construction of the museum mall was started in 1999. It will include three permanent exhibition galleries and a collection of 800,000 pieces.

You can see where the Mohegan Reservation is on the map below

Maps by Travel


Mohegan Tribe Web Site




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