Pequots pick Flowers at historic pow wow

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LANTERN HILL, Conn. - Celebrating a year of unity and a new constitution, the Eastern Pequots re-elected their chairwoman Marcia Jones Flowers and three other Tribal Council members at their annual meeting July 26. They danced at their historic invitation-only pow wow the next day under the simple arbors of their three-century-old Lantern Hill reservation.

The meeting might not have been as euphoric as the year before, when the reunited tribal groups had just received preliminary federal recognition. In the busy months since then, three neighboring towns and the Connecticut Attorney General appealed the BIA's positive finding. Two financial backers of one Pequot sub-group have filed breach of contract suits after the new council voted to exclude them from future economic development plans, including a potential casino.

Chairwoman Flowers alluded to these cases in her post-election statement. "There are exciting and challenging times ahead for this tribe," she said. But she also emphasized the process of reconciliation that has marked her tenure. "With the strength that comes from our united families we'll face these times together."

The recognition decision on June 24, 2002, brought together two groups with separate petitions, the Eastern Pequots with about 1,000 members and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequots, with 150. As the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, sometimes called the "historical Eastern Pequots," the new tribe patched up a generation-old family feud and adopted a new constitution this January.

The elections to four of the 14 seats on the new council begin a process of staggered terms as the Pequots grapple with unresolved issues about their future form of government. Flowers, as Chairwoman, and Ron Lone Wolf Jackson, as Treasurer, will serve three-year terms. The tribe also elected Mark Sebastian as Vice Chairman and Lynn Powers as Secretary, for one-year terms. Five former Paucatucks also hold council seats, but none were up for election this year.

The pow wow on July 27 continued the Eastern Pequot tradition of holding a private cultural and spiritual celebration for members and guests primarily from nearby tribes. Delegates of special significance came from the Mashpee Wampanoag of Cape Cod, Mass., struggling for years for their own federal recognition, and the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island, still coping with the aftermath of a violent state police raid on a new smoke shop.

The setting in the rocky woods of the Lantern Hill Reservation, set up by Connecticut's colonial legislature in 1683, contrasted sharply with the turquoise towers of the Mashantucket Pequot's Foxwoods Casino Resort, less than a mile to the north, and even with the Mashantucket's annual Schemitzun festival, one of the nation's largest pow wows, scheduled to take place over the crest of the hill on August 21 to 24.

Vice Chairman Sebastian lit sage at the ceremonial fire for smudging at the beginning of the Grand Entry, led by the principal figures of both tribal groups and children in buckskins. The ceremonial fire is lit from ashes saved from last year's pow wow, and at the end of this year's pow wow ashes were saved for next year.

A panel of elders selected two young ladies as Miss Eastern Pequot, Alexandra Owens, 19, a sophomore at Connecticut College, and Alicia Flowers, 18, a senior at St. Bernards High School. They were chosen on the basis of academics, tribal involvement, knowledge of the culture and tribal history and will serve for two years representing the tribe at pow wows and cultural gatherings around New England.

The family-oriented Eastern Pequot pow wow continues the tribe's tradition of Fourth Sunday Meetings, social gatherings on the fourth Sunday of the month that lasted through the 19th and 20th centuries and helped establish the continuity required by federal recognition regulations.