Kim Isaac Eisler begins Revenge of the Pequots
with a fascinating anecdote: a 1994 phone call between President Clinton and Skip Hayward, the chief of Connecticut's Pequot tribe. Here was the most powerful man in the country thanking Hayward for political campaign contributions totaling half a million dollars--a dramatic reversal from the standard story of American Indians begging the federal government for financial assistance. Eisler calls the incredible Pequot story "one of the greatest about-faces in American history, [how] this obscure Indian tribe, which in 1994 had been federally recognized for only ten years and numbered fewer than 200 people, had nothing if not plenty of cash."
They were (and are) the richest tribe in the United States, and they've done it all on gambling proceeds. The Foxwoods High Stakes Bingo and Casino complex, located in southeastern Connecticut, is "one of the most successful cash-producing enterprises in the world," says Eisler, and a destination for some 25,000 gamblers every day. The entrepreneurial Hayward is at the center of the book's plot, along with a talented lawyer named Tom Tureen, as they carefully go about winning federal recognition for the Pequots and then building Foxwoods. All of this was extremely controversial, with questions about the legitimacy of the Pequots' claims and the probity of their business. (Eisler is considerably more sympathetic to their story than another book on the same subject, Jeff Benedict's Without Reservation.)
The remote descendants of the Pequots had exacted from the system more than a small dose of revenge. They had turned a government, which for four centuries had committed brutal acts of oppression and termination, into knots. Using the same legal processes that had been used against American Indians for so long, they had trumped the ruling class and implausibly become the wealthiest Indian tribe in the history of North America.... Skeptics could and would argue endlessly about whether the new Pequots were or were not authentic Indians, although no one had questioned their right to declare themselves Pequots when they were poor.
Eisler is a veteran of magazine feature writing, and he describes this rags-to-riches accomplishment in great detail, all of it engrossing. --John J. Miller
From Publishers Weekly
In this well-paced legal and political saga, journalist Eisler (A Shark Tank; A Justice for All) recounts the deft maneuvering by Connecticut's tiny Pequot tribe in its fight to establish Foxwoods, now the most profitable high-stakes casino in the world. European accounts from the early 16th century describe the Pequots (meaning "destroyers") as "the most numerous, the most warlike, the fiercest and the bravest of all the aboriginal clans of Connecticut." After major defeats at the hands of the English and the Dutch, the tribe was declared dissolved in 1638, although some diehard Pequots retained their identity despite their declining numbers. By the 1970s, they had dwindled to some 55 souls, mostly living below the poverty line, when tribal chairman "Skip" Hayward lined up some legal-aid lawyers and, in effect, declared war with modern legal tools (including contributions of "soft money" to the Democratic National Party, which gained them the direct support of President Clinton). The cast of characters includes Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Donald Trump. Packaged with a flashy, attention-grabbing cover, this climactic revenge narrative--which turned southeastern Connecticut's economy upside down, with employees leaving local businesses in droves for the chance to work at Foxwoods while the Pequots donated cards and dice to the local school systems in the hopes of turning kids into future employees--reveals that, like it or not, the Native American is a "Casino-American," and that it's a brave new world.
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