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Revenge of the Pequots: How a Small Native American Tribe Created the World's Most Profitable Casino Hardcover – February 15, 2001

3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (February 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684854708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684854700
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,054,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" could be the subtitle for this book. Native Americans suffered in military, social, and bureaucratic maneuvering versus the European settlers and later the United States. In the 1970s, the strategy altered to seeking advantages as another special interest group. That approach benefited from poorly drafted laws, politicans' need for campaign funds, and a bad conscience among politicians to create unexpected and unequaled success for the formerly impoverished handful of Connecticut-based Mashantucket Pequots. The resulting gaming empire of Foxwoods (from the one-time name of "Fox people" for the Pequots) now wields far more power than the tribe ever had in its entire history.
This story reveals a great deal about the nature of modern American politics and law that shows the need for broad reform at every level of government. The weakness of this book is that it takes on the Pequots almost as a special case, rather than as a more typical example of the system we have now. The book is also overly detailed for the interests of most readers, and does not make very entertaining reading except for those who are fascinated by legal and political intrigue from an academic perspective.
The author revels in the irony of President Clinton courting the Pequots for funds and political support in 1994. Historically, it had been the other way around with U.S. presidents and tribal chiefs. In 1994, tribal chairman Richard "Skip" Haywood personally donated $500,000 to the Democrats for the congressional campaigns. After he and the president spoke by telephone, other members of the tribe donated an additional $800,000 to the Democrats that year. After the Republicans won the election, a further almost $200,000 went to the Republicans.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kim Isaac Eisler tells the fascinating story of the Mashantucket Pequots, a tribe in eastern Connecticut that was obliterated by English colonists in 1637 but resurrected 350 years later by one man and his family. With big contributions to Democratic politicians, the reconstituted tribe secured federal recognition and state capitulation to their demand for a state casino monopoly. Eisler dismisses the lifelong local residents' upset at the Pequots' efforts to annex vast tracts of land that would require them to give up their own homes and farms. Although critical, it's never quite clear that Eisler isn't as dazzled by the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by Foxwoods as its Pequot owners--and just as willing to ignore the negative impact of the massive operation that transformed and harmed Southeastern Connecticut.
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By A Customer on February 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As one who has been in the center of this matter for more than 20 years, I was delighted with this book. The author is historically accurate and captivating at the same time, and the book holds interest throughout. His early American history of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe is instructive as to not only what happened to that New England Tribe but what happened to most tribes. The excellent description of the land claims suits by the tribes in Maine, which was the model for the Pequot suit, is mesmerizing. The Tribe overcomes the attacks from the State led by Governor Lowell Weicker as well as Las Vegas interests who were desperately trying to prevent Native American competition to their monopoly.
Through an incredible concurrence of events, brilliant strategizing, and perhaps a lot of luck by the modern leader of the Pequots, the Tribeit rose from poverty to the owner of the largest and most profitable casino in the world. The litigation and political battles with the State of Connecticut moved the Tribal leaders from Governor Weicker's principle foe to his and the State's ally.
I do take strong issue with the author's portrayal of current developments within the Tribe. Perhaps it is most difficult to judge history while it is taking place as opposed to waiting a few years.
I would recommend this book to anyone and unlike a previous book that was published on this subject, this book is written honestly and accurately and by an author who obviously did his research and had no need to fictionalize the account.
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By Amazon Customer on September 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is the book I wish I had written -- but I never would have spent the time and effort on research that the writer did. As a Ledyard-based reporter in the early 1970s, I knew about that part of town referred to as the Indian Reservation, and I'd heard of the only old lady who lived there in a trailer, and her occasional grandchildren. Trouble is, in four years I never had the slightest inclination to write about her or the land or the story behind either. Nonetheless, as the casino developed, I was pleased that someone was beating city hall. In painstaking detail the author tells how it happened, including a good bit of history. It's a serious book, not just a compilation of gossip. An interesting part of Americana. But as Ledyard today tries to deal with all the traffic and tourists, I can't help but remember the hundreds of meetings I sat through where the town fathers agonized over how to attract visitors and to expand the town's economic base. The leader of the Historical Society was sure that restoring the vertical saw mill would do draw crowds. He never could have imagined that the answer could have been found in that trailer on that reservation at the far end of town!
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