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Gladys Tantaquidgeon
Preserving her tribal heritage

A connecticut casino has raised millions of dollars for the mohegan tribe, thanks in part to Gladys Tantaquidgeon, CCT'29. the 98-year-old Mohegan medicine woman, anthropologist, and social worker used her knowledge and artifacts to gain tribal status for her people -- and permission for the tribe to build the Mohegan sun casino last October.
   The casino earned a pre-tax profit of $55.3 million in its first six months, according to The New York Times. Sixty percent of the profits benefit the Mohegans in the form of college scholarships, a home for the elderly, and other projects.
Photo of Gladys

   Tantaquidgeon, an Uncasville, Conn., resident, studied at Penn under anthropologist Dr. Frank Speck, who in the early 1900s spent summers researching the native tribes and dialects of Connecticut, near her home. "He used to be in our house quite a lot," she recalls. "On one occasion, when he was leaving to go back to Penn, my mother quoted him as saying [to me], 'Hurry and grow up, and when you get to be a big girl, my wife and I will take you home with us.' And they did." Tantaquidgeon stayed with Speck's family while taking classes at Penn.
   Her formal education may have come from the Ivy League, but it was three elderly Mohegan women who, years ago, passed along to her the lessons of herbal medicine and tribal secrets. Also helpful in preserving the Mohegans' past has been a museum filled with tribal artifacts, which Tantaquidgeon built with her father and brother in 1931. Reportedly never sick enough to see a doctor, she still works there daily.

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Copyright 1997 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 11/10/97