Pequot Museum: Gamboling vs. Gambling

Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

As you approach the Mashantucket Peqout Museum and Research Center, on a lovely tree-lined weaving boulevard, you encounter a fork in the road; you‘d be well advised to take the way to the left toward the museum itself, where you would undoubtedly be well rewarded, and that will have made all the difference. The way to the right leads to Foxwoods Casino and its complex, where whether you will be rewarded is much less of a certainty. That left choice is almost immediately a satisfactory one, as the outside and grounds of the museum are stunning. Apart from the anticipated natural beauty of its surroundings, the building itself is strikingly beautiful, having won many architectural and design awards. It’s an awesome beginning, but only the first of many such distinctive elements; real beauty lies inside.

The largest Native American museum in the world, a day trip from Boston and New York, (in Ledyard, Connecticut, off I-95), it operates as a non-profit institution. Opened in 1998, the museum is owned and operated by the Pequot Tribal Nation. Since the opening, it has received almost two million visitors (including over 40,000 school children and teachers each year). The permanent exhibits follow the history of southern New England both with respect to its natural development from the Ice Age until today, as well as that of the Pequot people (and other tribal nations of the Eastern Woodland). These include a 16th century Pequot Village with fifty life-size Native American figures, wigwams, a long house, and a half acre of other depictions of early life. This is perhaps the highlight of the museum, but there’s a lot more to experience and enjoy.

Along with state of the art multi-media and hands-on computerized information stations, there are a dozen videos on various aspects of Native history and culture, and a half-hour filmed reenactment of the 1637 Pequot War, “The Witness”. Whether your interest is botany, geology, archaeology or history in general, you’ll probably appreciate the glacial crevasse, the dioramas including a reenacted caribou hunt, the tribal portrait gallery and the temporary exhibits. Of special interest is the aforementioned Pequot Village, with a complimentary pre-recorded self-guided tour. Along the way, you’ll encounter beadwork, quillwork, ribbon work and silverwork. Sounds like a lot of work, but for the visitor it’s immensely immersive fun to see crafts from the Penobscot, Micmac and Iroquois as well as your Pequot hosts. Top if off (literally) with a trip to the top of the observation tower; it’ll be the crowning moment of a fully rewarding visit.

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