Issac Eisler's timely book Revenge of the Pequots takes readers deep into the heart of the questions surrounding a high-stakes topic: gaming on American Indian reservations. His book is a fascinating account of the pitfalls and promises encountered by one tiny tribe, the Pequots of Connecticut, as they struggled to build the Foxwoods Resort and Casino, the most lucrative gaming facility in America.
Eisler begins his narrative with a generous, readable account of the Pequot's early history. A proud, fierce Eastern tribe, they were broken and relocated on uninhabitable land by English settlers. By the 1970s, only 214 acres remained of their original 2000-acre land grant, and the few surviving members of the tribe lived in poverty. Tribal leader Richard "Skip" Hayward, a central figure in the rebirth of the Pequots, hoped to revive the tribe, but his dreams were small: initially, he wanted to save the reservation by opening a Mr. Pizza. Gambling, he believed, could not exist without mob involvement. But when a newly purchased Mr. Pizza failed to draw customers and a greenhouse business was quickly buried in red ink, Hayward knew it was time to try something new. Any attempt at opening a gaming parlor in sleepy, rural Connecticut would, of course, be rife with controversy. Would high-stakes bingo dry up money raised in church and charity games? Would an increased traffic flow turn the idyllic countryside into a continuous traffic jam? These snares and more awaited the Pequots as they embarked upon their chancy venture an undertaking that brought them head-to-head with powerful opponents like Donald Trump and Steve Wynn. Author Kim Eisler skillfully recounts the work of Hayward and others as, through their efforts, the Pequots became the richest tribe of Native Americans in history. Throughout the narrative, Eisler, a former staff writer for the American Lawyer, ably untangles the most arcane and complicated court cases. Grounded in historical detail, Revenge of the Pequots is compelling reading a dramatic book that turns a controversial topic into a fascinating narrative.
Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. is a writer in Appomattox, Virginia.