Mashantucket Pequot Museum Library and Archives Blog

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smoke Signals

A group of 11 enthusiastic readers attended the Research Library’s discussion of Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals: A Screenplay on Saturday, November 19. Led by former MPMRC Public Programs Director, theater director, and dramaturge Betsy Theobald Richards, the group talked about the ways in which the author developed the story (originally featured as a short story in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) into a screenplay for film. The group shared their thoughts about Alexie’s portrayal of life on and off the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation and the humorous, sometimes poignant, ways he depicts the main characters, Victor and Junior, as they leave the reservation and face challenges and prejudices in the outside white world, what one character describes as a “foreign country.” Betsy further explored how Alexie developed his character(s), revealing a sense of underlying humanity within scenes of complex and conflicted emotions and the power of forgiveness. Following the discussion, participants viewed the film in the Museum Auditorium.

If you’re sorry that you missed this book/film discussion, please consider coming to the debut of our Meet the Author series on Jan. 21, 2012. Larry Spotted Crow Mann (Nipmuc) talks about his book, Tales from the Whispering Basket. And on March 31, visit with Granny Squannit, Joan Tavares Avant (Mashpee Wampanoag) as she talks about her book, People of the First Light. More information about these free talks will be posted soon!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fresh Eyes in the Archives

Online access opens the doors of archives all over the world to armchair travellers and researchers. But, as more than 40 students who visited our Archives in the past month have found, the “real thing” can transport us to another time and place in a way that digital surrogates may not.

Visiting high school students brought keen eyes and a fresh perspective to documents such as an 18th century contract, in which a Shinnecock mother agrees to offer her son as an indentured servant when he reaches the age of six. Deciphering handwriting from 1755 and imagining the context and environment in which it was written made students feel like “detectives.”

After visiting a replica of Martha Hoxie “Matt” Langevin’s home in the Musuem, students “heard” the perseverance in her voice in the Archives, as they read some letters she wrote in the 1920s. Matt Langevin was a Mashantucket Pequot Tribal member and a beloved inspiration to subsequent generations of Pequots returning to the land.

Experienced and novice researchers alike are welcome in our Archives. Their visits provide a learning experience for both patron and archivist – and sometimes inspire the archivist to write some lyrics…

Pardon me miss, but I’ve never done this with a Real Live Page.
I’ve been on line but this is my first time with a Real Live Page.
Pardon me if gazing at these ancient leaves,
Fogs up my glasses and buckles my knees.
It’s so engaging to sit here while paging through time – it’s sublime,
With a Real Live Page.

(dig up the tune in your music archives, from Cy Coleman’s song, Real Live Girl )

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smoke Signals: Screenplay and Film

Only 2 weeks until the Smoke Signals screenplay and film discussion, here on November 19, at 2 pm. It’s free and you don’t even have to read the screenplay to enjoy the discussion and to watch the film! Here’s some information about Betsy Richards, discussion leader. She is a knowledgeable and entertaining speaker and we think it will be fun to compare the screenplay and the film (shown around 3:15 pm). Call (860) 396-6897 for information.

Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) is currently the Creative Fellow with the Opportunity Agenda, a progressive communications and policy organization based in New York City. Formerly she was a Program Officer in Media, Arts and Culture at the Ford Foundation overseeing a national grant making portfolio on Native American arts and cultures. In addition, she had the pleasure of serving as the Director of Public Programs for Mashantucket Pequot Museum from its opening through 2003. In Betsy’s creative life, she is a theater director, playwright, producer and dramaturge. She is currently a member of the graduate faculty of New York University’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and serves as the Senior Cultural Advisor to Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts. She is a graduate of NYU and the Yale School of Drama and lives in Montclair, NJ with her husband Scott and children Cole and Annabel.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smoke Signals: Book & Film

We now have some copies of Smoke Signals: A Screenplay, which are available to borrow from the Research Library, if you are coming to our next Reading Circle on November 19, 2011. The story of Thomas Builds-the-Fire and Victor Joseph's journey to Phoenix first appeared in Sherman Alexie's story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. We are finding it's interesting to read the screenplay and compare it with the movie-which is one of the first films written and directed by American Indians. Come at 2 pm to discuss the screenplay with Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and stay for the movie in the auditorium around 3:15 pm. Betsy was director of Public Programs at the Museum for more than 5 years, before moving to the New York City area where she worked for the Ford Foundation and is currently teaching and consulting. We are excited about this book-to-film program and hope others will be, too. Call 860-396-6897 for information.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Books in the Research Library

Johnston, Basil. Think Indian: Languages are Beyond Price. Wiarton, ON: Kegedonce Press, 2011.

Cahill, Cathleen D. Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service 1869-1933. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Geake, Robert A. A History of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island: Keepers of the Bay. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Rielly, Edward J. Legends of American Indian Resistance. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2011.

Slater, Sandra & Fay A. Yarbrough, eds. Gender and Sexuality in Indigenous North America 1400-1850. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2011.

Friday, August 19, 2011

What We're Reading this Week

Just finished Blessed by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee Creek) and have ordered the newest book in her vampire series. Tantalize: Kieren’s Story is a graphic novel published this month by Candlewick. It’s easy to get deep into the world of vampires, werewolves, and angels with Quincie, Kieren, and Zachary. We have many of her other books, including the ones about American Indian kids, Jenna in Jingle Dancer, Ray in Indian Shoes, and Rain in Rain is Not My Indian Name. Check out her site for lots of information about her and her gothic fantasies at or her blog

And while we’re on the topic of gothic novels, Drew Hayden Taylor (Ojibwa) author, columnist, filmmaker, lecturer, and playwright has a great book-The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel. Who is Pierre L’Errant and why did he come to lodge with Tiffany Hunter’s family? Why does he want to live in their basement? It’s another good read!

Friday, August 5, 2011

What We’re Reading

While we’re busy this summer helping people with their requests for information, photographs, and recommendations for reading lists, we have been doing a little reading ourselves. Smoke Signals: A Screenplay, written by Sherman Alexie, is on our list because Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) is leading a discussion of it on November 19, 2011. The book is proving hard-to-find, but we hope to get some reading copies; however, the film, Smoke Signals, is available and it’s so good that we’re showing it here after the discussion.

The weekly newspaper, Indian Country Today, has a new magazine format which is easy to read and is very attractive, too. We subscribe to This Week from Indian Country Today: The Premier Newsmagazine Serving the Nations, Celebrating the People, and read it, especially the book reviews. Take a look at a copy the next time you visit the libraries.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Children’s Library Workshops for Kids, ages 10 to 13. Write a Poem, Draw a Picture

Canyons, Echoing
going away—coming back
repeating my voice

Andrew Jones (Navajo) 11 years old

Thursdays, July 21 & Aug. 4, 10:30 – noon

Native poetry and art featured in the Mashantucket Gallery this summer inspired this program. We hope to encourage young people to create poetry and art of their own. Explore the Museum exhibits with us to find something that speaks to you—maybe it’s a dire wolf, or a dugout canoe, or life in a cozy wetu. Draw on that experience to compose and illustrate a poem. Everyone can write poetry! If rhyming doesn’t work for you, perhaps free verse or a haiku is a good way to express yourself. A haiku is three lines long with just 17 syllables and captures the essence of a feeling or object, and is often based on nature. In the Children’s Library; each session limited to 20 participants, ages 10 to 13. $15/$5 for Museum members. Call (800) 411-9671 to register by July 20 for July 21 or Aug. 3 for Aug. 4.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Poetry events in July

Wednesday, July 13, 2 – 3:30 pm

Reading Circle and Discussion: The Smokehouse Boys

We are excited that Shaunna Oteka McCovey (Yurok) is joining us for our summer Reading Circle to discuss her book of poems, The Smokehouse Boys. Several of her poems are featured in the current exhibit, Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California, in the Mashantucket Gallery. Shaunna grew up on the Yurok Reservation in northern California and started writing poetry when she was six. In 2010, Humboldt State University named her a Distinguished Alumni for her work as an author, attorney, and advocate. Purchase The Smokehouse Boys from the Museum gift shop or borrow a copy from the Research Library. Limited to 20 participants, ages 16 and older. In the Research Library. Call (860) 396-6897 by July 9 to register. FREE

Thursday, July 14, 2 – 3:30 pm

Shaunna Oteka McCovey: Poetry from Native California

Shaunna Oteka McCovey (Yurok) reads from her book of poetry, The Smokehouse Boys; featured in Sing Me Your Story, Dance Me Home: Art and Poetry from Native California. She writes about the land and people of northwestern California and her strong family relationships and close ties to Native California. Old ways blend with today’s realities in the poems. From Food Stamps to Blue-Eyed Indian Boy, her poetry connects the past with the present and explores the relationships between generations. Join us for this rare opportunity to hear poetry read aloud by the author. Ms. McCovey signs copies of her book in the Museum gift shop after the reading in the Fleet Room. Free with Museum admissions, free to Museum members.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tim Tingle appearing at Connecticut College

Choctaw storyteller and author Tim Tingle is appearing at the 30th Annual Connecticut Storytelling Festival & Conference, held from April 29 – May 1, 2011, at Connecticut College in New London, CT. He is a wonderful storyteller who engages everyone from the moment he opens his mouth, so this is a great opportunity to hear him. Please visit for more information.

In 2007, Tim Tingle and Cherokee artist Jeanne Rorex Bridges visited the Museum to discuss how they worked together in creating their multi-award winning book, Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom. Tim returned the next summer to tell stories during the Museum’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. His new book, Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light, is illustrated by Karen Clarkson (Choctaw) and has been named a 2011 Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association. It’s one of his family’s stories about why they say “saltypie” when dealing with trouble, and how they have endured and supported each other through hard times. In the afterword, Tim Tingle helps readers understand about stereotypes and gives suggestions on how to educate children about American Indians in today’s world.

Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light, published in 2010 by Cinco Puntos Press.