Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods, the World's Largest Casino.
Jeff Benedict; New York: HarperCollins, 2000, 376 pages
Jeffrey R. Benedict's Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods, the World's Largest Casino is the product of the author's seventeen months of "researching the legal and political groundwork that led to the biggest casino in the world." To be able to do an adequate and accurate job of this, an author would need expertise in American Indian law (treaty history, tribal sovereignty, tribal-state relations, tribal-federal relations, and gaming law as it relates to American Indians), Connecticut history, the history of the Pequot Indians (the tribe studied in this book), plus sociological factors involved in the preservation of identity while in a dominant culture.
Benedict has an unusual and inadequate background for an author of a book involving such complex issues. Described in Sport as "the authority on the subject of athletes and crime," his three books prior to Without Reservation all deal with athletes and law-breaking (Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Crimes Against Women; Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play In The NFL [coauthored with Don Yaeger]; and Athletes and Acquaintance Rape). He is the former research director of Northwestern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. He left that position in 1996 to enroll in the New England School of Law.
Without Reservation reads like a novel. It is not social science. Perhaps it could be labeled investigative journalism; however, that might be an overstatement. Benedict gathers a great deal of information, but perhaps because of the sensational nature of his previous topics, or perhaps because of a political agenda, he presents his findings not as an objective analysis, but as a potboiler novel. Unfortunately, because the book deals with real people and real issues the book does more of a disservice than a service to serious scholarship, either about the Pequot or gaming.
One would think that the book would start with either topics of history, law, or gambling. Curiously enough, the book does not start out with any of these topics. Rather, it opens in 1967 with Richard "Skip" Hayward (the Mashantucket Pequot tribal chair from 1975 to 1998, and grandson of the last person living on the Pequot reservation prior to tribal revitalization) and his bride's application for a wedding license. What is quite fascinating is that Benedict is able to report on conversations, facial expressions, and tone of voice at the time. The scene then shifts from a courthouse to Tom Tureen's (an attorney involved in helping the Pequot and other tribes work towards federal recognition) car and what Mr. Tureen was thinking about. Amazingly, Benedict is able to report what Tureen was listening to on his car radio 30 years ago.
The initial chapters are written in such a way that at least this reader developed negative feelings toward Skip Hayward. I began to suspect some of the information when I found much of it was based entirely on interviews with Hayward's ex-spouse (the divorce was not an amicable one). However, I was puzzled as to what Hayward's personal characteristics and relationships had to do with the purpose of the book. Tom Tureen was also portrayed as breezy and flighty, choosing legal doctrines at random, so as to just take a shot at possible success in the courts. He was presented as having just made up a "theory" which he hoped might help in tribal recognition. Actually, as Laurence M. Hauptman-SUNY Distinguished Professor of History-has pointed out, the "theory" Tureen utilized (basing claims on the Nonintercourse Act) has been used by lawyers since the 1890s (see Seneca Nation v. Christie). Throughout the book, Benedict describes what people "thought" to themselves (sometimes decades before). This might be termed "historic telepathy," a new tool for social research!
Benedict basically challenges the Pequot's right to exist. One issue that he considers to be very important is what race people listed themselves as being on various forms. Hayward listed himself as "white" on his marriage license. Benedict implies that this indicates he was not an Indian (although Hayward's grandmother, a Pequot, was living when he filled out that form). Also, Benedict believes that whether one "looks" or "acts like an Indian" are relevant issues. He does some genealogical research on some of the major figures in the book, but more than once he contradicts himself as to the race and ethnicity of certain important figures and their forebears.
Much of this book appears to be based upon character assassination. Skip Hayward comes off very poorly at the beginning of the book, as do a couple of judges, and even a U.S. Senator. Benedict does not reserve his attacks for Indians. For instance, Joe Pollack, writing in the St. Louis Journalism Review, recently suggested that Benedict, in his approach to the books on athletes in trouble with the law, suffers from "Ken Starr disease, acting as policeman, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner."
I do not know Mr. Hayward, but I would not like the readers of this review to be left with just the notion that there is only negative information out there regarding the man who is primarily responsible for the revitalization and federal recognition of the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. It should also be noted that the University of Connecticut in 1994 awarded Richard "Skip" Hayward the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. The institution awards honorary degrees "only in recognition of extraordinary and lasting distinction. The award should represent the highest intellectual and moral values; it should reflect the very character and quality of the University itself' (Article XVII, University of Connecticut Laws and Bylaws).
The tribe's Office of Public Relations has issued a statement listing the many errors in the book. Of most concern to me as a scholar is the allegation that Benedict has cited interviews from people who have never actually been interviewed. The falsification and creation of one's own data are of grave concern in the academic arena. This issue should not be taken lightly. With this book, Jeffrey Benedict has launched a frontal assault on the Mashantucket Pequot tribe. He is making war not with weapons but with words. His book ends with the suggestion that Congress may want to further investigate the tribe and, as a result, "revoke the group's federal recognition status." This book has already led public officials from Southeastern Connecticut to ask Congress to look further into the legitimacy of the Pequot. Further, Benedict himself has become an outspoken critic of public officials who demonstrate any positive relationships with Pequot tribal officials (see the AP report on 9/20/2000).
Without Reservation is exciting reading but should be treated as a well-written novel, not serious scholarship
(*.) Corresponding reviewer
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|Author:||Hoffman, Thomas J.|
|Publication:||The Social Science Journal|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2001|
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