Member of an American Indian people who inhabited the Connecticut and Rhode Island coast in the 1600s. Their language belongs to the Algonquian family. A farming and hunting people, they were also aggressive warriors and fought over territory with other Indians and European settlers. They were almost wiped out during the Pequot War (1636–37), and many survivors joined other groups or became slaves. The Pequot now live in Connecticut where they form two groups: the federally recognized Mashantucket (Western) Pequot, who operate a large gaming concern; and the Paucatuck (Eastern) Pequot, who are campaigning for federal recognition. They number about 536 (1990).
The Pequot grew maize (corn), beans, and squash, and lived in fortified semi-permanent settlements of longhouses and wigwams. Their clothes were buckskin. Pequot society was highly organized and centralized under a tribal council and grand sachem, or great chief. In the early 17th century the Pequot established fur-trading agreements with the Dutch, and fought and harassed other Indian groups in order to dominate supplies and protect their trade. The Mohegan, formerly part of the Pequot, broke away in about 1634 under their leader Unca, who supported friendship and trading relations with the English settlers.
Increasing tension between the Pequot, under their grand sachem Sassacus, and the English and their Indian allies escalated into the Pequot War and a series of bloody raids on the settlers. On 25 May 1637, Sassacus's village fort on the Mystic River was attacked and burned by the English; 600 to 1,000 Pequot, mostly women and children, died in the attack, although Sassacus escaped. He tried to get support from the Mohawk, but they killed him to prove to the English that they had no part in the war. Some of the surviving Pequot were sold into slavery with the Mohegan or sent by the English to their plantations in the West Indies; others joined neighbouring Algonquian tribes. After 1650 a few were allowed to resettle in Connecticut, where they shared a reservation with the Western Niantic.
The tribal status of the Pequot was dissolved until 1983, when the Mashantucket Pequot gained federal tribal recognition. In 1992, they opened the first Indian casino in Connecticut, which has become one of the largest employers in the state. The Paucatuck Pequot are still petitioning for federal recognition, but many live on the Lantern Hill Reservation in Connecticut.