Medicine Women of the 20th Century
Emma Baker (1859-1916)
A major force in celebrating and preserving Tribal culture in the late 1800s, Emma Baker (1828-1916) is credited with revitalizing the Green Corn Festival, or Wigwam Festival. She incorporated it into the goals of the Mohegan Church Ladies' Sewing Society in 1860, just before the break-up of the Mohegan Reservation. The Festival helped galvanize Tribal solidarity during a time of fragmentation. It was Emma who recorded the desecration of the Norwich Royal Mohegan Burial Ground. She led the Mohegan Church Ladies Sewing Society in their matriarchal role considering new chiefs and discussing land claims. She also chaired the Tribal Council and represented the Tribe before the Connecticut legislature. She gained and passed on a knowledge of traditional herbal medicine that she learned from Martha Uncas.
Gladys Tantaquidgeon (1916-2005)
Trained by her three "grandmothers" in traditional herbal lore, Gladys Tantaquidgeon (1899-2005) is credited with preserving much of Mohegan history and culture as a living part of Tribal life and heritage. Her long life spanned the last days of those who lived traditionally to federal recognition and the Tribe's revival. She passed on a rich oral history from previous medicine women who spoke the Mohegan language and had heard the stories of another time. From the century's early chiefs and elders she learned of a culture that was nearly extinguished. Her understanding was deepened from her studies in ethnobotany and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania under Dr. Frank Speck, a noted anthropologist who studied Indian culture. She herself studied other tribes and learned of the many connections and differences among them. In 1931, she co-founded Tantaquidgeon Museum along with her brother, Harold and father, John. In the 1930s she served as a community worker for the Bureau of Indian Affairs among western tribes and lived for years among the Lakota Sioux, helping them deal with unbearable poverty and cultural oppression. During the 1940s she worked as a specialist for the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. When she returned to her own tribe in 1947, she spent the next years expanding her knowledge of Mohegan history and culture. All of this helped the Tribe prove its inherent sovereignty and unbroken heritage and gain federal recognition in 1994.