Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic conferred an honorary doctorate on Michael Thomas, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation during a Convocation ceremony on Aug. 29, in the Francis E. Geissler Sports Center Gymnasium, officials announced recently.
ECSU is part of the Connecticut State University (CSU) system and is the state’s public liberal arts university.
Thomas was raised in South Kingston, R.I., and is an ardent supporter of bilingual and bicultural education. Thomas has also helped to lead the way for language revitalization among tribal members.
He is a founding member of the tribal pow-wow drum group, the Mystic River Singers, which has toured the nation to bring the Native American tradition to a variety of audiences.
Before stepping into the political arena, Thomas pursued a career as an environmentalist, and was one of only a few native peoples to be certified in safe food preparation and handling by the State of Connecticut. He headed up the tribe’s Natural Resources Department, and was later elected president of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS), to which he has devoted more than 20 years of service and support.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation occupies its ancestral homelands in southeastern Connecticut. The modern tribe is governed by a seven-person Tribal Council. It owns and operates several businesses, the largest of which is Foxwoods Resort Casino, which opened in 1992.
During his time as tribal chair, Thomas has encouraged the Mashantucket Pequots to support ECSU with a gift of $500,000 for academic programs.
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