story & photos
by Alexis Ann
Mohegan Tribal Nation held a ceremony to dedicate the sculptures of its 20th Century leaders on August 15, 2014 in the Chiefs’ Garden at the main entrance of the Tribal Government building. The garden of eight life-sized sculptures representing Chiefs from 1902 – 2007 was dedicated by Trading Cove Associates in honor of its special friendship with Chief Ralph Sturges and the Mohegan Tribe.
Opening the ceremony on this gorgeous sunny summer day was Chairman Kevin Brown. “Thank you for joining us today as we mark the moments and the leaders who have brought us to this point in our history with the emplacement of this plaque and the dedication of this garden. The Chiefs’ Garden stands as a tribute to our past, and will be a permanent reminder of those who walked their path in service to our Tribe. The inscription on the plaque reads, “We walk as a single spirit on the Trail of Life… This garden reflects the trail of life that we walk on together into our future and honors those who served and led the Mohegan Tribe as Chief in the past.”
The Chairman expressed his gratitude for the generosity of Len Wolman, Waterford Hotel Group & Cove Associates for “helping to make the Garden a cherished part of our community and government center.” Kevin continued, “We would not be standing here today without the relationship that Len fostered with our Tribe and the late Chief Ralph Sturges (G’tinemong-He who helps thee).”
Len Wolman addressed the gathering explaining that his relationship with the Mohegan Tribe began with a handshake with Chief Sturges, summer 1992, soon after Ralph was appointed Lifetime Chief and was also serving as chairman of the Tribal Council. “Together with the Chief, the council, the council of elders and the Tribe, we were able to accomplish a number of firsts. The overturn of a negative determination for federal recognition, and the first ever simultaneous closing between the local governments, the State, and the various federal departments, including Justice and even Wall Street.”
This was the first ever Native American financing on Wall Street, resulting in opening up Wall Street to all Tribes in the U.S., Len pointed out. “The most important thing we established, said Len, was a very special, long-lasting relationship of mutual trust, respect and integrity based on reputation and the same values.”
Len Wolman told the history of the idea of a Garden when back in 2001 he approached Mark Brown who was chairman then. Len said that he and his partners, the Slavik Family, his brother Mark and Kerzner International wanted to give the Tribe a meaningful gift that depicted appreciation and honored their relationship. The outcome is this historic Garden of Chiefs that honored at that time, the only living Chief, Ralph Sturges and the previous chiefs of that century.
The first statue of Chief Sturges was unveiled in October 2003 on the 7th Anniversary of the casino. “Little did we know it would take until 2014 to complete this project.”
Len thanked his brother Mark who worked with Sharon Gale, the artist; Melissa Zobel, Anita Fowler, the cultural resources department, Lifetime Chief Lynn Malerba, former chairman councils and leaders of the Tribe and the families of each Chief.
Chief Lynn Malerba gave the blessing.
Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel presented a short narrative on the lives of each of the chiefs. Melissa noted “We have been very fortunate in our choice of Mohegan Chiefs. From our great Sachem Uncas/Wunxis, the fox, to our current Sunqsquaw Mutawi Mutahash Chief Many Hearts Lynn Malerba, great Mohegans have led us, or we would not be here today.”