Tag Archives: Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Burial Grounds

A Final Salute to Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Elder Paul Harris

by Alexis Ann

Tribal Elder Paul E. Harris, Sr., (May 4, 1946 – July 25, 2008) passed on instantly during an auto accident in Preston on the afternoon of July 25th. Son of Paul E. Johnson, Jr. and Marion M. Red Feather Curry, Paul was born, raised and educated in New London. Paul proudly served our country as a member of the U.S. Navy.

A three gun military salute was performed in Paul’s honor at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Burial Grounds after a funeral ceremony held at Dinoto Funeral Home in Mystic on July 31st.

In a time-honored tradition, since 1885, the military bugle call “Taps” was played over the grave of veteran Paul Harris. The American Flag, on behalf of the U.S. Navy, President of the United States, and a proud nation, was presented to Paul’s daughter, Christina Harris.

Paul is survived by sons, Paul E. Harris, Jr., Gabriel Harris, and siblings, Chief Pedro J. Silver Wolf Johnson, Laughing Woman Patrick, Spiritual Leader, Marion Hatcher Standing She Bear and War Chief Stanley Standing Oak Harris Jr. He was predeceased by two sisters, Barbara and Jean.

Known best for his superb musical talent, Paul taught drumming at the Juilliard School of Music and worked with many lead bands across the country before going to work for his Tribe’s biggest enterprise, Foxwoods Resort Casino. There, Paul Harris served as executive assistant for entertainment where his primary responsibility was to liaise with the incoming acts, including the local musicians who played the lounges.

In a June 2000 interview with Modern Drummer Magazine, Paul said of Foxwoods, “‘This isn’t the place for introspective performers. You have to be able to play great music, and play it very well – and also have to be able to sell it to the audience.’”

Paul was a genius at marketing music and helped to take his Tribe’s entertainment venues to the top during the early days at Foxwoods. His personal experience of being a drummer and always the band manager were the perfect ingredients for shaping the entertainment world at Foxwoods.

“‘I know what it’s like to have to pay your bills by performing,’” he says. “‘You want to do a good job and be asked to come back again. So, I make a point to greet the groups and go over what’s expected of them. I try to answer their questions and make them feel comfortable.’”

Long before the biggest casino in the world existed, Paul lived in the area where it now stands on the Reservation. “‘I remember when there was nothing up here but a cedar swamp and poor people,’” said Paul. “‘The reason I became a drummer was so I could leave this place and never come back. I went out on the road, playing seven nights a week for almost twenty years. At the age of 42, I found myself sitting in a hotel room, realizing that I missed five Christmas Days, many birthdays, and many Thanksgivings. I didn’t have anything to show for it except hotel bills, drums and a schedule for a year in advance. It finally hit me that I didn’t want to end my life living out of a suitcase.’”

Paul was doing studio work in California when he got a letter from the Pequot Tribe informing him that they were building a casino and asking him to come back to the Reservation and get involved. He returned in 1992, at which point, the entire operation was a bingo hall – a single cement building surrounded by a dirt parking lot. “‘The Chief of the Tribe was working as a ticket-taker at the door,’” said Paul.

At that time, the Tribe asked Paul to put together the fledgling “casino’s” first entertainment, and gave him $1,000 to rent a sound system. “‘We pushed bingo tables together to make a stage, and mounted a couple of outdoor floodlights on the ceiling for the lighting system,’” says Paul. “‘Kenny Rogers was our first ‘showroom’ act on this incredibly primitive setup-and we sold out! Kenny got $10,000 and we made $30,000. We thought, ‘This is great! We can do this forever.’”

‘“But, it hasn’t taken forever,”’ concluded Paul. “‘In only seven years, that ‘crude’ operation turned into the world’s largest casino/hotel. I’ve gone from being a freelance road musician to being an executive for one of the finest entertainment programs in the world. And, I still get to play from time to time, either sitting in with our groups or doing some outside projects. I was always able to make money with drums – giving lessons, working with high school drumline, or playing local gigs. But, I never thought I’d see this end of things. I count my blessings.’”

In conclusion and most importantly, Paul was a philanthropist with a heart of gold. His many friends, from near and afar, and from all walks of life, will tell you – To know him was to love and respect him for his brilliance, kindness, compassion and humanitarianism. We will miss the sunshine that Paul E. Harris brought into this world but our memories of him with his winning smile, hearty laugh and bear-ish spirit remain forever!

Donations can be made to the Mashantucket Pequot Spiritual Center c/o Judy Bell, Chairperson, Board of Directors, PO Box 3344, Mashantucket, CT 06338.

Just One Arrow

song by John York
dedicated to Paul Harris by The Resident

Oh the road is long and narrow,
And I’m down to just one arrow,
And my old paint, he can hardly stand.
But you can point me toward the battle,
Put me back up in my saddle,
It’s time for me to take my own last stand.

I’ve been looking for a way to cross the Rockies in my mind,
Tryin’ to decide about my own Great Divide.
There’s a mighty Mississippi ragin’ somewhere in my soul,
I’ve got to cross this desert, before I reach my goal.

Cause the road is long and narrow,
And I’m down to just one arrow,
And my old paint, he can hardly stand.
But you can point me toward the battle,
Put me back up in my saddle,
It’s time for me to make my own stand…