History

Juanita “Mother Earth” Reels

Distinguished Service Award Recipient

Tribal Elder Juanita Helen Reels (“Mother Earth”) has dedicated her life to nurture, serve and protect the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation by caring for many generations of the Tribe’s children, empowering each to grow emotionally, socially and intellectually with love and self-acceptance. With a heart to ensure Pequot children grew in knowing and sharing their Tribe’s history and culture, Juanita was responsible for developing the Tribe’s early childhood cultural program and Toonuppasog “Turtle” classroom—a place where generations of children learned Pequot language, and Eastern Native culture, dance and music. Juanita also recognized that investing time and energy into the Tribe’s youth is an investment in the Tribe’s future. For this reason, she created and developed the educational and cultural programs for the Tribe’s Child Development Center, overseeing many generations of Pequots from age 6 weeks through grade school while their parents attended school or worked to benefit the Tribe and its businesses. By recognizing every child’s unique temperament and learning style, Juanita encouraged the children to bring their unique perspectives and personalities into their learning experiences. Juanita’s far-reaching influence has transcended multiple generations of Pequots that grew up to become active, responsible and emotionally mature adults invested in serving and strengthening the Tribe’s government, businesses, and sovereignty.

With a heart to ensure Pequot children grew in knowing and sharing their Tribe’s history and culture, Juanita Reels was responsible for developing the Tribe’s early childhood cultural program and Toonuppasog “Turtle” classroom—a place where generations of children learned Pequot language, and Eastern Native culture, dance and music. In 2017, Ms. Reels became an inaugural recipient of the Tribe’s first Distinguished Service Award.