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“The Old Man in the Mountain” stood for centuries in Franconia, New Hampshire. After September 11, 2001, somebody raised an American flag on a pole planted just behind the head. The land-form collapsed in 2003.
King Philip’s War (1675-76) almost burned down Colonial New England, and drove its Native peoples either out or underground. As before, the monologic of profit and “reform” could not cope with multicultural realities, and brought on the enraged illogic of outright conquest. With Native survivors sold into Caribbean slavery, evangelical hands built on the texts of The Pequot War and carefully obfuscated Native points of view. They turned Mary Rowlandson’s “captivity narrative” into a 30-edition bestseller, demonizing peoples whose wealth and ways had made them targets.
“Settlers” who had already renamed the Pequot River as the Thames found things to appreciate in Mary as the innocent (front-line) colonist dragged out into the landscape, a captive of savages simply born to irrational “causeless enmity” (Mather). Of course, Mary’s cosmic ordeal brought her safely back home to her Bible, and all was well till the next generations lived out bloodier versions of the same. Captain Benjamin Church (a man as seasoned to Native America as Thomas Morton) presented “too much complexity” and common sense for his front-line story of this war to have comparable influence. (Both narratives in Slotkin/Folsom, eds.) See Time Line 4 (end) for an excerpt from Church’s Entertaining Passages.
France and Spain were beaten or bought off. All sides betrayed their promises to crucial Native allies. When Britain was finished, the colonies were surrounded still by a different planet called Native America. Thousands on the cutting edge “went Native”: equality never rewarded a move the other way. Alternatives to Manifest Destiny were not to be tolerated, and coast to coast it was surrender, change and work, or disappear.
Captivity narratives bloomed into mainstream “entertainments.” Fiedler’s Love & Death and Reynolds’ Beneath the American Renaissance track colonists’ indulgences in a thinly-veiled sadomasochism whose assumptions enabled an empire, constructing a national identity Not Indian except where it served—but the economy still depended on Native wealth. Historian Stephen Ambrose praised the Transcontinental Railroad for bonding The West’s many races against the “Indians.” At last, The West reached for its original goal: The East, by way of Hawaii, The Philippines and Southeast Asia.
A 1661 map of Manhattan (Manahatch-tanienk, “the island where we all got drunk”) shows the “Wall” (Street) keeping “Indians” out.
Except for a handful of people who won respect—Samson Occam, William Apess, the whalers of New Bedford—a heritage from the National Other became a disadvantage, even a danger. Native Americans were not U.S. Citizens until 1924. Of all America’s peoples, “Indians” produced the most veterans in proportion to population. Today they have the shortest life-expectancy on the land.
LEFT: The 1628 Massachusetts Bay Company seal: the arrow points downward for ‘Peace,’ and the ‘Indian’ says: Come Over And Help Us. RIGHT: Today’s Massachusetts state seal. The Latin motto reads: By The Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty.
BELOW (photo, video): Wampanoag Medicine Man Slow Turtle, first Director of the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, negotiated with the state to remove the sword over the Native man’s head. If it ever was removed, it was restored as you see, after Slow Turtle’s passing.
Star, a.k.a. Bruce Curliss, is a Nipmuc man of many aspects, from wise-cracking Powwow MC to serious spokesman of national scope. He’d laugh to be called a “leader” (they all do), but here is some history he shared in the film Nani:
I had a great grandmother who lived in a stone long-house in old Union City, which is no longer there. Luckily I was old enough to understand when grandparents were around who still lived really close to that---the way she grew up, knowing the things about the herbs, about gathering, and knowing the times of year when you did various things. And trying to have that shared---It made you realize that part of who we are today is based on our families taking it underground, as our survival tool; taking our traditions and turning them into values.
And what we’ve been able to accomplish is that in fact we are a “core” of families that moved together out of the Homelands. The Federal government doesn’t like hearing the Homelands model, but those places are where for the most part we stayed. We just moved into different parts of it, settling sort of where the industry and the work was. But we settled as clusters of families and were always connected.
I mean, for time immemorial the three big celebrations were the Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow, the Narragansetts’ Annual Meeting and The Nipmuc Fair. In a way New England’s whole year of public Powwows came of that. I look back at old photos from the 1920s and see some of my family dressed up in Western regalia. Headdresses, teepees---That’s what outside people were expecting to see. So that’s what they did.
But growing up in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, this stuff was even laid on the Native people who knew they were Native. You know, ”The Indians are savages, they’re no good, lazy, they’re alcoholics” (which was one of their coping mechanisms). In the school system where I was brought up, it was “Oh, you got a bad mix of Native today” when you got into some stupid little kid’s fight on the playground that had nothing to do with race. But in some cases, you’d use the racism to sort of insulate and protect yourself, saying “Yeah, I was a little crazy, I am Indian. And, if you come up against me again....”
But as you get older, and you progress through your life, you see---This is really the oppression. This you either change as an adult, or you end up fitting into those categories in which they placed you....
Cotuit (Cape Cod), Massachusetts, 1928: Herring Pond Wampanoags at an early public Powwow gathering. Photos here shared by the late Great Moose/Russell H. Gardener, Wampanoag Tribal Historian—who in Nani also tells of 19th-century New England Native whalers, admired contemporaries of Herman Melville and “Queequeg” in Moby Dick.
The first “National Day of Mourning” took place on Thanksgiving Day in 1970 near the so-called Plimoth Rock, and the statue of Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit.
Historians and citizens “disturbed” by Native American aspects of The Civil Rights Movement had let decades of professional claptrap pass and filter down into children’s schools. See America’s First Poet—or, for example:
We know...the lurid tales of Indian savagery then circulating through Europe...but [The Pilgrims] seem to have trusted in Captain Miles Standish to improvise a system of defense....For their other relations with the natives, they trusted in The Ten Commandments....[Standish] hurried off to stage a preventive massacre at Massachusetts Bay. No further punishment was inflicted....The natives were given to understand that treachery would not be tolerated....But it was also made clear that The Pilgrims bore the Indians no ill will, and that the aborigines had nothing to fear so long as they behaved themselves....[The] Indians had nothing to offer save their labor, their land, and a few furs....Even on a practical level, Indian claims to the greater part of Plimoth Colony were extremely weak, since most of their territory was used only intermittently as a game preserve.
Thus declared David Bushnell in “The Treatment of the Indians in Plimoth Colony,” for no less a journal than New England Quarterly (XXVI, 193-218, 1953).
But time, education, and tenacity have brought empowering change. A new era of precision and cooperation has built museums big and small, curricular study programs, public events and many-sided conferences across the Northeast. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum (CT), Haffenreffer (RI), Middleboro Museum and Plimoth Plantation’s “living history” programs (MA) have been laboratories of new learning, a process you can see in Nani: A Native New England Story—and, by visiting.
First, the land!
Powwows, resources and learning are everywhere.
Don’t miss the wealth of New England Native activities, scholarship and public events produced by ACQTC, or the Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council (see their website too, ACQTC.org)—whose members include Native Americans and many life-long affiliated (sometimes adopted) sisters and brothers. You can also see one of their latest projects at ThunderbirdAlliance.com.
Their works and activities range from The Wampano Dictionary to protecting and celebrating southern New England lands and histories. The work of Fox Running on this website is exemplary of ACQTC. One of its most amazing aspects is that so many of its achievements originate in the spirit of Iron Thunderhorse, their Grand Sachem—a published and internationally recognized scholar, artist and craftsman of Native New England.
Iron Thunderhorse’s indomitable wife and Duda (Headwoman, Teacher), Little Owl, is a Native American linguist and poet among many other things. These four poems are from Little Owl’s collection, Wah Quinnipiac Arkeis: Wunnonkou, Ea Kesuk, Quah Nompung—The Quinnipiac Nation: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow: Poetry Written in Wampano, The Language of the Quinnipiac People, with English Translations by [the author]. (Milltown, IN: published by the author 2001, c/o 201 Church Street, Milltown, Indiana 47145.)
You’ll find another of Little Owl’s poems, “We Do Not Know How,” at the end of the text of Mystic Fiasco on this website.
Try these aloud—Wampano can be difficult, but it speaks tremendous music!
Chawgun noweta mamonchu.
Webe wah seepus hom mauwa
Pahtsuonk ramuk aqueewants
Wah wabun anoohomaonk
Weeche wah anumwussukuppe.
Wah tukkoog saioo kitzummodean
Ea kesuk rame wunnonkou.
Pahtsuonk rame magazak.
In the shadows
A little bird is quiet,
the morning mist.
Only the river can see him
waiting under a blanket
The wind is singing
with the willow.
The waves are simply washing
today into yesterday.
The little bird is quiet,
waiting in the shadows.
|AN INDIAN FORT|
Chawgun moh askam
Wah webe pakkadtawauwunk
What was before
blesses our nations
there are thousands
of our ancient sacred tobacco;
From the beginning,
the spirit of the sea;
and we understand.
The only law
This is always the ancient
wherein stands the people's
Xut-too'wen skeje wabun
a little red leaf,
a little yellow leaf,
a raspberry rose,
and a dark-winged raven.
Then he paints
a grand rainbow
sails above all
I fly on the wind
|TOUCH THE FIRE|
Pummean weeche neen,
Walk with me,
the spiritual substance
Peace, Everywhere on Earth!
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