Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Revisiting Pocumtuck History in Deerfield

George Sheldon’s Vanishing Indian Act
MARGARET M. BRUCHAC
Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Vol. 39 (1 & 2), Summer 2011
© Institute for Massachusetts Studies, Westfield State University


“The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association was established in 1870 as a means to preserve “memorials, books, papers and relics” that would “illustrate and perpetuate the history of the early settlers, and of the race which vanished before them.” The founders, including George Sheldon, used Deerfield Academy’s original building as a location for Memorial Hall Museum, which opened in 1880. Although Sheldon promoted Memorial Hall Museum as a place where Pocumtuck and English history would intersect, there was no space dedicated to living Indians…

…Sheldon also eagerly pursued amateur excavations of the Pocumtuck dead. Dozens of Native burial sites, wigwam circles, old planting fields, former storage pits, and even the Pocumtuck fort site, were located within the bounds of the town of Deerfield. Epaphrus Hoyt identified the Pocumtuck fort site atop the Pocumtuck Range as a locale where “a great variety of rude Indian implements, as well as bones, have there been found.” Skeletal remains had also been found at Bars Long Hill, at John Broughton’s Hill, and at “an Indian burying place west of the ‘Old Street burying ground.’” Sheldon saw these physical remains as material proof of Indian extinction: “In connection with the indications of abode . . . fragments of weapons and utensils can always be found. With these proofs about him the close observer can say with confidence, here dwelt the red man; here stood his fort, here lay his cornfield, and standing on a selected spot he can add, underneath my feet lie his mouldering remains.”

In an 1886 essay for the Greenfield Gazette & Courier titled “Relics of the Departed Race,” Sheldon described some of his finds. Although he viewed Native human remains as abandoned relics, it is notable that these burial sites were not haphazard; they illustrated the kinds of careful interments done by living relatives. In addition, they clearly dated no earlier than the 1600s, since the personal adornments and funerary possessions included a mix of Native and non-Native goods, from shell wampum to glass trade beads:

“In one grave there was found what appeared to be the remains of a basket . . . In another, that of a child, was a stone figure, about four inches long, perhaps representing a fish or serpent…”


George Sheldon, I believe, willfully misrepresented the dense documentation of Pocumtuck and Nonotuck strategy and resistance. He ignored the flexibility of Algonkian Indian identity and failed to recognize that a shift in residence did not automatically erase indigenous ancestry. During the 1600s, as they had for millennia, Native people living in the middle Connecticut River valley employed seasonal travels, fluid kinship networks, and flexible alliances. These activities both confused and transgressed colonial social and political boundaries. The absorption of Pocumtuck people into the Schaghticoke and Abenaki populations was not a mysterious diaspora to a foreign country; people simply followed familiar paths to live among their cousins and allies..."


J. Kehaulani Kauanui interviews Dr. Marge Bruchac (Abenaki), a scholar whose research focuses on the historical erasure and cultural recovery:


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Eyes on "Matt's Sherborn Chamber"

A little bit of conjecture about this photo:


"The predominantly domed roofs of hothouse structures were equated to the back of a turtle and the fire at its center as the turtle’s head...The turtle allusion is a reference to the animal’s natural ability to move between dry land and water; contrasting physical locations are apt metaphors of changes in bodily and mental states. Yuchi stories of transformation have medicine people riding turtles (Wagner 1931:77) and terrapins (Speck 1909:147) across rivers, normally at the edge of settled areas...

...(T)he Cherokees believed that thunder was a horned snake within the rain which connected the sky vault, the human-built houses on earth, and the underground or underwater townhouses (Mooney 1900:481). Mythical stories like this portrayed a tiered cosmos in which similar structures and deities were nested at different levels, but yet interconnected via portals, such as sweat lodge entrances (including front doors, smoke vents, and fire pits), river pools, and caves leading into mountain tops (Figure 2).”
The Socio-Economic and Ritual Contexts of Petroglyph Boulders in the Southeastern United States.
Johannes (Jannie) Loubser, PhD, RPA Stratum Unlimited, LLC

http://www.stratumunlimited.com/uploads/4/8/1/5/4815662/ritual_and_economic_petro_article.pdf

     "The serpent effigy is found in many places...The walls of the fort (Fort Ancient) are in the shape of massive serpents, the heads of the serpents forming the gateways..."


Prehistoric America, Volume 2  By Stephen Denison Peet

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ways of Knowing



“The most obvious thing that distinguishes knowledge from belief is truth…
truth is independent of what anyone happens to believe is true,
and that simply believing something is true does not make it true.
Indeed, even if everyone believes that something is true, it may turn out to be false…
knowledge requires something less than certainty.
In practice, when we say something is “true”
we usually mean that it is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

We usually justify beliefs and knowledge claims by appealing to one of the four ways of knowing:
– “I saw it!” (perception)
–“Someone told me” (language)
– “I worked it out” (reason)
– “It’s intuitively obvious” (emotion)
from Richard von Lagemaat’s course book “Theory of Knowledge”

   I guess I keep coming back to thoughts on “Ways of Knowing” because of that upcoming NEARA Conference that I can’t afford to go to. It’s a struggle for me these days just to be able to afford to pay attention.
   And I guess from that constant attack on my beliefs about Indigenous Stonework, something I’m just really beginning to grasp after 25 years and, like any good man of wisdom, to realize there is more to it than I’ll ever understand.
    That NEARA Conference keeps bringing to mind “Thorson’s Keynote Speech to NERA (sic)” that has transformed, uncorrected grammatically, into a web page on the Stone Wall Initiative entitled “Pre-European Contact” {http://stonewall.uconn.edu/investigation/pre-european-contact/}.
    In April 13, 2015 I saw that this page had been added to the SWI web pages:

Sampson Rock in Madison, CT is a special and evocative place 
This is a glacial erratic, a “rocking stone” and, in this taxonomy, a Notable Stone.

     I was a little hopeful when I read Thorson's first sentence (actually using the proper word "There" instead instead of "Their"):
    Of course there are!  There have to be!  Hundreds of thousands of human beings have walked and worked the New England uplands for at least 11,000 years.  And many features have been confirmed as pre-Colonial by properly credentialed archaeologists.” I had hoped for some examples other than the one given, Sampson Rock, but then the author’s belief quickly turned back to the same old culturally biased thing:
     “But let us not conflate the few, the small, and the odd stone features in the woods with the latticework of abandoned stone walls gracing much of the New England countryside. This latticework of walls is the collective work of colonial and early American farmsteads built by Euro-settlers and their descendants since 1607.” The author ties into NEARA as he writes, “Last night, while giving a talk to the Boxborough Conservation Trust in Massachusetts, I got the inevitable question about pre-colonial stone ruins.  This morning, I decided to post my answer in the form of a keynote speech I gave several years ago to the New England Antiquities Research Association.

     Once you follow that link and get to “The Odd Stone Out” speech, you find that the one thing that bothers Robert Thorson the most is ( a lack of?) scientific proof that “Native Americans” or Indigenous People built stone constructions found in New England. He writes: “To my mind, the most important research question facing us today is how to sort out the certainty of a tiny bit of pre-historic stonework from the self-evident stonework of the historic era.” He lets us know that, “The answer for me lies in what I call my conceptual toolbox. In it are many tools that I have gathered over the years. But there are five tools that I return to time and time again when going about my work. I dub them: (a) Ways of knowing; (b) the parsimony principle, (c) the “good” hypothesis; and (d) the idiosyncratic factor.”
     (Using the Science of Mathematics, I sense that this may not actually be five tools, but I am not very good when it comes to numbers.)

“(a) Ways of knowing: “These boundaries between tradition, intuition, science, and faith must be acknowledged and respected if we are to make progress.” I’m not sure whose Traditions he is talking about, but many Indigenous Cultures in the hemisphere have traditions of placing stones in donation or memory piles, from early contact times up to the present, examples of which can easily be found and have been documented by scientists who study Anthropology. Intuition and Faith can influence Science, “another word for secular logic: For the question “How do you know?” it answers: “Because I can prove (sic)” Its key tools are the hypotheses, experimental trials, quantitative analysis, and comparative methods.”
(This might prompt another person segway into and to explain “hypotheses,” but instead Thorson jumps to number two or:) 
(b): the parsimony principle: “ The basic idea is that, given two plausible competing explanations for the same observation, the simplest or most familiar is the most likely to be correct.
    By using the phrase, “most likely,” I am affirming that the principle applies not to truth or falsehood, but only to probability of being correct. This parsimony principle is not proof of any kind. Rather, it’s a “rule of thumb” used to help in the framing of hypotheses, not a test of whether one is true or not.
    By using the phrase simplest, I mean the one requiring the fewest and/or the least convoluted assumptions. Bt (sic) familiar, I mean the one that is most consistent with time-tested, local explanations.”
     I know well those “time-tested, local explanations.” Every Stone Wall book ever written or plagiarized from Eric Sloane on down perpetuates those ideas that cloud actual scientific thinking and observation, not to mention ignoring another facet of the Parsimony Theory. It may be important to take into consideration that Indigenous People lived in the area called New England for somewhere around 12,000 years while European Contact and Colonization only happened in the last 400 years.
     My math skills plague me again: out of the total human history of the area, what percentage of total time is that Post-Contact period?

(c): the “good” hypothesis: “A hypothesis is a good question framed as a statement that yields a binary (yes/no) answer (for each attempt at falsification). This sentence requires some unpacking,” Thorson continues, stating that a good question is (and thankfully doesn’t tells us how many these four or five points are):

Novel:  hasn’t been asked and tested before.
Relevant: worth knowing. Relevance is culturally determined.
Ethical: does no harm, or harm within culturally accepted norms.
Testable:  with observations or measurements.”

      I consider these as semi-novel “good If/Then questions,” worth knowing (as in the true nature of these stones), ethical for the same reason, and certainly testable by critical observation – although I get tired just thinking about how to measure them all, - and really quite incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring as an art form, as well as perhaps a sustainable permaculture developed over thousands of years:
        If the Indigenous People of Turtle Island (Native Americans of North America) maintained the landscape with fire then how were those fires controlled, especially in areas of dense population such as New England?
        If Paleo-Indians (the Ancestors of the Indigenous People of Turtle Island) made “sophisticated prehistoric stone walls deep beneath the surface of Lake Huron,” the most recent find described as “two stone lines forming a lane about 30 metres long and eight metres wide which ended in a corral-type structure” with “hunting blinds built into the sides as well as other lanes and structures,” then why not elsewhere on Turtle Island?
    If there are many free standing stone concentrations/constructions that resemble animals, both actual and legendary, that figured highly in the Indigenous People of Turtle Island (Native Americans of North America) Worldview – the turtle, bear and deer etc. along with the Great Serpents (including the one in Ohio) etc., -  then who was more likely to have the time and motivation to create this artwork?
      If those same techniques of artwork can be found in those longer piles of stones most often called “stone walls” then again, who was most likely to have the time and motivation to create this artwork?

    
 (d): the idiosyncratic factor: “Doodling – that a feature exists for no good reason at all."
        Really this is a silly kind of way to throw a monkey wrench into the artistic aspect of stonework and nullify its existence as Indigenous despite the similarity to other stone structures world-wide and especially all that of the Western Hemisphere, from Machu Picchu to Bannock Pont.

(e): "???"

It’s kind of convenient that I can come up with my own (e), a phrase beginning with that letter:
Ethnic Cleansing: To deny that there are remnants of Stonework (and Earthworks) of many kinds that illustrate an Indigenous presence on the Sacred Cultural Landscape of Turtle Island is a form of “Ethnic Cleansing." I’ll also add that the reuse of Indigenous made stonework, adding wooden rails to comply with heights specified in Colonial Fence Laws, and perpetuating the claim the great majority of them, especially about a quarter million miles of rows of stones, as post contact “stone walls and fences” was and is a continuing form of cultural appropriation very much related to the appropriation of Indigenous Homelands {http://wakinguponturtleisland.blogspot.com/2015/03/cultural-appropriation.html }.

Could Money be involved in all this reluctance to recognize and ‘Ethnically Cleanse” Indigenous Stonework (and, in the Housatonic watershed where I live, the Indigenous People who are the most likely descendants of those People)??
Let’s test THAT Hypothesis…

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why It Isn’t What You Read About

In that Stone Wall Book or Anywhere Else
   “Who you gonna believe? All those facts or your own eyes?”

      You might find yourself out walking along a stone wall somewhere in Litchfield CT and suddenly look to see some stones placed so that it resembles some kind of turtle:

(I need to get an image when it is wet with rain or morning dew, stones shining…)
    You might be walking along the Shoreline Trail near Madison CT and, if you are really looking, see something that resembles a certain kind of turtle that was almost hunted to extinction so that you could order up some turtle soup in a restaurant in NYC, a Black Diamondback Terrapin: 
(Manhattan Clam Chowder, with it’s reddish color, was invented as a substitute for Turtle Soup.)
You could be walking some open space property in Woodbury and see this in a zigzag row of stones along a tributary stream of a river still known by its Indian Name:
Or come across this one down on the floodplain in a linear row of stones:

Another nearby, smiling at you it might seem:

Maybe you might be in Watertown CT and notice a possible profile of a turtle swimming in a linear row:

Maybe you were visiting my Mom and walked along a row of stones between her house and the Interstate and thought: “There might be a turtle or two in there:

To find one stone turtle incorporated into a “stone wall” is considered an accidental occurrence.
To find two stone turtles incorporated into a “stone wall” is considered a coincidence.
To find three stone turtles incorporated into a “stone wall” is considered a conspiracy.
I just gave you more than three in a tiny fraction of a quarter million miles of New England “stone walls.”
How many turtles will we find if we look at all the “stone walls” on Turtle Island?




Saturday, April 11, 2015

Chestnut Tree Hill Well Formed Zigzag

That "stone wall" isn't quite complete as shown above.
The eastern most point is just visible behind this boulder: 







Serpent Head Boulder? 










Western End at Outcrop