Monday, November 23, 2015
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
A bear effigy? A turtle? Both?
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Timothy H. Ives was kind enough to email me a copy of the “Cairnfields in New England’s Forgotten Pastures.” I read it once, then twice, and then I read it once again. Each time I got the feeling that I’d read it somewhere before but I know that can’t be true. I guess that it is just sounds so much so much like so many other things I’ve read about stone mounds and stone walls presented as reminders of an “agrarian past” related to a very brief period of time.
Dr. Ives abstract states: Most of the cairnfields in New England’s forested hills were likely built by nineteenth-century farmers to prolong the usefulness of increasingly stony, overgrazed pastures. This working hypothesis is supported by a historical context, observations of cairnfields in Rhode Island, and a formation model that accounts for important cultural and environmental factors. Cairnfields may yield new and important insights into some of the more prosaic, historically overlooked dimensions of agrarian pasts, particularly when their study leverages a landscape approach within the context of farmstead archaeology.
I’m not sure how, as Ives writes, “this paper presents a modest contribution toward the shared goal of distinguishing ceremonial stonework from that of farmers (Lavin 2013:296) in a region where a variety of mutually influential cultural traditions render stone piles and cairns meaningful (Ives 2013).” Every figure included in the paper, some of them obviously Indigenous-made constructions in the eyes of members of the Narragansett Tribal Nation or independent researchers, is presented as proof, such as Robert Thorson “imagines” and Susan Allport “proposes,” of how post contact agrarian field clearing might look, while neglecting to show any image of any proven Indigenous Stone Feature of any kind anywhere as an example. While Ives wants to “emphasize that no disrespect is intended toward Native American Tribes who may ascribe sacred value to cairnfields within the context of Ceremonial Stone Landscapes (sensu United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. 2007), he seems reluctant to mention a single Indigenous Cultural Landscape in the western hemi-sphere for comparison, including the Turners Falls Sacred Ceremonial Hill Site. Every word written in “Cairnfields” seems to deny that Indigenous Cultures in the Northeast, over a span of 12,000 years or more, could have possibly left any visible reminder of their presence on the landscape.
Reading the paper caused me to pause and ask some myself some “If/Then” questions:
“If the already understudied Indigenous Cultural Landscape is ignored, particularly in the case of Stone Features, then wouldn’t a person be guilty of passing off Pseudoscience as Science, substituting myths for truth, and Ethnically Cleansing away evidence of thousands of years of Traditional Ecological Knowledge by claiming, without further research, that the great majority of stonework in the Northeast is the result of field clearing methods of post-contact agriculture?
If there are many free standing stone concentrations/constructions that either contain effigies or resemble animals both actual and legendary, as well as other designs and patterns that figured highly and appear in the artwork in other media created by the Indigenous People of Turtle Island (Native Americans of North America) – the turtle, bear and deer etc. along with the Great Serpents etc, - then who was more likely to have the time and motivation to create this artwork - Indigenous People or farmers fancifully and whimsically "doodling" as Thorson calls it?
If those same techniques and designs found in Indigenous artwork can be found in those longer piles of stones most often called “stone walls” then again, who was most likely to have the greater amount of time and greater motivation to create this artwork especially when the stone wall ends in what clearly resembles a snakes head (as I once heard a panel member at a Roundtable on Stone Features and Ceremonial Stone Landscapes at the IAIS Research Center say, as if reading my mind)?
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, in times of increasing territorialism? Which would be a considered the more “dire need” to justify the labor required to create nearly a quarter million miles of stone walls – fuel breaks to control Indigenous burning over a great length of time or animal containment fences in the brief period of time known as the Golden Age of Stonewall Building that began shortly after the American Revolutionary War and ended with the invention of barbed wire.
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?
Doesn't the Law of Parsimony apply not only to the time required for the building of “stone walls” but also to the reuse of already existing stone structures – or their removal from the landscape?
Did wooden rail fences actually come first or were fence laws created to culturally appropriate existing stone wall fuel breaks and/or petroforms in a quick and simple manner, adding rails to meet a height requirment?
Will the time come when an archeologist’s reputation be in jeopardy for NOT recognizing Stone Features of the Sacred Ceremonial Landscape (such as turtles on Turtle Island)?
Will the time come when the sanity of an independent researcher is NOT questioned when pointing out repeated patterns in Indigenous Stonework and Artwork…
Monday, November 16, 2015
My first “Cairn” was long gone and I knew it. I found it illustrated in a book from the town library but the author let me know it was long gone. He was sad about it too.
That farmer was probably not being very truthful about why he dismantled the grave, not any more than he was being truthful about running a perfectly good plow into a heap of stones about the size of a cord of wood. He was probably robbing the grave for the bones of the Sachem as well as for anything else that might have been buried along with the man’s body. It occurs to me that the owner of the property may not have been a farmer, now that I think of it. It may have been tenants on the land who did the actual dirty work for the owner.
Well, you know, it doesn’t matter, because every single one of those people is dead now and let that be a lesson to anyone who is thinking about digging into a possible Indigenous Grave. Bad Luck and even Death will surely follow.
But I’m getting distracted.
Sorry (And you’ll note in my favor that I didn’t say anything about Pomperaug’s grave, also long gone, which once sat by the bedrock outcrop right beside my cousin’s driveway downtown).
Finding the most likely spot where the stone mounds and apple trees probably once were caused me to rethink everything I thought I knew about stones on the landscape around here and eventually other places as well. That little bit of ground was surrounded by serpentine stone walls and eventually I came to understand that in a way it was like a little island, especially after the waters of a 100 year flood put the branch of the river back where it originally flowed, down from the waterfall and right around those suspected burial grounds, scouring out a channel that revealed a second serpentine row of stones.
I’m getting ahead of myself in my story.
I’ll back up, back to the early 1990’s, before that big thunderstorm, when the only double row of stones visible was to the east of the suspected desecrated burial grounds. Following that stream actually led me to my first “cairns,” a few low piles of stones but two really interesting ones in among them that I had no doubt were Indigenous Stone Features.
I’ve told the story before many times, but I never get tired of telling it and retelling it, although typing it out over and over does wear on me just a bit. It's easier to include some links at the end of the post. In the meantime, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go:
I don’t know how many words a video is worth, but probably it's more than a thousand and one:
Eventually I realized this was a similar stone representing a deer just to the south of the bear-like stone on the flat boulder:
These are stones to burn tobacco at, possibly for hunting, maybe to pray to the Spirit of the Bear or Deer as a personal guardian, maybe for any other number of reasons known only to the person who created them. Finding these Effigy-like Stones allowed me to be open to the possibility that this large boulder and some associated stones might be a turtle petroform:
A box turtle to be exact, sunburst designs on the shell, although you could infer that it is the Great Turtle whose shell was scratched by the Beaver who scooped up some mud from the bottom of an endless and empty sea to create Turtle Island:
I should mention that I actually really dislike the use of the word “cairn” to describe the many types of stone mounds I come across in this place that has been called Turtle Island for a long time. Cairn sounds so European, mostly because it is European in origin. Not being a speaker of the local Indigenous dialect and able to supply the proper word, I settle for stone mounds or stone heaps because stone pile or rock pile makes me think of something just piled up thoughtlessly, like so much junk. And I say stone because a stone is a piece of some kind of rock or mineral substance.
And speaking of junk and things just piled up thoughtlessly, the nearest stone mounds to where I sit right now pecking away at my keyboard, were pecked out of piles of junk over by the old chicken coop that I could see right out of this window if it was light outside. When the chickenyard was expanded many years ago, one of the men who lived in the group home we used to run started taking some of the junk away from on top of the stones as the chickens began pecking and scratching around their new territory. The chickens are now long gone, but in these mounds are stones that seem to be representations of turtles of many sizes and bear a great resemblance to many stones in many other mounds and stone walls:
These fragments in the photo below could be interpreted as shells around a newly hatched turtle:
Above: Accidently a turtle in a mound 30 miles away?
Take a closer look:
What turtles we find, depends on what turtles we look for.
The same goes for bears and deer and other effigies in stone mounds too.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Early Agricultural Period on Tumamoc Hill
Mandatory Tortoise by some trencheras:
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
For Immediate Release: Trees Protest Pipeline Expansion
Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Location: Blue Mountain Reservation, Washington Street and Montrose Station Road entrance, Cortlandt Manor, NY 10567 (Follow trail to the left for approximately 100 feet.)
Media Contact: SAPE, Susan Van Dolsen, (914) 525-8886, http://sape2016.org
“A grove of trees in Westchester County’s Blue Mountain Reservation in the Town of Cortlandt is staging a protest in an effort to save their fellow trees from being cut down along the 1½ mile Spectra Energy AIM pipeline route through the reservation. These trees also represent thousands of other trees to be felled along the entire pipeline route from Ramapo, NJ to Boston, MA. Public parks are everyone’s back yard, yet Spectra Energy Partners, a private corporation, was granted permission to cut down over 1,000 trees to install their 42” diameter, high-volume, high-pressure gas pipeline in the park. Blue Mountain, a 1600-acre county preserve, is a vital haven for wildlife which provides countless benefits to residents of the county. Westchester County, in providing the license to Spectra for its construction in Blue Mountain Reservation, may have illegally circumvented New York State law.
This morning, hundreds of trees near the pipeline donned orange “Do Not Cut” tape in revolt. As Spectra expands its right-of-way to 125 feet, many of these trees may be felled and the surrounding environment will be degraded. Destruction of public parkland, along with the threat posed by the same pipeline’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear facility in Buchanan, NY, has caused residents and elected officials to call for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to review its decision to permit the project. Although the federal Natural Gas Act requires the agency to issue a decision on appeals within 30 days, FERC can extend the deadline indefinitely by issuing what is called a “tolling order,” as it has in this situation. In some recent cases throughout the country, FERC issued its decision after the pipes were already in the ground with the gas flowing.
The approval process for the Spectra Algonquin Incremental Market project has been fraught with unresolved concerns and irregularities. Authorities have called Spectra’s Environmental Impact Statement woefully incomplete and misleading. Nuclear safety expert, Paul Blanch, through a Freedom of Information Request, obtained documents indicating that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission provided erroneous and incomplete information to FERC, which subsequently approved the pipeline expansion plan. FERC, according to its website, “has no jurisdiction over pipeline safety or security, but actively works with other agencies with safety and security responsibilities”; however, there has never been a thorough, independent risk assessment of this high-pressure, high-volume gas pipeline 105 feet from vital structures at the nuclear facility. The new pipeline crosses the Indian Point property for 2,159 feet.
The grassroots group, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), learned about the trees’ protest from an anonymous source.”
Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE) is a grassroots organization with a mission to educate our fellow citizens and elected officials about the negative impacts associated with Spectra Energy Corporation’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) Project. SAPE opposes the AIM gas expansion project because it may exacerbate climate change, endanger our safety and quality of life, contaminate water, air and soil, cause harm to domestic animals and wildlife, and threaten farmland and property values.
Rob Buchanan adds: “The destruction of the natural environment due to the Spectra pipeline project has begun here in Westchester County NY. The pipeline and its 125 ft right of way will cut through a county park, Blue Mountain Reservation. There are many potential ceremonial stone landscapes within the park (see http://rockpiles.blogspot.com/search?q=buchanan+blue+mountain ).
Fortunately most sites are not close enough to the pipeline route to be effected but there is at least one site that might be endangered. Please be aware of new pipeline and pipeline expansion projects in your area. Recently the New England tribes and USET (as I remember) developed a protocol to examine any ceremonial stone landscapes threatened by pipeline expansion projects. Also, please support your local community activists who are opposing the pipeline expansion project…"
Twelve tribal representatives have been trained to identify and document ceremonial stone features as a part of an emergency avoidance plan for proposed gas pipeline projects in the Northeast. Reprinted below is the news release regarding this project.
Charlestown, RI, September 24, 2015: Under the auspices of the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) of the Narragansett, Mohegan, Mashantucket Pequot and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), individuals from the four sponsoring Tribes as well as members of the Mohawk, Shinnecock, and Passamaquoddy Tribes completed a week-long training in ceremonial stone landscape (CSL) identification at the Narragansett Indian Longhouse in Charlestown, RI, and were certified by the THPOs as CSL Field Specialists. The training was conducted on an emergency basis in response to proposed gas line development projects in the Northeast.
In October of 2002, the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) declared in Resolution #2003:022: “[F]or thousands of years before the immigration of Europeans, the medicine people of the United South and Eastern Tribal [USET] ancestors used [ceremonial stone] landscapes to sustain the people’s reliance on Mother Earth and the spirit energies of balance and harmony”.
In December of 2008, the National Register of Historic Places acknowledged ceremonial stone landscapes as culturally significant to federally recognized Tribes in the Northeast, pursuant to the tenants of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which states: “The agency official shall ensure that consultation in the section 106 process provides the Indian Tribe . . . a reasonable opportunity to identify its concerns about historic properties, advise on the identification and evaluation of historic properties, including those of traditional religious and cultural importance, articulate its views on the undertaking’s effects on such properties, and participate in the resolution of adverse effects.” – National Historic Preservation Act, 36 CFR 800.2(c)(2)(ii)(A)
By law, Section 106 of the NHPA mandates that before construction, religious and cultural properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to federally recognized Tribes that attach cultural and historical significance to the project areas should be identified and documented in consultation with the affected Tribes. The Tribes, the federal agency, and the project proponents, then work together to devise a plan to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the impacts to the resources. This work must begin as soon as feasible in order for project proponents to receive the necessary permitting for construction from the lead federal agency (in this case, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – FERC). The work cannot proceed without additional trained Tribal representation, thus training Tribal representatives was urgent.
The training at the Narragansett Longhouse was authorized by Narragansett Medicine Man/THPO John Brown, and occurred under the guidance of the THPOs and their landscape mapping partner Ceremonial Landscapes Research LLC (CLR), an entity created in collaboration with the Tribes to assist in mapping and documenting CSLs using traditional Tribal knowledge. The Tribal representatives will work with a mapping team from CLR.
According to Doug Harris, Deputy THPO of the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO): “Through this training, the Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs) hope to increase private landowner, federal agency, and project proponent awareness and stewardship of ceremonial stone landscapes that are sacred to our people, and to protect these places from unknowing destruction by development.”
Federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the FCC, the FAA, the National Forest Service and the Army at Fort Drum, NY have acknowledged the significance of ceremonial stone landscapes, and have encouraged their protection. One hoped-for outcome of this project is to extend that acknowledgement and spirit of stewardship to all regulatory agencies and commissions. These ceremonial places have been identified in territories of past Tribal use from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and with the cooperation of local towns and landholders they should be protected wherever they are.
The training was initially funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with additional donations requested from Kinder Morgan, and Spectra Energy. Ceremonial Landscapes Research, LLC, provided curriculum development and training personnel.
Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO).
(401) 474-5907 or (508) 922-7673
Tribal Contacts for this Release:
Mashantucket Pequot Tribe
Narragansett Indian Tribe
Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)