Friday, June 16, 2006

The story is that Gideon Mauwee, or Hungry Bear, was out hunting when he came across the place called Schaghticoke, near what's now Kent, CT.
He gathered people together there - probably some that had lived at the "Fresh Water Fishing Place." He was the leader, the Sachem, the Keeper of the Peace.

“It was Mauwee’s vision and leadership abilities that enabled the people to come together. He welcomed other native people… called out to friends and relatives to join him in this new place called Schaghticoke. By 1740, the Schaghticoke population had peaked, with over 500 native people moving into the area,” writes Trudie Lamb Richmond (Enduring Traditions p. 108).



I like to think that he came upon the place by following rows of stone in the mast forest surrounding the cornfields that today no one knows the location of.
I think that valley looked a lot like the Fresh Water Fishing Place.







Was he all alone?
Was he with a hunting party?
Were they checking out the area the rows bordered so they could drive deer with fire?

I like to think he found a turtle near where some rows met, like this one where linear met zigzag...











Did he follow the row to a river or a field?








Did he pass some mounds, stones on stones, where he burned tobacco?
More turtles? A bear? A deer?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Why a Turtle?



I suppose I should say a little more about the Turtle.

Here's some more old writing from 1998 - with a couple corrections and an addition:

" On a hillside, not more than 1000 feet away from the possible weir, is a “glacial erratic” that seems to me to be humanly enhanced to resemble a turtle shell or carapace. It’s about 2 feet wide and high, about 4 feet long, with separate stones that form a head and partial plastron that this head once rested on, as well as stones that could be the turtle’s feet. Marks on the carapace stone suggest the “sun burst” markings on a box turtle’s shell. They appear to be the size of human hands, carved into the carapace. In the Lenni Lenape Creation Story, it is a box turtle that rises up out of an endless sea. Several animals swimming around the turtle unsuccessfully attempt to dive to the sea floor for some mud to place upon the Great Turtle’s back, until the beaver finally succeeds. As the beaver climbs onto Turtle’s back, he scratches his footprints into the Turtle’s shell and that is why all box turtles have those distinctive markings, the Lenape legend says. I’ve heard the famous “Schagticoke Sisters” from Kent, CT recall the same legend at various times and places, and was made aware of an Oneida version where it’s muskrat that succeeds and leaves his footprints on the Turtle’s shell by Dr. David Drucker (Email communication 1997). (And by Jim Porter on June 14, 2006, relating that the Narragansett version also has 'muskrat involvement.') I also found it interesting that lithographs of the Oneida Stone in Henry Schoolcraft’s “Indian History” bear great resemblance to this “Box Turtle” sculpture’s carapace stone in western CT.
I found it even more interesting that the stones in the weir resemble turtle and tortoise shells of roughly the same size and shape as both stones. They are lined up so that every other stone faces east and West, sort of like a row of turtles side by side.








A couple feet from the erratic/turtle is a stone row that also appears to contain more testudinate stones, a sort of “fence of stone turtles.” I suspect this fence was possibly a firebreak for a hilltop food supply, a “mast forest” grove of oak/chestnut/hickory trees. William Cronan, writing in Changes in the Land, mentions that what most impressed the earliest of European visitors to New England was the practice of burning off the forests to create the “parklike” landscape so often mentioned in the pre-epidemic Northeast. Historically, Giovanni de Verrazzano first made note of the openness of the forest in the first recorded visit to the area, reporting smelling burning wood from far off at sea in fact. In 1605 in the “Voyage of George Waymouth,” James Rosier was so impressed with the forest’s appearance that he was moved to capitalization when he wrote, “It all did resemble a Stately Parke.” Cronan points out that the landscape was not a “virgin wilderness,” but a managed system of Native American land use. In “The Native People of Southern New England” Kathleen Bragdon also writes that “The landscape created by the Ninnimissinouk (a Narragansett derived word for “People” that she uses in the book) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was also one showing visible signs of social and cultural “management.” Native people exercised control over plant and animal species through land clearing, especially in the yearly (some say twice yearly) “burning off” of the undergrowth. She cites Gordon Day writing in 1953 for Ecology 34(2): 329-46, entitled ‘The Indian as an Ecological Factor in the Northeastern Forest’: “Burning increased the food supply for heath hen, passenger pigeon, wild turkey, and deer. The association between certain nut trees such as chestnut at village sites was probably attributed to burning as well.” Cronan believes that these were controlled fires, especially in the denser populations of Southern New England. He also suggests that these matters are best studied locally when trying to form a picture of this Indian Landscape. Locally, well above the floodplain known as “The Weir in the Middle,” where I think once stood groves of oak and chestnut, there are remnants of rows of stones that suggest to me this system of land management. In fact, one of these stones in this "fence" also appears to be a mortar stone. This four-foot diameter stone appears to have a basin worked into it where perhaps acorns (and other nuts) were ground as part of preparation for use as food (Also ground up chestnuts, according to Frank Speck in "Big House Ceremony," act as a fish poison that his Native American informant calls "fish peyote").

A stone fish weir and a mortar stone are among the accepted stone constructions made by Native People of New England. Extensive stone firebreaks and large sculptures are not, but in my “local study” I include them in my view of what the pre-colonial landscape looked like in 'The Fresh Water Fishing Place'."

Tim MacSweeney
Oct. 26, 1998




As a footnote for those who may ask “Why a turtle?” I include this from Frank Speck’s “A Study of the Delaware Big House Ceremony (1931)”:

"THE TORTOISE AS A SYMBOL. --- Outlined in particularly high relief is the tortoise. In the latter creature we have the symbol of life, of perseverance, longevity and steadfastness. As the Delaware patriarch says, “The tortoise is the earth; is life.” In the procession of time and among the elemental nature forces the direction of movement is from east to west, according to Delaware belief. So moves the tortoise with measured pace across the earth and through the Big House, carrying out the mythical allegory. At the end of his journey at the “western door,” meaning where the sun sets at the edge of the earth, night will come to an end as does the ceremony after the twelveth night. Thus the tortoise “brings the ceremony.” His shell in the form of the rattle is carried by the participants who take the part of leaders in the recitations and dances and move in the proper westward direction in the Big House. The saying is, as the ceremony is opened, and after the intervals of pause, “The tortoise is bringing us the worship and we are now ready to touch it again.”
The tortoise, moreover, is “he who carries our mother’s body” - the latter being a metaphor for the earth. The tortoise being a “grandfather” thus becomes more ancient than the earth. The prominence of this mysterious creature in Delaware religious belief has long been noted by writers dealing with the tribe.
As early as 1670 the Delawares are recorded as declaring that all things came from the tortoise, that it brought forth the world, that from it’s back a tree had sprung upon whose branches men had grown, that it had a power and a nature to produce all thing such as earth, and the like; that it brought forth what the supreme divinity wished through it to produce.
Zeisberger mentions the world-flood myth in which it is related that some human survivors took refuge on the back of a turtle whose age was so great that his shell was mossy. And the turtle represents the earth.
His rounded back is to the Delawares the earth dome.
Another indication of a belief in the latent potency of the magical powers of this remarkable creature is met with in the esteem paid to the yellow color-pattern on the upper shell of the animal. Face paint patterns of a dignity appropriate to the men taking part in the Big House Ceremony are copied from these markings. The men wearing these patterns are adopting the symbol of the creature who “carries our mother’s body.”
The creature that typifies the earth bearer designated as taxko/ xkc (fused together) in Delaware, and whose symbol exists in the form of the shell rattle, is the Box Turtle (Cistudo Carolina). This reptile is by the rulings of precise taxonomy not a tortoise but a connecting link between the aquatic turtles, or terrapins, and the terrestrial forms, the true tortoises. For the Box Turtles, of the genus Cistudo, deriving their name from the well known structure of the hinged plastron which permits the animal to withdraw the soft parts of it’s body completely within the protective cover of the shell, have partially webbed feet, which places them nearer to the Turtles than the Tortoises. Yet to distinguish the reptile of Delaware tradition from the semi-aquatic American turtles, I have adhered to the designation of tortoise in the text and discussion.
Perhaps certain remarks offered by the informant will, in conclusion, add something to our idea of another side of the character of this knowing and potent reptile, so important to the religious sense of the Delaware.
“The turtle is in its way an evil thing, yet not so evil as a snake which is controlled by the Evil Spirit and also has human face-paint patterns. The Turtle can hurt human beings. Once a boy caught a water-turtle and turned him on his back. The Turtle got mad; raised himself on his legs stiffly. The Turtle raised himself, and launched himself through the air and struck the boy on his head and nearly killed him. The Turtle has a weapon in the sharp frontal plates.” (Pgs.44-47)

He also adds:
"SYMBOL OF THE TWELVE:
The Delaware also point out the occurrence of thirteen plates in the carapace and twelve in the plastron of all members of the American tortoises and turtles, bordered by the twelve marginal plates on each side. Another evidence in native thought of the tortoise as being a living symbol of the Universe (Pg. 62) ."
And:
"FIRE SYMBOLISM. – Among the spirit-forces of Delaware cosmology, “Our Grandfather Fire” (te/ n dai) is held in high esteem. The adoration of fire, however, is not sufficiently exclusive to justify the Delawares being called pyrolatrists. Fire, as a spirit-force subordinate to the Great Spirit, is an agency of purification and invigoration…To the Delaware ceremonialists the making of new, “pure” fire symbolizes “renewing of life, fresh vigor, the breathing of pure air uncontaminated by latent forces of disease, new and pure influences for life and health.” It is one of the forces to which tobacco is constantly offered, and is an auxiliary to the use of cedar as incense in the act of purification."

Frank Speck in “Delaware Big House Ceremony” 1931 (pg. 47)

Two More Original Drawings


Sometime or other I came across the concept of Paleoindian People expanding the Mast Forest by burning in more than one source and, inspired by that, drew this picture of a hilltop that includes use of stonerows to do so.

It has the Turtle Petroform and a nearby mortar stone in it and is based on site near my house...

And I found another stonerow drawing of the whole valley, again way too rectangular looking and not to scale, but the idea is there...

I try to remember that "Ecological" Native American point of view regarding life and the world that says, "Everything is connected."

All the features you see are not just the single features but are part of the "Web of Life." It's like circles. The circle of your heart in the circle of your family in the circle of your home in the circle of your camp along the circle of the river you live along surrounded by the circle of sea in the circle of the world...


(Blogger's spell check suggests replacing "paleoindian" with "valentine's" and "stonerow" with "stoner." I don't think so.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

At the Other End










At the "other end," so to speak, farthest from the "village," is the Mast Forest, full of all sorts of resources. There are many series of stone rows that perhaps function as firebreaks for those "at least 70 reasons" that Lewis (and everybody else) hints at that I wrote about in my Thursday, June 08, 2006 post (that I didn't really give a title to I see).

Here's an old drawing that looks better when you click on it:






And here's a series of maps that show the same place:

The 1892 map shows an old road that went from the first mill in the area, up into an oak and chestnut forest. The 1955 map shows it as a trail.

The 1892 map shows the spring on the east side of what looks like a good rockshelter; it's the one shown in the upper part of the drawing that has a zigzag stone border around it. Pieces of it still exist, but it was diverted at one time.

I do have some decent photos of the sections of stone rows that meet near the "Key" I wrote about, the Box Turtle or "Turtle One" in the drawing.


Looking south, the zigzag row is to the left (where the state highway is now), the linear row behind it:




Remnants of the linear row on the downside of the highway are actually in my yard, disturbed when my house was built around 1700, when the Indian village was still occupied...


Here's looking west, up hill toward the Mast Forest:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hearths of Stone

If you were sitting around a fire at a Paleo-Indian camp, there wouldn’t be a hearth around the fire. Everybody says so, including C. Keith Wilbur who drew the picture below:


A feature that helps define a Late Archaic site is the use of a hearth, again illustrated by Wilbur:
















Edward J. Platt, writing about Archaic Period Indians in “Reconstructing Prehistoric American Indian Cultures on Western Long Island, New York,” mentions hearths:
“That they were successful hunters can be attested to by the points being located in association with a large hearth roasting pit of concentrated fire shattered rocks. The hearth is half circled, on the west side (against winter winds?) with a group of large standing-on-end glacial cobblestones. They are directly associated with a large flat top glacial bolder measuring some 90cm.(35 inches) in diameter (see photograph in Revised Introduction). Did it serve as a food processing or Stone Age table? In-depth studies of the entire contents of the feature (excluding the glacial bolder) have been removed for scientific laboratory analysis and subsequent report...”
From: http://www.hoflink.com/~bayside/nyia/archaic.html

Tara Prindle has a very nice website called NativeTech on which you can find directions to recreate a wigwam:
http://www.nativetech.org/wigwam/construction.html
She says, “You should have a central hearth (about three feet across, or a foot and a half in diameter), which heated the wigwam in cold weather, and was used for cooking in rainy weather. Dish out the hearth to a depth of about 6 inches in the center, creating a basin. Line the hearth with small cobbles or clay, put stones around the hearth to help contain the fire.”
This is her drawing:

Containing a fire inside a wigwam is a good idea. I imagine the people who did so were the people who survived the longest.
So there is some accepted and documented Native American Stonework.
Exploring the stone rows around “The Fresh Water Fishing Place” I read about in an old history, I thought they might point out the site of “The Wigwams,” said to be there in the years around 1700.
I looked at a topographic map and found a likely spot, a large flat level area near the river. I followed remnants of a zigzag stone row to this spot and shortly after wrote some hearth thoughts down.
And I drew this picture:

You can see a hearth inside a wigwam in my drawing and below it a "bird's eye view" of what I think are wigwam sites and some stone rows that I hope convey the idea that, much like a hearth inside a wigwam, a zigzag stonework firebreak around the wigwams (and the Sachem's "Big Wigwam") would prevent a spread of fire. Other areas could be selectively burned (or not).
And I'll stop here for now, promising that this will be continued...

Friday, June 09, 2006



















I was telling you about “Waking Up on Turtle Island” wasn’t I?
Before I got distracted, I mean.

Here’s a scan of my notebook, a sketchbook really, with a date of “Summer 1997” on the page before it:











I find I wrote:
“Halfway into the seventh year of following intuition that I was seeing Native American Stonework radiating out from a serpentine stone row around what may be the … Burial Grounds, I came across the Turtle in this photograph.” The photo is gone but here’s a scan and a later digital photo:















Under the photo I wrote, “The Key” turned by “Turtle One”
and:
“This brought many of the stone fences I’d been thinking of as N.A. Stonework into focus. You might say they were composed of turtles of varying sizes & artistic abilities, sometimes strikingly beautiful as well as plain “ordinary” stones – each is unique as the individual who constructed it.“Since then I’ve lost count of just how many others I have come across. Now I know there’s no way to date when a stone was placed on or near another one, or by whom, or exactly why, but the widespread distribution of similar constructions of an animal revered by Native Americans in a place they referred to as Turtle Island… well draw your own conclusions.”

Thursday, June 08, 2006

"What Most Impressed...Indian Burning

Yes there is a great bias against the idea that Native Americans built stone constructions, especially in what’s now called New England. This sort of bigotry against Indians goes back along way, and has much to do with land acquisition.
Ownership of property, marked by fenced fields seemed to be a requirement of civilization in European eyes. And Native people seemed not to do that. For instance, we have John Winthrop's word that "they enclose noe land," as he lists the many reasons the Indians had no more than a "natural right" to the land that he personally wanted to appropriate as a manorial landlord as he and his ancestors had done in England. Further "proofs" of the times pointed to are typical of this excerpt from "Reasons and Considerations Touching the Lawfullness of Removing Out of England and into the Parts of America" by Robert Cushman written in 1621: (The Indians) "...were not industrious, neither have art, science, skill, or faculty to use either the land or commodities of it; but all spoils, rots, and is marred for want of manuring, gathering, ordering etc…(The Indians) do but run over the grass as do the foxes and wild beasts (Cronon 56) ." The dominant group, as they invaded a country to appropriate its land and resources, was quick to determine that Indians were sub-human.
"What most impressed English visitors was the Indians' burning of extensive sections of the forest once or twice a year,” William Cronon wrote in Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983). He quotes several primary sources of the 1600's, to explain as to why the Southern New England forest was so "park-like" and "open." In 1605, James Rosier, author of the “Voyages of George Waymouth,” felt that “It did all resemble a Stately Parke.” William Wood in 1643 put it this way: "In those places where the Indians inhabit there is scarce a bush or bramble or any cumbersome underwood to be seen in the more champion ground.”
"In short," Cronon goes on to say, "the Indians who hunted game were not just taking the 'unplanted bounties of nature;' in an important sense, they were harvesting a foodstuff which they had consciously been instrumental in creating. Few English observers saw this. To the colonists only the (Native American) women appeared to do legitimate work (in the agricultural field and gathering of wild foods); men idled away their time hunting, fishing, and wantonly burning the woods." Roger Williams may have seen this when he wrote: "(The Indians) hunted the Country over, and for the expedition of their hunting voyages, they burnt over the underwoods, once or twice a year." He was trying to defend Native sovereignty, suggesting that the Royal Grant of New England to the Plymouth Colony was illegal. In reply John Cotton, who considered native people savages and minions of the devil, wrote in reply that "We did not conceive that it is just title to so vast a Continent, to make no other improvement of millions of acres in it, but onely to burn it up for pastime."

Just this morning I came across four interesting articles.

The first is "Restoring the Cultural Landscape" by Germaine White, of the The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in Pablo, Montana.

She writes:
"But North America was not a virgin wilderness before European settlers arrived. It was an inhabited and known land. Native peoples were not passive residents of the land. They were responsible managers who affected their environment in profound ways, and their primary and most powerful tool was fire. They burned to increase many plant food and medicines. They burned to increase game animals, because fire improved forage.

They used fire to hunt with, building drivelines and game surrounds. They kept the trails groomed with fire. They employed fire in warfare, both offensively and defensively. They cooked and warmed themselves with fire. For thousands of years Indian people more than doubled the frequency of natural fires, so much so that the plant and animal communities we have inherited today are in large measure the legacy of Indian burning.

And that is one of the pieces missing from the national conversation about fire. It is as if Indian people’s presence on the land for thousands of years has been invisible. What we need to be talking about now is the restoration of a cultural landscape."

The next is an "Essay on Native American Environmental Issues"
by David R. Lewis, taken from Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia, edited by Mary B. Davis and published in 1994.

He writes:
"Traditionally Native Americans have had an immediate and reciprocal relationship with their natural environments. At contact, they lived in relatively small groups close to the earth. They defined themselves by the land and sacred places, and recognized a unity in their physical and spiritual universe. Their cosmologies connected them with all animate and inanimate beings. Indians moved in a sentient world, managing its bounty and diversity carefully lest they upset the spirit "bosses," who balanced and endowed that world. They acknowledged the power of Mother Earth and the mutual obligation between hunter and hunted as coequals. Indians celebrated the earth's annual rebirth and offered thanks for her first fruits. They ritually addressed and prepared the animals they killed, the agricultural fields they tended, and the vegetal and mineral materials they processed. They used song and ritual speech to modify their world, while physically transforming that landscape with fire and water, brawn and brain. They did not passively adapt, but responded in diverse ways to adjust environments to meet their cultural as well as material desires. The pace of change in Indian environments increased dramatically with Euroamerican contact. Old World pathogens and epidemic diseases, domesticated plants and livestock, the disappearance of native flora and fauna, and changing resource use patterns altered the physical and cultural landscape of the New World..."
Of O'odham, Crow, and Chicano descent Dennis Martinez, an ecosystem restorationist, contract seed collector, and vegetation surveyor, as well as the founder of the Indigenous Peoples' Restoration Network, writes, "The latest Indian burning in Northern California and Southern Oregon was in the 1940’s. When Henry Lewis did his 1973 study of the patterns of Indian burning in California, there were people living who remembered why they burned. Now their children, who are in their 60’s and 70’s, remember burning, but they don’t remember the control techniques or the objectives. So we may have lost that knowledge.
At Three Fires Walpole Island Reserve (Ojibway, Potawattomi, Ottawa), they never stopped burning. Ontario’s 70 endangered species are found in
quantity in 2,200 hectares on Walpole Island. This is amazing to botanists, who come there from all over the world to see what a “pristine” landscape can be like. But the people are part of that “pristine” quality. They’re still performing their role in the ecosystem, so the biodiversity is incredibly high.It’s the only place in Ontario where you can find biodiversity that high..."
Dr. Gerald W. Williams appears to have been a Historical Analyst for the USDA Forest Service, at least in July 15, 2003, when he wrote an introduction for something (I'll figure it out) in which he wrote:
"Henry T. Lewis, who has authored more books and articles on this subject than anyone else, concluded that there were at least 70 different reasons for the Indians firing the vegetation (Lewis 1973). Other writers have listed fewer number of reasons, using different categories (Kay 1994; Russell 1983). In summary, there are eleven major reasons for American Indian ecosystem burning, which are derived from well over 300 studies:
Hunting - The burning of large areas was useful to divert big game (deer, elk, bison) into small unburned areas for easier hunting and provide open prairies/meadows (rather than brush and tall trees) where animals (including ducks and geese) like to dine on fresh, new grass sprouts. Fire was also used to drive game into impoundments, narrow chutes, into rivers or lakes, or over cliffs where the animals could be killed easily. Some tribes used a surround fire to drive rabbits into small areas. The Seminoles even practiced hunting alligators with fire. Torches were used to spot deer and attract or see fish at night. Smoke used to drive/dislodge raccoons and bears from hiding.
Crop management - Burning was used to harvest crops, especially tarweed, yucca, greens, and grass seed collection. In addition, fire was used to prevent abandoned fields from growing over and to clear areas for planting corn and tobacco. Clearing ground of grass and brush to facilitate the gathering of acorns. Fire used to roast mescal and obtain salt from grasses.
Improve growth and yields - Fire was often used to improve grass for big game grazing (deer, elk, antelope, bison), horse pasturage, camas reproduction, seed plants, berry plants (especially raspberries, strawberries, and huckleberries), and tobacco. Fire was also used to promote or improve plants (such as willow, beargrass, deergrass, and hazelnut), as many were used for important storage/carrying baskets, clothing, and shelter.
Fireproof areas - Some indications that fire was used to protect certain medicine plants by clearing an area around the plants, as well as to fireproof areas, especially around settlements, from destructive wildfires. Fire was also used to keep prairies open from encroaching shrubs and trees. Insect collection - Some tribes used a "fire surround" to collect & roast crickets, grasshoppers, pandora moths in pine forests, and collect honey from bees.
Pest management - Burning was sometimes used to reduce insects (black flies, ticks, fleas & mosquitos) and rodents, as well as kill mistletoe that invaded mesquite and oak trees and kill the tree moss favored by deer (thus forcing them to the valleys where hunting was easier). Some tribes also used fire to kill poisonous snakes.
Warfare & signaling - Use of fire to deprive the enemy of hiding places in tall grasses and underbrush in the woods for defense, as well as using fire for offensive reasons or to escape from their enemies. Smoke signals used to alert tribes about possible enemies or in gathering forces to combat enemies. Large fires also set to signal a gathering of tribes. During the Lewis & Clark expedition, a tree was set on fire by Indians in order to “bring fair weather” for their journey. At least one tribe in the Northwest used fires set at the mouth of rivers to “call” the salmon to return from the ocean. There is one report of fire being used to bring rain (overcome drought).
Economic extortion - Some tribes also used fire for a "scorched-earth" policy to deprive settlers and fur traders from easy access to big game and thus benefitting from being "middlemen" in supplying pemmican and jerky.
Clearing areas for travel - Fires were sometimes started to clear trails for travel through areas, especially along ridges, that were overgrown with grass or brush/chaparral. Burned areas helped with providing better visibility through forests and brush lands for hunting, safety from predators (wolves, bears, and cougars) and enemies. Felling trees - Fire was reportedly used to fell trees by boring two intersecting holes into the trunk, then drop burning charcoal in one hole, allowing the smoke to exit from the other. This method was also used by early settlers. Another way to kill trees was to surround the base with fire, allowing the bark and/or the trunk to burn causing the tree to die (much like girdling) and eventually topple over. Fire also used to kill trees so that the wood could later be used for dry kindling (willows) and firewood (aspen).
Clearing riparian areas - Fire was commonly used to clear brush from riparian areas and marshes for new grasses, plant growth, and tree sprouts (to benefit beaver, muskrats, moose, and waterfowl). Species affected included cottonwoods, willows, tules/bulrushes, cattails, mesquite, as well as various sedges and grasses."
Drawing from personal experience, the author once actually worked for four days on another site that has also been continually maintained by burning since prehistoric times. Known collectively as the Blueberry Barrens of Washington County, Maine, these huge fields of “wild” native low bush blueberries (as opposed to the “cultivated” high bush type) have always been burned over on a staggered schedule every four years to keep them at peak production. Dirt road firebreaks, enabling the maintainers to selectively control which is burned and which is not, surround individual fields. The foreman, Mr. Williams, claimed it was the same manner in which Native Americans had eliminated weeds as well as fertilized the blueberries since before colonization (Personal communication August 1975).
The myth of an empty but bountiful, beautiful, and biodiverse continent, ready for settlement may fade away eventually. More will be written about the Native American’s past -and present- management of the landscape as time goes by. The original inhabitants may one day receive credit for their understanding of how to live in harmony with nature to such a degree of perfection that early Europeans mistook it for pristine, untouched Nature. Which may truly be the higher civilization: the one that scars the planet or the one that blends into and enhances the environment? Perhaps ideas will be formulated for the future, using some of this ancient wisdom.
And if you are wondering what has this to do with stones, you'll just have to wait awhile for future installments that I hope will illustrate some of the functions of some very fireproof (and waterproof) stones may have once had...
Links:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Little History




“Native people’s histories and stories have been told by others – rather dispassionately at times and not always with accuracy. Something is missing when we cannot and do not know our true past. Something is terribly wrong when our past is not accurately recounted,” Trudie Lamb Richmond writes in Enduring Traditions; the Native Peoples of New England, edited by Laurie Weinstein.
A Schagticoke elder, Trudie Lamb Richmond gave me a copy of that book many years ago when she worked at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. She now works at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center on the other side of Connecticut from where I live; I haven’t seen her or talked to her in a long time.
The IAIS was twenty minutes from my house; I used to stop by there once in a while with photos and videos and talk about the stonework I was finding, how it fit together in a picture of a cultural landscape, how it hinted of a culture that seemed to be more sophisticated than is portrayed even at the place she now works.

She once asked me what I’d like to do with all this information.
I didn’t really know back then and I think I mumbled something dumb.
Today I know the answer. If she asked me again, I’d say, “I’d love to accurately change the picture of the prehistory of Indians in the northeast.”
I’d like to recreate the place I know, filling in the picture with the stonework I think connected it all together, from the village to the fields, to the swamps and springs, to the rivers, to the fish weir, to the forests and all the many other places I’ve gone to by following the remnants of these stones.

Friday, June 02, 2006

First Post




I've finally taken my friend Peter's advice and started a blog of my own.
We've corresponded for many years, met up a couple of times, and are always planning to do so again in the future.
I guess we are trying to suggest something that "experts" don't agree with, yet are things that we stumble upon, both figuratively and literally.
Before this place we live in was called New England (and New Everywhere else for that matter), it was called "Turtle Island" by the People who lived here. It's been many years since I woke up to the fact that I live in a special place on Turtle Island.
Not that I was actually asleep for a long period of time, but rather I gradually became aware that remnants of ancient stonework was all around me, dismissed as Colonial construction, but really part of a managed cultural landscape that may be hundreds or thousands of years old.
The location of some of it will remain undisclosed to protect it, while other features that are in danger of destruction will not.
Maybe one day we will publish a book or get involved in a documentary or maybe our blogs will have to do.
Maybe somebody will steal all our information and claim it as their own work.
I don't know.
Anything could happen.