Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Stone Ceremonial site in Hopkinton RI

Photo: Christine Corrigan/Westerly Sun

Some clearly see ceremonial site in Hopkinton woods
 Published: April 24, 2014 | Last Modified: April 25, 2014 10:06AM

Photo: Christine Corrigan/Westerly Sun

“...Some experts, including state archaeologist Timothy Ives, say farmers piled the rocks as they cleared the fields. Others, including Doug Harris, preservationist for ceremonial landscapes and deputy tribal historic preservation officer for the Narragansett Tribe, say the objects are spiritually significant cairns built of ceremonial stones...The cairns, which vary in height from very low to about 3 feet, are of different shapes and construction and scattered throughout the woods. Many are rounded mounds of stones, and others consist of smaller rocks placed on large boulders. Some are obvious, but there are those which are more difficult to see, having sat in place for so long that they have settled into the forest floor.
Conservation Commission Chairman Harvey Buford said he believed they were spiritual artifacts, not waste piles from land clearing, and he hoped they could be preserved.
“This ceremonial site covers hundreds of acres,” he said. “This was much more than a pasture. There is no historic record of people stacking rocks for a pasture.”
Asked to describe his ideal solution, Buford said he hoped a conservation group would buy the land.
“That this extraordinary stone site be respected and preserved and recognized for what it is, which is very clearly not colonial. For me, the ideal would be for this to get so much attention that somebody buys it. Look at that,” he said, pointing at a large stone structure topped with smaller stones. “That’s not a farmer’s mound. That’s beautiful.”

{Jeff’s beautiful photos of these beautiful stone prayers show's you just how beautiful:}

      "In a Dec. 12 written assessment Ives prepared at the request of the land owners, he stated that he believed the cairns were evidence of old land-clearing practices.
      “This parcel contains numerous stone pile features, consisting of stones that have been stacked or piled by hand,” Ives wrote. “Constructed on varied surfaces, including the forest floor, ledge outcrops and freestanding boulders, these features vary substantially in form and size, as well as in the range of stone sizes they contain. While I cannot directly date their construction, they appear to be clearance cairns associated with past farming practices.”
       But Doug Harris disagreed. Appearing at the Planning Board meeting, he referred to the cairns as “ceremonial stones” that had been “left by the ancients” on the property. He thanked Kingman and Devine for not having disturbed them, and proceeded to explain their spiritual significance.
      “I have a lot of respect for my colleague in historic preservation, Timothy Ives, but he is not a specialist in tribal historic preservation or tribal culture or tribal ceremony, Narragansett or any other tribe,” Harris told the board.
       The room fell silent as Harris described the spiritual meaning of the cairns to the Narragansett people.
   “Stone is a vehicle for receiving and transmitting prayer. So every one of those stones, as we do in our tradition, was placed by someone, some man, some woman, in prayer. A prayer was spoken into it and placed on the earth and that was to be received by our Mother the Earth and we as her children were to be balanced and harmonized by virtue of that relationship,” he said.
    “In a very different sense, it is our church. We have that kind of an intimate relationship with the landscape … Now I can’t tell you what you should do with regard to what’s on your property. I don’t have that right,” he told the landowners. “I do have a responsibility to ask of you to look for a moment through our eyes and open your spirit to what most people feel when they are in the presence of those stones.
   Tom Helmer, Hopkinton Historical Association web master and the author of a book on the area’s colonial and indigenous archaeology, told the board that he agreed with Harris that the cairn field was of spiritual significance. Helmer has taken many photographs of the cairns, which, he said, he came upon without realizing he was trespassing on private property. Those photographs were given to planning board members.
“A portion of the land in question contains a remarkable cairn field. In an area roughly 75 yards square there may be more than 100 cairns, hand placed piles of rock that carry great spiritual importance in the living culture of the indigenous peoples,” he said. “It is vital to be aware that the places shown on this page be viewed with the same respect we show for our culture’s spiritual places.” 
A small sample of Mr. Helmer's excellent work, despite being self diagnosed with Turtle Fever, something that this blog's author can certainly understand and identify with, is "Seeing The Narragansett Presence: and The Hopkington High Place:

And as Mr. Bellafonte sang, "Man Smart, Woman Smarter:"

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:57 PM

    Regarding the academic conventional wisdom that these cairns are field clearing work, Upton Sinclair said it best: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

    Dave C.