Wednesday, November 12, 2014

9th annual Native American-Archeology Roundtable

      I should say something about that event I attended Saturday November 8th (2014) in Washington CT. Above is the only photo I happened to take that day – I parked by that sign at the very end of the driveway because there were so many cars there that day for the Institute for American Indian Studies’ 9th annual Native American-Archeology Roundtable, focusing this year on Stone Cultural Features and Ceremonial Landscapes.
      I should say something about how refreshing it was to finally hear of an event addressing a subject I wasn’t even sure had a proper name when I started but had been avocationally studying for just a few months short of a quarter century. I sort of thought of it as “Above The Ground Archeology,” which is how Gladys Tantaquidgeon put it the only time I ever met and talked with her at the family museum, standing under a dog sled from which hung the moccasins for the dogs that pulled the sled.
      I should say it was great to see some chinks in the armor of that iron-clad sentiment that “Indians did not build in stone.” I should say it was wonderful to hear Indigenous voices respond to those old sentiments that are dying hard, to hear Big Eagle Piper quoted as saying “The Land is the Culture,” or Doug Harris describe a lifestyle, a culture, that considered everything sacred, including those piles of stones that are all too often just brushed away from where they stood for so long so as to make a “tabula rasa,” a blank slate (you can't take three years of Latin I and remain entirely ignorant, I always say!), levelled for an expanded airfield or a strip mall, bulldozed to make those curving and winding cul-de-sac-style housing developments that look like those electron microscope photos of viruses on a map or from the window seat of an airplane.
     I should say it was a surprise to hear from a surveyor of Indigenous descent talk about his life-long experiences of quietly suggesting some alternatives that kept the Stone Features of many kinds from being destroyed. It was no surprise to hear from him several stories about the horrible things that happened to people who messed with those stones, broke the prayers and began suffering from some debilitating chronic disease, yet sometimes driving the disease into remission by simply returning the stones to where they came from.
      I should say, and I should say it over and over, that it was the voices of the People of Indigenous descent that spoke most clearly to me - and I hope it affected those professionals present as well. I came away with business cards of all sorts, including those of two Tribal Historic Preservation Officers and a great sense of hope that the recognition and preservation of these Stone Features on the Sacred Landscape is a real possibility.
        I should say I’m glad to know just a little bit about these things and proudly stand in awe of how much I don’t know – including that LiDar image business that is so fascinating – and available if you know how to tickle it just right. There was an image of the area around the Institute that included what I once thought of as a modern Estate Wall but now am reasonably sure is an Indigenous creation, “turtles all the way down,” as they say, even though other effigies and symbols are contained in the construction, from the capstone turtles below to the tiniest of turtles in the small spaces between larger stones below that. And, best of all, in those images of the county, my house and the environs of what were called the Nonnewaug Wigwams is included and available.
(A Turtle Conspiracy)
(One is an accident, two a coincidence and three is a conspiracy)  

      And I should say that I am very glad that Trudie Lamb Richmond invited herself to the event since we were in Pootatuck Territory, who felt she just had to be there representing those Indigenous People who were either born on or came to live on the Sacred Landscape of the Great River now known as the Housatonic.Trudie didn’t recognize me at first, but took a look at my face – and then at my hat - and said, “Ahh – the Stone Turtles!”

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