Thursday, September 10, 2015

Choggam’s Blues

 "Sam Chagum (Chagum Pond)"

   Finding a Blues Tune about Indigenous Stone Work is yet another social media story related to my (some would say “warped”) perception that the World Wide Internet is all about “looking at rocks.” And the fact that some people are doing actual work using the InterWeb and social media, such as tracking down relatives and ancestors and recording genealogies, sometimes of Indigenous People who (I was led to believe by reading my very first history book I got for Christmas or my birthday when I was in second grade,) had become “extinct.”
   I don’t remember exactly how or when I became acquainted with Coni Allen Dubois but she’s become another friend I’ve never met in person and turns out to be a Descendant of the Barkhamsted (CT) Lighthouse Tribe - and not extinct at all, proving once again that you can’t believe everything you read about Connecticut’s Indigenous People in those old history books that tend to “ethnically erase” Native Americans from the landscape.
   Coni maintains a blog,, which is really amazing, as is the story of the Ever Widening Circle, as she calls her research. There is just so much information there that you have to see it to believe it and appreciate it.
    So anyway, just yesterday, I rudely intruded into a conversation between Coni and Susan Shepard (see: about a place in Kent CT that was/is known historically as Choggam’s Corner, very much related to Samuel Choggam, a descendant of Molly and James Choggam, the founders of the Lighthouse Tribe. I spotted a Choggam’s Brook on a Google Earth map, right near a section of the Appalachian Trail and not too far from the present day Schaghticoke Reservation. I find a “leaf free” view and spot some large stone walls that look as if they connect to some out crops, began wondering if they may be pre-contact Indigenous constructions and otherwise going off on a tangent clearly unrelated to the conversation between the two researchers who are looking into historic records while I’m going on and on about how what the historic record says about stone walls may not be exactly accurate or true.
    And then Coni stops me dead in my tracks, relating to me something I knew but had tucked away in some back part of my memory. In Pre-Contact times, Indigenous People may have been freely and respectfully creating what is now called a Ceremonial Stone Landscape where “Everything is Connected – and Sacred,” but in early Post-Contact times Indigenous People were often forced to build stone walls that separated and severed that Sacred Connection into parcels of land acquired, often illegally, from Indigenous Peoples. It is often questioned whether Indigenous People were actually aware that they were granting permanent land deeds and sales rather than following an ancient tradition of sharing of the use of land by treaty with other people (Recently I read something about some supposed land deeds in PA that the researcher contended was actually an inventory of the lands a certain Sachem and People considered their "territory" rather than any actual intended treaty or land transaction). Indigenous People – and by that I mean the tiny percentage of Indigenous People who somehow miraculously survived epidemics and warfare - suddenly found themselves subject to foreign laws, English Laws, here in what was then becoming to be known as New England, in their own former homelands, sometimes being taken into slavery, other times being forced into "indentured servitude," both under conditions of those English Laws that Indigenous People became subject to. Coni reminded me of this, saying:
     “My Native American (ancestor)'s were known for their "stone wall building" on Block Island (in the) 1600's (Part of this Choggam story) but I have to argue the fact that 'stone walls' were created 'before the 1600's' In my research I find they never put up walls on 'Mother Earth' because 'no one owned her' the 'stone wall building' was done once immigration took place and 'land was divided' - they were indentured and put into slavery and made to 'build these stone walls' and hated doing it…”

    And Coni then referred me to this song by Glenda Luck as well as Coni’s narration that proceeds the song on the CD “Manisses; A People and a Place” and her contribution to the track that follows the song:

     "Manisses" is the Indigenous Name for the Island now known as Block Island, Rhode Island. The word "Manisses" is translated to, in some sources, simply as "Little Island" but it may be a shortened version of a word other sources translate as "Manitou's Little Island."

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Tim for this write up! Just wanted to update you on my blog addy.... it is now