Monday, October 05, 2015

A Good Question, Afterwards Again


“How can Connecticut Land Trusts contribute to a collaborative effort to study, recognize, protect and conserve Sacred Indigenous Cultural Landscapes?”
Large Manitou Boulder incorporated into a possibly Indigenous-made Wall of Stones that surrounds a riparian zone on the grounds of the Washington CT Montessori School in New Preston CT
      Once again, the good question to ask at an event about Indigenous Stone Features on the Ceremonial Landscape suddenly occurs to me after everyone has left the building. At least this time the thought occurred on the same day that an event related to these Stone Features and Sacred Cultural Landscapes happened. The Connecticut Land Trust Association had sponsored Dr. Lucianne Lavin to speak and show some illustrations about these Hidden Landscapes in a nearby town and of course I attended. My opinion is that these Stone Features that become so obvious once you learn to recognize them are much understudied and in turn are commonly destroyed due to the great bias against the possibility that Indigenous Stone Structures exist that prevails in Connecticut. I should have asked something like, “How can Land Trusts contribute to a collaborative effort to study, recognize, protect and conserve these Sacred Indigenous Cultural Landscapes?”
      And once again, not far from where the venue had taken place, there were, what to me, are massive obvious Stone Features of that Sacred Indigenous Cultural Landscape. This was not a surprise to me as, in the words of Doug Harris, a Preservationist for Ceremonial Landscapes who works for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office, the entire landscape was considered a Sacred Place. The photo above illustrates an example of a large boulder that fits the Manitou Stone definition, a “head and shoulders” type of shape. The Manitou Boulder is incorporated into a wall of stones that rings the riparian zone of a water feature, possibly as a fuel break around that eco-zone to either protect it from burning the sections of land around it by Indigenous People or to enable Indigenous People to burn the riparian zone to maintain it at another time, on a different schedule. It is well documented that Indigenous People across what is now known as North, Central, and South America used fire as a tool to shape and maintain the landscape, just as other people in other places in the world, such as in Austrailia did and continue to do. There are Indigenous People who never stopped the practice, as well as others who continued to burn the landscape up until the 1940’s in what is now known as California. Some California Tribal Nations have fought and won the right to resume this practice of controlled low intensity burning that reduces the chances of uncontrolled and distructive “crown fires” that all too often appear on television news stories.
    Within that riaprian zone there were other Stone Features that Dr. Lavin mentioned. Below is an example that can be described as a cobble stone mound or heap placed on a split and filled boulder:

    There were other possible Indigenous Stone Mounds within the interior of that space defined by what remains visible and intact of that zone defined by the wall of stones that day. There were several segments of short stone walls, similar to some of the (possible) “Serpent Walls” that if found elsewhere than Connecticut would be (are) considered Geoglyphs or Petroforms, perhaps even Intaglioes.
Original photo and rough outline of possible Snake-like stone feature of triangular snake head-like boulder and serpentine cobble and boulder row of stones representing a body/tail.
    Also visible were many possible effigy-like inclusions suggested in the stacking/placement of stones in the walls of stones, such as a possible turtle, often found in many walls and mounds as well as many  free standing boulder “monuments” or, if found elsewhere besides Connecticut again, turtle petroforms. One that photographed well on October 4, 2015 was this possible turtle effigy:
     Prior to the event, I had acquired an aerial photographic image of the Washington Montessori School, to see if there were any stone structures visible in the various views available at Bing Maps and Google Earth. My photos are from the area circled in red, but my original plan was to investigate the area where the stone walls are circled in yellow in the image shown below:

    As I parked my car in the upper lot, my heart sank as I was greeted by this sight:
     I don’t know if an archaeological survey was done prior to this new construction. I suspect that if one was, all stone features may have been routinely and erroneously considered and defined as post-contact “landscape architecture,” such as property boundary walls or farmer’s walls and field clearing piles related to “historic” or post-contact agriculture.
     “What we see depends mainly on what we look for,” John Lubbock, a wealthy English gentleman of the 19th century who dabbled in archaeology and was a friend of Charles Darwin. I was looking to see if, after twenty five years of independent research, I could find features of the Indigenous Sacred Cultural Landscape. I will never know about the area I had intended to look at, gone forever, but feel strongly that I had indeed found Indigenous Cultural features nearby.
     So I’ll ask the question once again, “How can Connecticut Land Trusts contribute to a collaborative effort to recognize, to study, to protect and conserve Sacred Indigenous Cultural Landscapes?” Perhaps the first step is for the stewards of the lands to learn to recognize what is there. I’ve been compiling photographs of Indigenous Stone Features for many years, adding them to (sometimes embarrassing) blog posts, emailing them to both professional and avocational researchers and most recently attempting to categorize them in albums available for free at the Flickr photo sharing site. The vast majority of the images are found in State Parks and Land Trust properties and my only regret is that there are so many that I’ve never been to. My great joy is that some places, often aided by the Indigenous People whose ancestors created this Sacred Landscape, are finally recognizing the great irreplaceable treasure that these Stone Features are, despite the bias of many professional researchers who should be embarrassed not to be able to see them for what they may truly be.
 Tim MacSweeney

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