Nolumbeka Project Files Letter of Support for Narragansett THPO with FERC

nolumbeka-project-header
January 12, 2017

Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 888 First Street NE, Room 1A Washington, DC 20216Re: Docket No. CP14-529, TGP Connecticut Expansion Project
Support for Narragansett Indian Tribal Consultation on Traditional Cultural Properties

Dear Secretary Bose:

The Nolumbeka Project is a non-profit corporation with an all-volunteer board whose mission is to preserve, protect, and educate the public about Native American cultural resources in what is now called New England and the Northeastern United States. We are writing to voice deep concerns over plans of Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas (“TGP”) that will result in the destruction of ceremonial stone landscape (“CSL”) features sacred to Tribes with cultural, religious and historical connections to land in Sandisfield, Massachusetts along the proposed route of the TGP Connecticut Expansion Project (FERC docket #CP14-529, the “Project”). As TGP is well aware, 73 CSL features were identified in an on-the-ground survey conducted by several Tribes in the second half of 2016.

According to Deputy Tribal Historical Preservation Officer Doug Harris of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, a full one-third of these CSL features will be destroyed during the construction of this pipeline. Although some have suggested that it would be acceptable to disassemble the features and reassemble them when construction of the Project is completed, Mr. Harris explains that their disassembly would be an interruption of the prayers placed there. According to Mr. Harris, “Then what you have is an artistic replica of something that was spiritual. Once you remove the stones, the spiritual content is broken.”

On December 29, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) sent a “Notification of Adverse Effect” to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation’s Office of Federal Agency Programs, seeking resolution of this matter. FERC’s Environmental Assessment (“EA”), issued in 2015, included alternative routes that may have avoided many of the CSLs, but FERC approved the primary route before the CSL survey was undertaken. Thus, the FERC certificate was issued in violation of the implementing regulations of the National Historic Preservation Act (the “NHPA Regulations”), which require that the agency “complete the section 106 process ‘prior to the issuance of any license.’” 36 CFR 800.1(c). This regulation also makes clear that the purpose of initiating the section 106 process early in project planning is to ensure “that a broad range of alternatives may be considered during the planning process”. 36 CFR 800.1(c).

Disturbance or destruction of these sites would further erase traces of a part of our history, and a still living segment of our culture that is already too often ignored – that of this region’s first peoples.

To disturb these ceremonial features is damaging to the religious sensibilities of our Native citizens who still embrace the beliefs of their forebearers. Proceeding without full Tribal participation “in the resolution of adverse effects” is an unconscionable act that also violates the NHPA Regulations, specifically 36 CFR 800.2(c)(2)(ii)(A).

Regardless of our heritage, all citizens of our region would be poorer for the loss of these original historic sites, and their destruction should not be allowed.

FERC should not allow the Project to proceed before this matter is fully and properly resolved. Furthermore, Sandisfield Taxpayers Opposing the Pipeline (STOP) filed a request for a rehearing of FERC’s order issuing the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity in April of 2016 that has yet to be acted upon. FERC should grant the rehearing request without further delay, taking into consideration issues raised by the Narragansett Indian Tribe, STOP, and others over the course of the FERC proceeding.

David Brule
Nolumbeka Project Co-President

cc:        Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Office of Federal Agency Programs;
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Tennessee Gas Pipeline May Bulldoze Sacred Native Sites

hemlocks-otis-state-forest

A letter from a Narragansett Indian Tribal official to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) accuses FERC of understating the “likely” destruction of “ancient ceremonial stone landscape features” along the path of Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s proposed new storage loop through Otis State Forest.

In his Jan. 3, 2017, letter, Doug Harris, the Narragansett Tribal Nation’s deputy tribal historic preservation officer and preservationist for ceremonial landscapes, said FERC’s Dec. 29, 2016, letter to Reid Nelson, director at ACHP, which was copied to preservationists from seven different tribes, “mildly portrays the dire” consequences of “bulldozing” sacred features on the company’s newly acquired easement there.

Read the entire story in The Berkshire Edge.

Howard Clark: History’s Path to the Falls

howard-clark-greenfield-recorder

Anthropologist and researcher Howard Clark narrates the historical realities behind the 1676 Turners Falls Massacre. Quoted here in its entirety, you may read the original “My Turn” column in the Greenfield Recorder here.

History is not a random series of events. If you follow the colonial players and their interconnections through marriage or business ventures, you will see that their agendas, be it land speculation or the slave trade, are the driving forces that will explain the events.

Capt. William Turner was no hero, but a pawn. Gov. John Leverett of Massachusetts Bay Company, released him from prison over the objections of religious leaders, so he owed him a favor which will be clear later. Turner’s chaplain the day of the massacre was Hope Atherton, son of Humphrey Atherton. Humphrey and William served on the same Dorchester town board in 1652. Humphrey was given 700 acres of land in the Connecticut Valley for his services against the Narragansett’s and made magistrate of the Hampton Court in 1659. That same year, he created the Atherton Mortgage Company along with Gov. John Winthrop Jr. of Connecticut, Gov. Josh Winslow of Plymouth Colony and other people of wealth and power including military leaders (all land speculators).

Gov. Winthrop fined the Narragansett Tribe on questionable charges. In order to pay the fine, the Atherton Company loaned money to the tribe and when they tried to pay back the loan on time, the payment was rejected.

When the Royal Commission from England came over in 1665, after the fall of the Dutch territory now known as New York, they reviewed the Massachusetts laws on acquiring Indian lands and the Narragansett complaints. The commission re-wrote the laws to express Indian land could only be acquired through purchase or given by the Indians, and tore up the Atherton mortgage. Humphrey had died prior to this action but its remaining partners held a grudge.

Over time they devised a back door to the law by calling for “Just War,” which gave the colonies the right to pre-emptive strike by declaring they felt threatened. John Hull, another land speculator with connections to the valley used his own financial resources to purchase muskets and other munitions from England for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1673 (two years prior to the war). He would become the war treasurer and convert one of his ships, “The Sea Flower,” into a slave ship to recoup some of his cost and was put in charge of the disposition of Indian captives that were brought into Boston.

Upon his death in 1683, the colony owed him between 1,500 to 6,000 pounds. There were others of wealth and power who also purchased muskets and munitions in large amounts with their own money for the colony in 1673. Hezekiah Usher was one of them. Land and slaves were the driving force for the colonies during the “Second Puritan War of Conquest” also called “King Philip’s War.”

The first conflict in the valley was conducted by Capt. Richard Beers and Capt. Thomas Lathrop against a fleeing group of peaceful Indians, including women, children and elders. The warriors dropped back at Hopewell Swamp to allow their families to escape (there were casualties on both sides. Beers and Lathrop paid with their lives shortly afterward.

The war wore down both sides and peace treaties were offered to the tribes. Pessacus (at the Falls) released John Gilbert, an English captive, the day before their meeting at Hartford, Conn., on April 30, 1676, as a show of good faith. Both sides agreed to work on a treaty. English captives were to be released.

Around May 4, Mary Rowlandson carried a letter from Philip, Pomham, the Old Queen and others seeking peace with Boston. On May 15, captive Thomas Reede was set free from the Falls and returned to Hadley with information about the lack of warriors (possibly 60). The rest of the village was comprised of women, children and elders because it was a refugee camp where all would have been fishing and drying the catch. They were not hunting as stated because it was not the season and fishing was more productive.

Shortly after Reede’s return, Rev. John Russell of Hadley asked permission from Hartford to attack the Falls. He was refused because of the ongoing treaty. Russell next contacted Gov. Leverett who was related through marriages. Leverett OK’d the attack. This completed this circle and Turner’s debt to Leverett was paid. Turner marched on the Falls May 18 with his 160 men (almost three men per every warrior present according to Reede’s remarks).

One needs to get beyond books written to justify past actions and actually review the old documents of the time and connect the players with the events.

Howard Clark is an anthropologist and historical researcher, and has done research for different tribes in the area. He was co-founder of both Friends of Wissaatinnewag and the Nolumbeka Project. He lives in Greenfield.

Netop: A Clarifying Response to Jaywalking

jay-butynski-greenfield-recorder

In the past two weeks, sports columnist Jay Butynski took a look at some of the anecdotal and historical evidence behind the usage of Native iconography for the “Indians” athletic programs at Turners Falls High School. I appreciate that he would like to defuse tensions and find neutral ground; I agree that partisanship and divisiveness are seldom a productive means of resolution. But the straightforward answer to the headline “Is this nickname dust-up really necessary?” is an unambiguous “Yes.” When there is a discussion to be had around understanding and respect, especially in a learning environment, the opportunity should be welcomed and embraced. I’d like to make a few observations, which might help to inform the larger conversation through an understanding of the underlying dynamics. For background, links to the original columns are listed below:

Part 1 from last week’s Greenfield Recorder can be read here.
Part 2 in this week’s Recorder column can be found here.

Jay hit upon a critical observation when he cited a reader’s comment in reply: “Perhaps the best response to shoot down my assertion was that unlike the Indian nickname in Turners Falls, many of those other nicknames were given to teams by people who bear a likeness to the nickname. Irish people were responsible for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish nickname, etc. This person might be right.” I would say to Jay “You just nailed it, my friend!” – perhaps without realizing just how succinctly.

This single observation goes straight to the heart of the matter. Let’s pull back and look at it through a basic lens of mutual respect or “getting along with each other.”  Most people can agree that this ideal is something to which we aspire, and would like to encourage as much as possible; these are “teaching moments” for the next generations, and indeed the future of us all. Here’s the deal: when one individual, or a group of individuals, helps themselves to something which belongs to another, it is called appropriation, defined as “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.” When these actions occur with no conscious intent (but often with impact), it is due to a phenomenon known as implicit bias, defined as “the bias in judgment and/or behavior that results from subtle cognitive processes (e.g., implicit attitudes and implicit stereotypes) that often operate at a level below conscious awareness and without intentional control.”

The use of the word “netop” in the current context can be shown to exemplify these concepts, through broad deployment of stereotypes, conditioned attitudes, and a lack of awareness. Again, I wish to use this as a simple demonstration of the underlying dynamics, which are often hidden; this is not intended as a fault-finding, but as an understanding. The responsibility lies within society at large: though the individual may be subject to these covert assumptions, it remains for each one to recognize the insidiousness and decide for themselves to act differently. And in order to find appropriate answers, the right questions must be asked. Here we go…

Netop is commonly explained as a Narragansett term meaning friend. True. But there is much more to the story. First of all, the written word is an Anglicization of a single iteration of a widely used logotype amongst indigenous Algonquian-speakers, which includes nearly all of the tribal entities within what is now called New England. In the spoken mother tongue(s) it would be vocalized somewhat differently, more like nee-tomp… in Western Abenaki it would be vocalized nee-dom-ba (nid8ba); my point is that this a generalized (stereotyped) term, borrowed (loosely appropriated) by English colonists. It is not entirely correct to state that it “was used by early colonists as a salutation when greeting Native Americans.” Rather, it was first used by the indigenous people amongst themselves and their neighbors, and (in a manner similar to the quoted apocryphal William Brewster story), first used as an address by a Native person to the new European visitors – not vice versa.

Let’s be clear that this was a gesture of friendship toward complete strangers, a situation which rapidly devolved into mayhem and misunderstanding. Several more points: Brewster and his band of refugees were met by Wampanoag, not Narragansett; a ceremonial exchange of a smoking pipe as a gesture of peace between equals would not have happened in 1620 – in fact, the calumet ceremony came to the Northeast in the next century – and further, the English were never fond of it, as they did not consider the local populations as equals. Lastly, and back home to Turners Falls, this immediate region was not Narragansett homelands, but rather Abenaki, Nipmuc, Pocumtuck, Nonotuck, perhaps some Mahican and Pennacook (note these spellings and designations are all Euro-derived, variable, and subject to interpretation).  Although the languages and phrases were often similar, citing a Narragansett language origin as justification for appropriation manifests conflation as stereotyping, once again. Particularly telling, the use of a facial profile with Plains culture regalia as a logo for the Indians identity is (quite literally) a graphic example of the depth of unawareness of geo-cultural reality and the lumping of all Native diversities into the “Other.”

So, yes, it is all connected – and matters – now, what’s to be done? Starting with an identification of the root situations, we can postulate solutions.

It has been said that one cannot care about that about which one is unaware or ignorant. There must be an understanding to have a connection… not separation, but connection. The key here is learning, by intent and through mindfulness. This will help to dispel assumptions, stereotypes, and implicit bias due to cognitive disconnect, all of it at once. Without this foundational work, the gesture of change becomes an empty exercise in political correctness. It is worthy to aspire toward positivity, and the right side of history, but as human beings with the capacity for empathy and reason,  we are well-served to do the foundational work, to connect in a meaningful manner, to show up and be present in our own lives. As a wise person once said, I am also a you.

Lew Collins: Failure to Prove Native Americans Oppose Mascots

lew-collins-tf-greenfield-recorder

Lew Collins added his voice to the Greenfield Recorder editorial debate, citing the Washington Post’s poll in May, 2016, which asserted that a majority of Native Americans did not find the use of Native mascots offensive. Excerpt below:

Mr. David Bulley, in the My Turn section, suggests that our Indian name and logo we use at Turners Falls High School “harms Native Americans” and that “Millions of natives as well as the American Psychological Association say there is no honor here.”

While these and other claims he makes are bold — they’re dangerously misleading. Mr. Bulley had his turn in the paper. Now it is “My Turn” to voice the supporters’ side.

Read the full Op-Ed in the Greenfield Recorder.

Mr. Collins slips into the pervasive mindset that “Indians” are, for all intents and purposes of those in the dominant culture, nearly identical and can be lumped into the same basket.  A graphic example is his lead-in paragraph:

But, may I suggest that we embark on this debate in true Indian fashion by closely following the deliberative “council fire” standards as outlined in the “Great Law of Peace”: “Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement in their minds and all their words and actions shall be marked by calm deliberation.”

His “True Indian fashion” extracts wisdom from the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, brought by Wendat prophet Deganawida, and invokes its rejoinder for peace and consensus – an admirable aspiration. May we all follow this exhortation! But, this citation is a perfect example of implicit stereotyping, part of the mindset underlying the appropriation of an indigenous mascot by a group separated from the subject (and history, and culture, and value system) of their usurpation. The indigenous communities of this region were, and are, Algonquian relations and allies (the Pocumtuck, the Nonotuck, the Nipmuc, the Sokwakiak, the Narragansett, the Wampanoag, and others), and not at all Iroquoian – as a matter of fact they were often at great odds.

This aspect of implicit bias (see this article, also from the Washington Post, just 3 weeks ago) is further bolstered by Mr. Collin’s defense of local enlightenment – and thus entitlement to the use of the Indians emblem –  when he states “Right off the bat we know this is not the case in our community — it’s quite the opposite as many have spoken in great lengths about the Indian history that we are aware of in our town.”  There has been a lot of speaking but there has been very little awareness of the true stories. The amount of conflation, obfuscation, misinformation, and generalization is staggering. Add to that the statements to the contrary being issued by the Tribes still here in the immediate area, the descendants of those who survived the Peskeompskut Massacre, and the argument does not come close to holding water.

 

Sokoki Sojourn and the Turners Falls Indians Debate

connecticut-river-sokwakik-map-brooks

The mid-Connecticut River valley, showing the traditional homelands of the Sokwakiak Abenaki (the Sokoki), known as Sokwakik (labelled in the center), south below Koasek to Peskeompskut (today’s Turners Falls). Map from Lisa Brooks’ The Common Pot: the Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast (2008).

Why would Sokoki Sojourn concern itself with the current discussion around the implications of maintaining or changing the Turners Falls Indians athletic mascot? As the social, cultural, ethical, and historical implications will be examined thoroughly in the ongoing media coverage (archived here), I would simply like to make the connection, geographically and personally, with several simple observations.

To the immediate north of what is now called Turners Falls, named after British colonial Captain William Turner, but known beforehand as Peskeompskut, lies the homeland of the Western Abenaki. Gill, Northfield, Bernardston, Vernon, Hinsdale, Brattleboro, and many other nearby towns, heading northward, lie upon this ancestral landscape and, due to their continuing presence, within the selfhood of the indigenous people.  The people of this land were and are called the Sokwakiak (today’s Sokoki), meaning “the people who were set apart or who separated.” The linguistic and historical connection  can be seen and heard clearly in the early European settler’s name for Northfield: Squakheag. This is an Anglicized derivation from the Abenaki name for the region, Sokwakik.

The people of this land were most certainly present at Capt. Turner’s dawn raid upon the sleeping fishing village on May 19, 1676. They were the de facto hosts at this peacefully neutral encampment, receiving their Algonquian cousins and political allies in Metacom’s Uprising (King Philip’s War): the Wampanoag, the Narragansett, the Nipmuck, the Pocumtuck, and no doubt members of other similarly disenfranchised Tribes. Hundreds died that day – primarily children, women, and elders – and the lives of the communities were never the same again. Which, really, brings us up to today: this is why Sokoki Sojourn has taken up the mantle. The story continues and there can be no peace without justice, no honor without truth.

Nolumbeka Project Calls for Change in Turners Falls Mascot

turners-falls-indians-uniform

The Nolumbeka Project, the non-tribal organization for New England’s Native American tribes, is calling for the end of the Turners Falls High School’s current mascot, the “Indians.” The statement, which says the organization collaborates with the Nipmuck Nation, the Narragansett, the Aquinnah Wampanoag, the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans and Elnu Abenaki, said all of the tribes do not condone the use of Native American symbols as team mascots or nicknames.

The statement comes as a response to public debate on whether the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee should change the high school’s mascot. The School Committee is set to debate the issue on Tuesday.

David Brule, the co-president of the Nolumbeka Project and a Turners Falls High School graduate, said that while many in the Turners Falls community believe the mascot honors the local Native American culture, it is not the place of those in the community who aren’t Native American to decide for those who are. “Our position is that the tribes are the sole judges of what ‘honors’ them or what does not,” says a statement released by Brule. “We understand the non-tribal traditions and misplaced pride of sports teams using Indian symbols and mascots, but the time has come to let it go.”

Read the full story in the Greenfield Recorder.