Thursday, July 13, 2006

Voice of the Turtle - sent in by Tim MacSweeney

Saturday, July 10th, 2004: The Voice of the Turtle
Accessed from web 7/13/06 @:

(Dated) Monday, July 12th, 2004

“It was an ideal morning for shooting a movie. The air was not too hot, there was some overcast and not much wind. I showed up at the meeting place, the parking lot in Rhinebeck, the same time as Shawna, and Ted showed up three minutes later. We piled into his car and found the site fairly easily. I let him slowly absorb what he was looking at. I said it takes a long time at the site to notice all that is there. Step by step I showed him some of the new discoveries. These were the same as I’d written about for the Saturday entries with Raymundo last week, so I won’t repeat them here.
Ted was pleased. He was really excited about the Shawangunk Conglomerate. He said none of the other sites had exotics, so it was hard to say anything about them. The presence of the Conglomerate might prove once and for all that these were not farmer’s clearing piles.
The three of us worked really well together. Towards the end of the shoot, I we filmed the stone head of the turtle (which I identified as Mullenberg’s Mud Turtle, or maybe a snapper) and I told the Mud Diver story. I used the Munsee words for the four animals in the story: Wusheewayo (duck) squall anhani (bull frog) kwasheesh (muskrat) and t’kwakl (painted turtle). Several times, at the end of the shoot, I referred to the turtle as T’kwakl, Painted Turtle, and spoke that word about four times, loudly. Ted said, “What’s that word again?” TKWAKL.
I ended talking about the painted turtle. As we were preparing to leave, Shawna suddenly said, “Oh my God, look!” and I looked and said “Oh my God,” and said “Ted, you gotta see this! Get over here quick!” He had the camera running and came over and said “Oh my God!” A full sized painted turtle had walked onto the set and burrowed himself halfway into the leaves near a log, less than ten feet from the stone turtle, yet his arms and neck were fully extended, looking at us with great interest. As Ted got up pretty close, and got some headshots, we were speechless! We were trying not to giggle, it was so remarkable. I almost wanted to cry. I said it was a good omen, and told the story of the large turtle that appeared in the center of the circle the day Center for Algonquin Culture was founded.
After a long time, I said to Ted, “You know, I would really like to pick that turtle up and introduce him to the viewers, and hold him up next to the big turtle and show the similarity. He said, “I already had the same thought.” I did so, but instead of coming from behind to give a better camera angle, I kept eye contact with the turtle and approached him face to face. Even when held in the air he came back out to look at us, and we got a close up. I said, “We’re going to have to sign release papers for this guy.” It was a great moment in film. Later, Ted said, “No one’s going to believe this. They’ll think we bought him at a pet store and staged the whole thing.” I said, “If anyone thinks that, they’re pretty sick, and that’s their problem!”
The shape of his back was very much like the shape of the stone turtle. I turned him slightly and showed the camera the 13 moon platelets and the 28 day platelets on his back which I had just talked about. His shell was in perfect condition and the platelets and markings were very clear. Ted also got excellent shots of the Pipsissewa, (also called Winter Green) and not only was it in bloom, but a ray of sun hit it (on an overcast morning) as he was filming. The spirit of the land was very happy today. Shawna also found Indian Pipe. Shawna tenderly placed the turtle back in his burrow in the leaves and he stayed there the rest of our visit, seeming rather interested. Nothing in the film revealed its location. Ted wanted to do topo maps, but later on, over lunch at Schimmy’s, I explained that if we reveal the location it would be destroyed by a particular group almost immediately. A certain man I know saw his son killed on a reservation by native Americans, and he is out for revenge with every breath, sort of like a living Tom Quick.”
Entry for Friday, July 9th, 2004

“I caught Ray at the hotel just before he got off duty at 9 AM…I asked Ray, who honors the environment and the safety of other drivers by owning no car (he has only one eye, so his depth perception is off) if he wanted me to drive him home to catch up on his sleep or go see the Great Turtle of Rhinebeck, which was an hour away. He said he wanted to see the turtle, so off we went…

Chunks From the Beginning of Time

After much walking we found the turtle at the hidden location, and as an Algonquin person, he was quite moved. He said our friend KA had just called yesterday and said she found a stone turtle in Rockland County, and her description of it was similar. Ray noted that there was Pipsissewa growing next to the turtle; a plant associated with the MicMac, used not only for breaking up gall stones but for coughs and sore throats. It has a waxy consistency and somewhat minty. We found some growing elsewhere in the area but it is a northern plant, rare in these parts. Ray said that the Matouac associated it with the Puckwadjee, the ‘little people” of the forest. My mother referred to a mouse, a “little person of the forest” as Pipsissewa in my childhood bedtime stories.
Ray also noted the turtle was surrounded by Pinchot Junipers; we counted ten of them. The presence of Pinchot Junipers adds a great deal to the significance of this spot. The Lenape might have called them “ca-ho-see” or cedar, as a general term, and cedars were planted by the Lenape in places of contemplation “for the benefit of the next generations.” (this is mentioned in Native New Yorkers). However, Pinchot Junipers (and not cedar) produce a grayish berry which the ancient Algonquins used to eat to induce visions. Knowledge of how to use this berry has been lost and it is now extremely dangerous to chew the berry, which can cause death. About ten years ago, a group of young Micmacs who used Juniper without the help of an elder died after chewing Juniper berries. It was in all the papers. There seemed to be four Junipers, in the four directions around the turtle, the largest of which had fallen over. From there several others had apparently spread. This is evidence that the turtle was a place for seeking visions, a dreamers rock! Ray said that his Matouac grandparents on Long Island for example liked to plant the Pinchot Juniper around the outside of the house, not to chew the berries, but just because it is sacred as is the cedar. He said it was a very “Matouac” tree, a tradition which the Wappingers would have inherited.
I pointed to the head of the turtle, and said it looked like a particular type of turtle, the dino-looking one who sticks his head up out of the water with his nose high up. Ray said the turtle head was an accurate depiction of the head of the Mullenberg Bog Turtle, one of the oldest species known. Ray has a Masters Degree in Turtleology from Bogg State University. (Actually, in marine biology from a real university) Bog turtles burrow into the mud, which was most likely the origin of (or inspiration for) the Lenape “Mud Diver” Creation Story. (see for a sound file of my Munsee/English rendition of the famous tale, mentioned elsewhere in this blog) In that same sub-species is not only the more recently evolved “snapping turtle” but the musk turtle, the eastern mud turtle, and “stinkpot” turtle, all folk names for the same thing. This face seemed to have two sides to it, sort of like the Maysingway.
The back of the turtle suggested a calendar turtle type, (Box, spotted pond etc) a different species than the snapper family which evolved from the bog turtle. So the head represented the creation of the earth and the back represented not only the hemisphere but the creation of the sky.
Then came the most amazing discovery. I showed him the ten or so chunks of what I thought must be quartz built into the structure and lying around. He said it was not quartz but Shawangunk Silurian Conglomerate. I was amazed. I had studied Shawangunk Conglomerate and knew that it could only be found at places like Sam’s Point, over sixty miles away, that it was almost 148 million years old, and very heavy to the heft. He handed me a piece he found on the ground. It was incredibly dense!! I said, “It’s as dense as Kryptonite!” It had reminded me of Shawangunk Silurian Conglomerate, but I thought, “No, that’s utterly impossible!” Apparently it was possible. Ray added that it could be found at Schunnemunk Mountain too, a branch of the lower Shawangunks, also sacred to the Munsee.
The Algonquins knew that heavy rocks were older than light ones, and in fact this is true, as older rocks further down get compressed and then metamorphize into other kinds of rocks. He showed me that this piece was pure conglomerate, a matrix, whereas the milky “beta” quartzite would develop around it.
There were at least a hundred pounds of this conglomerate visible to the naked eye in the turtle. Even today it would take two people with a car an entire day of hard work to carry this much stone from its place of origin to this turtle. It would have taken many Native American people several days to accomplish it in the years before contact. But only the Native Americans would have had the motive for doing so. What exactly was this motive? We don’t know.
This rock only comes from across the river, which is Munsee territory. These are Munsee rocks!! Sam’s Point was some sort of Munsee United Nations Spot, according to my reconstruction theories; there is a council rock there on an abutment which is “an island in the sky” so to speak. That island of rock is covered with chunks of this kind of harder-than-quartz conglomerate, some of the oldest rock to surface. The significance is obviously great, but what does it mean? It has something to do with the creation of the earth and sky, the oldest rock, the oldest turtle…Junipers are ancient trees as well. .Ray said, “Yes! It’s a Ripley’s Puzzle!”
Ray said in Taino (Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic) tradition there is only water until Hurrican creates the turtle and it falls through a hole in the sky, and becomes North America, the first creature to bring mud up from the water. It is the helper through which God parted the waters.
I said maybe this was a sign that we should reunite the old Wappinger confederacy. He joked about how the only Wappingers speakers were either toothless or behind bars. I agreed. We had our work cut out for us, but I suggested it was up to the Wappingers to protect the turtle.


Anonymous said...

Nice post Peter and it inspired me to reveal a little more about Site "X." Since there are no pictures tied to this 'Voice of the Turtle' post...I've put one up on my blog of the precise type of turtle head described which I found at Site "X." At this time I believe the site I am investigating is a very early Lenape site.

pwax said...

Note: that article is from Tim MacSweeney.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you quoted from my blog at peacefile and evansearthwalk and included links to my website I have (with a little help from me friends) found a number of even more remarkable sites in Ulster Co, (since the release of Ted Timreck's film Sacred Landscapes, the filming of which was described here) and have opened a learning center at the Pine Hill Community Center in Ulster Co which will be a gathering place for information on petraforms from all over the northeast, especially those along the Montauk Hammonassett Line. I am not going to reveal the location of some sites, but have created a physical space where people can donate their own pictures and maps and view those contributed by others. There is also a library of related books.
Any photos/images you would like to contribute, or any writings, on petraforms please send them to me, Evan Pritchard, at We will be having workshops throughout the summer on native culture, but we may also discuss petraforms separately.
There are thousands of these petraforms and in some cases the locations relate to other locations, and one constitutes a star map from about 1000 BC.
I call it the "Stonegate" phenomenon.

One site has 8 tall cairn towers in a straight line, and another has 26 cairns some of which are representational, one of which is a stone turtle much like the one in Ted's film.
Anyone interested in being a part of this new center for algonquin culture is encouraged to contact me, also at