Monday, February 11, 2008

Mashantucket Museum Question

From Tim MacS.

Going back to my very first post ( at “Waking Up On Turtle Island,” as well as my untitled 2nd post, I’d like to pose the question to any Rock Pile team members and readers that may have been to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center who have toured the re-created Village, “How would you correct the picture presented there to include the stone structures that many of us strongly suspect to be Native American constructions?”

Recently I sent out, to some trusted people, a composite partial floor plan of the Museum’s village, as well as a stylized (and really incomplete) rendition of a relatively undeveloped area of land that in local histories was known as “The _____ Wigwams,” a real rarity which deserves protection and study – and could correct an inaccurate picture of the Cultural Landscape that, as the CT State Archeologist would change the whole the present view of prehistoric Connecticut (and to which I add, perhaps the whole of the country).

While driving the other day, my thoughts wandering and touching upon that idea of a more culturally correct representation of the village and its connected environs, I realized that I need some additional rooms that lead to distant places where similar places and structures exist in the many places that people are sending into Rock Piles.

And now it crosses my mind as I write this, perhaps it might be necessary to have entire wings dedicated to the many findings of Waksman, Muller, Porter and numerous others that I don’t mean to offend by leaving out their names here.


Tim MacSweeney said...

Where it says "as the CT State Archeologist" I omitted "once told me" and should read "as the CT State Archeologist once told me, etc."

JimP said...

I have seen that indoor reconstruction and, in my opinion, I wouldn't change much. I might include stone images and quartz, perhaps a conical pile or two, but for the most part I don't believe stone structure sites that we see in the woods today were connected to habitation sites such as that village.

To quote Winslow (1624) - "And as in former ages Apollo had his temple at Delphos, and Diana at Ephesus; so have I heard them call upon some as if they had their residence in some certain places, or because they appeared in those forms in the same."

We see sites of memorials, sites of vision quests, spiritually specific sites -- near a spring, a talus cave, headwaters, on a hill, near a waterfall, by an erratic, by an outcropping with a cleft or split, etc.

And then there are sites that were important for reasons that no longer exist, such as the former site of a cedar swamp, around spruce trees, among an area where abundant medicinal herbs once grew, et al.

I also believe these sites were not known by all the Indians. The only feasible explanation for the scale of stone-worship we see in Southern New England compared with the few number of historical reports we can read about them, I believe means that it was likely a privileged clan or secret medicine society that erected all these sites over many generations.

Geophile said...

And yet rock structures can often be found at sites known to have been villages of Christian or "praying" Indians. There is one not far from the Lehigh Valley, Meniolagameka, with very interesting stone structures right by it.

JimP said...

Yes, the Praying Indian villages were different, because in most cases the Indians were given the freedom to choose where to locate their villages -- and they often chose land most sacred to them.

Tim MacSweeney said...

(And please remember that I say this with much respect)I do live by -or actually on, you could say- a riverine village site (and the many adjoining sites)much farther inland than the Pequot Village, relatively rural and minimally developed than almost all Indian Villages that turned into cities or towns. Shortly after 1991 when I started (or perhaps "put into overdrive")my lifelong informal education about Native Americans in the Eastern Woodlands, I don't think it was too long afterwards that I found myself thinking "Who do I trust the most - the "authorities" or my own eyes regarding these stone structures radiating outward from this known Village site that somehow escaped total destruction?" The Peqout Museum is "a" village recreation (I think), while the ground I walk around and ponder about is "the" Village remnants that remain to today. I would love to have the opportunity to show you these things in person -as I would all the "Rock Pile" People who share their thoughts and photos, histories and articles - and thier interest as well as spirit of comradeship in this study of stone structures. Again, I have a great respect for and have learned much from your contributions and don't mean to offend you.

JimP said...

Debate doesn't offend me -- no worries. However, I'm not going to back down from my position much.

The village at the Pequot Museum is a recreation of a 16th century pallisaded hilltop defensive village true right down to historic and archaeological details. It's folly to say it requires correction due to an absence of stone structures when its based, not just on historic eye-witness accounts of how such pallisades were designed, but actual archaeological data.

According to both archeaological and historic data (which I have collected myself), stone structures at habitation sites were very much the exception - typical hearth-stones notwithstanding. There were a couple of reports during the contact period of forts made of stone -- one near Pequot, believed today to be referring to Gungywamp. Another now known as Stony Fort in North Kingstown, RI (not to be confused with Queen's Fort, which wasn't a fort at all). Another one reported in Seneca Country. But wooden pallisaded forts were reported EVERYWHERE in great numbers.

Does that mean I don't believe Indian habitation sites ever included stone structures? Of course not, that would be silly. But I also don't believe the Pequot Museum village recreation requires, "correcting." It is historically accurate without the stone structures, and I'm okay with that.

Now, a better question would be -- how would I correct the museum itself to include a section on Pequot stone worship?

Tim MacSweeney said...

That is an excellent question! I elaborated on a few thoughts about the place I am most familiar with at my blog just after I posted the comment above. Did you ever recieve the floor plan and the rough drawings I sent out as an attachment a little while ago? It's a 'work in progress' sort of thing and by no means complete...

JimP said...

I did get your attachment, as well as the one you sent today.

Here's the thing -- the Indians didn't go about doing things one way and one way only. It's like all the 19th century reports of pseudo-archaeologists who dug up Indian graves to learn, "the Indian mode of burial."

There wasn't *one* Indian mode of burial. There were differences and variations -- not only regionally, but even within a tribe. And those changed and varied and adapted -- so that there were so many, "Indian modes of burial," over time that anyone who talks in absolutes about how contact-period Indians buried their dead is full of hoo-ha.

There were so many reasons stone structures were built by Indians that we could all be driven mad trying to figure out why stone structures were built. There was no *one* purpose. That's even what the historical record tells us.

But I believe there is evidence not only in the historical documents, but in the grandfather stories too, as well as hints in the folklore and oral traditions of the Indians, that can help us string together enough information to identify the purposes of at least *some* of these stone structure sites. That's the work I'm attempting right now.

Tim MacSweeney said...

Reading back over this disscussion, and looking for my copy of Enduring Traditions edited by Wienstien, I think I need to clarify that it's not the pallisaded component of the MPMRC village, but the rest of the deal doesn't look like the place I'm familiar with because there's no stone worked springs or a Bear Stone or rows that connect to resource zones maintained by scheduled burning etc.
I seem to recall McBride writing (in the book mentioned above) about removing all the stone "walls" first before the excavation began; when I drove along the roads to get there, I saw many rows that have the "Indian- Look" I often see in many other places...
Also: the place near me is not a praying village, but was occupied around the same time (more or less), and might possibly be, as in Manitou, chosen because of it's - I'm searching for the words- "extra special spiritual connections"????

Anonymous said...

There are stone cairns within less than 100 yards of the Museum. Several can easily be seen from the road. Nothing needs to be added to the museum's exhibits, the real thing can be seen by walking a few feet from the museum. Sadly, the extremely close proximity of the cairns to roads, sidewalks, and buildings at the museum complex, sadly suggests that most of the cairn site was bulldozed to make way for the complex.

JimP's efforts and my own efforts to discuss the subject of sacred stone structures with the research staff have been politely rebuffed.

The even sadder thing, I noted when visited the museum several years ago, was how much made made in China "Native American" items were being sold in the museum gift shop.

James Gage

Tim MacSweeney said...

It was probably about 10 years ago that I contacted someone there about the fishweir less than 100 yards from my house. Flooding had just destroyed a big piece of it and I thought perhaps preserving it might be a good idea. Some initial interest was shown, but but it didn't take too long before I was just completely ignored...