Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gungywamp Society - Just Plain Wrong

posted by JimP

"There are no 'ancient Indian temples' in the Gungywamp area since it is a well known fact that nomadic and semi-nomadic Native Americans in the region did not construct temples of hewn or field stone . . ." gungywamp.com

This is one of the most irresponsible and incorrect statements regarding Native Americans in New England that I have read in at least a couple of years. It angers me as much as the .Massachusetts Historical Commission's racist pamphlet about stone structures. "It is a well-known fact," to whom? To ignorance, perhaps. To someone who hasn't bothered to do the research.

FACT: Indians in New England in both pre- and post-contact New England did indeed use sacred sites featuring structures built of field stones. Furthermore, at least one early English colonist -- a Puritan -- actually drew comparisons between these sites and ancient Greek temples.

FACT: In Rhode Island there exists what has been called by some historians the Narragansett stony fort complexes. Queen's Fort, Wolf Rocks, Fort Ninigret, Great Swamp, Rolling Rock, and Shumunkanuc Fort are six examples. These sites were all either described historically as having been built using stone, or are still intact enough to this very day to actually see the stone structures. One of these forts -- Queen's Fort -- is on the National Register of Historic Places as a Narragansett site. If it is a well-known fact that Indians in the region didn't construct temples using field stones, no one told the Narragansetts. Of course, it isn't the use of the word, "temple," that is at issue.

FACT: There is at least one contact-period reference to a similar stone fort in Pequot territory in Connecticut -- in the area of Gungywamp itself. Sadly, the report is too vague to draw any conclusions about its exact location. And while I'm not willing to say that the 17th century writer was referring to Gungywamp itself, he was certainly referring to a stone fort erected by Indians in Connecticut.

FACT: The historical evidence strongly suggests that Indians in New England built their sweat-lodges out of field stones. Often, they walled up the opening of a natural talus cave or rock shelter. But sweat lodges built entirely from field stones were not out of the realm of possibility whatsoever. In fact, it's the only thing that makes any sense if one examines the historical data from the region. (I can even give you a historical reference that explains the purpose of the holes we find in stone chambers, and not an astronomical explanation either, and one that pre-dates modern interest in such structures.)

FACT: I can prove everything I've said to the satisfaction of any historian. Gungywamp Society, the opinions expressed on your website do this field of research, and the effort to preserve such sites, a tremendous disservice.


Tim MacSweeney said...

Never argue with the Ump!!!
He calls it as he sees it, and I agree!

Norman said...

How does one get in touch with the Gungywamp Society? Is there an e-mail address somewhere?

Norman said...

I belonged to the Gungywamp Society briefly in the early 1980s, when Dave Barron was in charge. Yes, there was a lot of nonsense promoted then, and I disagreed with much of what was said, but this new Gungywamp Society is the flip side of the old, and has completely revamped their image and what they used to claim. But in the process to do away with old ideas, they seem to have cleaned house too thoroughly. And it all seems to coincide with the appearance of William Dopirak in a leadership position within the society over the past two or three years. Although he did not study under Bellantoni -- or so it appears --, he seems to have accepted much of what Bellantoni believes, which is that the Indians had no stone building technology before the European invasion of the 17th century. Interesting that Bellantoni is on the Board of the society.

JimP said...

There is utterly no contact information anywhere on their website. Not surprising. Looks like their minds are made up about the site anyway.

While poking around, though, I did stumble upon a bunch of really quite humiliating nonsense concerning some Internet/legal feud between someone named Ken Parks and someone named Paulette Buchanan.

How embarassing for the Gungywamp Society to have this dirty laundry on their home page. I feel like I need a shower after reading all of it.

James Gage said...

It seems to me that the rock pile research & preservation community would benefit from a formal declaration of principles, facts, philosophy, and general statement of objectives (i.e. preservation, science based research, cultural respect, theories based upon facts not political agenda, etc). In short a document equivalent to the USET Resolution but one for the rock pile community. A document of this nature is needed to serve as alternative to published statements by Gungywamp Society and the Mass. Historical Commission which are proving to be destructive rather constructive. Such a document should be largely positive in nature emphasizing education, preservation, respect, cooperation and a call to action (rather than focusing current politics.)

pwax said...

My version of the comeback: how anyone can talk about "well known facts" concerning a people who are now gone, have not been observed by anyone living, and who were thoroughly suppressed by the writers of the history books - is beyond me. It is immature thinking.