Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nolumbeka Events

Two events: a River Walk and the Annual Great Falls Commemoration Ceremony. Details below:
River Walk
Join the Nolumbeka Project and Connecticut River Watershed Council to learn about 10,000 years of Native American presence near the Great Falls. Learn from and speak to experts in the Native American history of this area, culminating in the Turners Falls massacre during King Phillips War in 1676. Meet at 10 a.m. the Unity Park/bike path gravel parking area on 1st  St.  in Turners Falls. It involves leisurely walking along paved bike path for 1-1.5 miles. Accessible to all; dogs on leashes welcome. Free (donations appreciated).

The guides will be Nolumbeka Project Board members David Brule, Howard Clark, and Joe Graveline.  Collectively they share about one hundred years of information reconstructed through research, observations, insight, education, explorations, field work and associations, which illuminates the little known history of the early Native American culture of the Northeast. All three work closely with the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office and monitor local Native American/American Indian sacred sites

Brule, of Narragansett and Nehantic descent, is the coordinator of the newly awarded National Park Service Battlefield Protection Program whose goal is to identify the likely locations of the King Phillip’s War (1675-76) Peskeomskut (Turners Falls) Battlefield and associated sites, including the Native American community Peskeomskut-Wissatinnewag. This is in partnership with an archaeologist, town historic commissions, and members of four New England tribes.  

Clark has Cherokee roots and his extensive research into the Native history of this area revealed the prime importance of Great Falls as a gathering place for many Northeastern tribes during the fish runs.  The Great Falls Massacre on May 19, 1676 was a turning point in the King Philip’s War. Clark was instrumental in securing protection for the land across the river, Wissatinnewag, and was a signer of the Reconciliation Agreement between the Town of Turners Falls and the Narragansett tribe at Unity Park on May 19, 2004. 

Graveline, Nolumbeka Project president, is descended from Cherokee and Abenaki and began learning about the native culture from his mother at a young age. He specializes in presenting the unrepresented Indian side of American history.  He was one of the organizers of the Reconciliation Agreement; and of the Peoples Harvest Native American cultural celebration that took place on the Banks of the Connecticut River in Gill, MA in 2005 and 2006.  

 Although the river has gone through many changes the history remains and much will be revealed and explained during the walk. The guides will also offer a “geological primer” and give an overview of 345 million years history how the land was formed. Early May is a prime time for this event, before the leaves fully cover the trees. From across the river the serpentine trails down the hill from the Wissatinnewag land to the fishing stations below will still be visible.A map will be provided to help identify some of these features during the walk.  Binoculars might be helpful, not just to see the sights but there will likely be migrating waterfowl and the occasional eagle.
Great Falls Commemoration
The 3rd Annual Great Falls Commemoration Ceremony will take place at Unity Park in Turners Falls on Saturday, May 16.  The Nolumbeka Project events will be held at the River Tent at Unity Park: 1 – 1:30 p.m., Commemoration Ceremony; 1:30 – 2:30 p.m., Visioning B.E.A.R. Singers; 2:30 – 3 p.m., River Stories in Poetry and Song with David Brule. The gathering,  co-sponsored by the Nolumbeka Project and Turners Falls RiverCulture, will this year be part of a larger, all day event, River’s Song.

This part of the Connecticut River is spiritually an exceptional location and the historical significance for the indigenous peoples of the Northeast is well-documented.  For millennia Great Falls (Peskeompskut) was a gathering place for numerous Northeastern tribes during the fish runs and served as a place where diplomacy and peace prevailed. That ended on May 19, 1676 with the infamous massacre. Unity Park is where, 11 years ago on May 19, 2004, the Reconciliation Ceremony was held between the Town of Montague and the Narragansett to “begin to put the traumatic echoes of the past to rest".

People are invited to donate a special stone to a permanent memorial mound which will be assembled on the Wissatinnewag site in Greenfield. These “prayers in stone”, respectfully and mindfully chosen by each individual, will symbolize prayers for blessing, healing and reconciliation and is a Native American tradition.  Perhaps, people will choose a stone that “speaks to them” from its natural setting or one already displaced by construction and seeking a new home.  All are asked to be particularly careful not to remove a stone from an existing ceremonial mound as this will deactivate the prayer of the original donor. The permanent placement of the prayer stones will take place at a later date as part of a gathering or, with prior arrangements, privately.  The hope is that this will be an ongoing ritual for years to come. The 61 acre Wissatinnewag land, under the stewardship of the Nolumbeka Project, experienced at least three violent traumas: its connection to the massacre of almost 400 non-combatant refugees of King Philip’s War on May 19, 1676; the removal of ceremonial burials on the hill during the summer of 1964 which were uncovered and bulldozed with other excavation debris into the ten acre white ash swamp across the street; and many years of gravel removal that decimated the ancient village site and left a huge, gaping scar. In recent years topsoil has been brought into an area of the lower sand face, wells dug, and traditional circle gardens planted that grow heritage three sisters (corn, beans, squash), ceremonial tobacco, and sweet grass. Other restoration efforts are underway and planned for the future.

River’s Song activities about the Connecticut River are planned throughout downtown Turners Falls from 11a.m. to 10 p.m. and will include art making, a parade, a walking tour, spoken word and musical performances, art receptions, and a water dance sound & light show.

The River's Song Project is a collaboration of the Nolumbeka Project, Turners Falls RiverCulture, the UMASS Asian Arts and Culture Program, The UMASS Departments of Landscape Architecture, the Connecticut River Watershed Council and the Great Falls Discovery Center. For a full event schedule please visit

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