Manataka American Indian Council Volume XI Issue 08 AUGUST 2007
SMOKE SIGNAL NEWS
Manataka - Preserving The Past Today For Tomorrow
Dedicated this month to:
HONORING OUR RELATIONS
Faster download! The Smoke Signal this month is on 3 web pages.
|2||Legends of Old:||Chipmunk and Bear|
|2||Feature Story:||The Navajo Enemy Way Ceremony|
|In the News:|
Letters to the Editor:
|Australians, Gatherings and Buffalos|
|2||Politics:||Choctaws Elect New Chief after 3 Decades|
|2||Organic Consumers:||Organic Farming Can Feed the World|
|2||Elder's Meditations:||John (Fire) Lame Deer – Rosebud Lakota|
|2||Member Recognition:||Tammy Timberlake - Hands Down|
|2||Health:||Authorities Ignored Vioxx Warnings|
|2||Herbs:||Kitchen Herbs That Heal|
|2||Fluoride:||New Warning by Dentists: Damages Teeth|
|2||Animal Rights and Wrongs:||A||Save Belugas!!|
|2||Sacred Sites:||Connecticut-based tribe reclaims its past|
LEGENDS OF OLD:
Chipmunk and Bear
Long ago when animals could talk, a bear was walking along. Now it has
always been said that bears think very highly of themselves. Since they are
big and strong, they are certain that they are the most important of the
As this bear went along turning over big logs with his paws to look for food to eat, he felt very sure of himself. "There is nothing I cannot do," said this bear.
"Is that so?" said a small voice. Bear looked down. There was a little chipmunk looking up at Bear from its hole in the ground.
"Yes," Bear said, "that is true indeed." He reached out one huge paw and rolled over a big log. "Look at how easily I can do this. I am the strongest of all the animals. I can do anything. All the other animals fear me."
"Can you stop the sun from rising in the morning?" said the Chipmunk.
Bear thought for a moment. "I have never tried that," he said. "Yes, I am sure I could stop the sun from rising."
"You are sure?" said Chipmunk.
"I am sure," said Bear. "Tomorrow morning the sun will not rise. I, Bear, have said so." Bear sat down facing the east to wait.
Behind him the sun set for the night and still he sat there. The chipmunk went into its hole and curled up in its snug little nest, chuckling about how foolish Bear was. All through the night Bear sat. Finally the first birds started their songs and the east glowed with the light which comes before the sun.
"The sun will not rise today," said Bear. He stared hard at the glowing light. "The sun will not rise today."
However, the sun rose, just as it always had. Bear was very upset, but Chipmunk was delighted. He laughed and laughed. "Sun is stronger than Bear," said the chipmunk, twittering with laughter. Chipmunk was so amused that he came out of his hole and began running around in circles, singing this song:
"The sun came up, The sun came up. Bear is angry, But the sun came up."
While Bear sat there looking very unhappy, Chipmunk ran around and around, singing and laughing until he was so weak that he rolled over on his back. Then, quicker than the leap of a fish from a stream, Bear shot out one big paw and pinned him to the ground.
"Perhaps I cannot stop the sun from rising," said Bear, "but you will never see another sunrise."
'Oh, Bear," said the chipmunk. "oh, oh, oh, you are the strongest, you are the quickest, you are the best of all of the animals. I was only joking." But Bear did not move his paw.
"Oh, Bear," Chipmunk said, "you are right to kill me, I deserve to die. Just please let me say one last prayer to Creator before you eat me."
"Say your prayer quickly," said Bear. "Your time to walk the Sky Road has come!"
"Oh, Bear," said Chipmunk, "I would like to die. But you are pressing down on me so hard I cannot breathe. I can hardly squeak. I do not have enough breath to say a prayer. If you would just lift your paw a little, just a little bit, then I could breathe. And I could say my last prayer to the
Maker of all, to the one who made great, wise, powerful Bear and the foolish, weak, little Chipmunk.
"Bear lifted up his paw. He lifted it just a little bit. That little bit, though, was enough. Chipmunk squirmed free and ran for his hole as quickly as the blinking of an eye. Bear swung his paw at the little chipmunk as it darted away. He was not quick enough to catch him, but the very tips of his long claws scraped along Chipmunk's back leaving three pale scars.
To this day, all chipmunks wear those scars as a reminder to them of what happens when one animal makes fun to another.
~From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories
HONORING OUR RELATIONS
- The Mother Healer-
The Navajo Enemy Way Ceremony
By Johnson Dennison, Special to The Independent
The Navajo Enemy
Way Ceremony is a healing ceremony to treat patients and is only conducted
in the summer months.
This ceremony is almost a week long process for patients who are ill from any form of illness. It was originally conducted for individuals who participated in a foreign war and usually for warriors returning from war. This is why it is called the Nidaa', the Enemy Way Ceremony. Some people call it a "Squaw dance," but that is derogatory.
The preparation for the Enemy Way Ceremony begins by building a forked stick hogan. It can also be conducted in any type of traditional hogan as well. Most of the time, a temporary hogan-shaped brush arbor is built for the ceremony. The temporary shelter is dismantled as soon as the ceremony is over. Another small arbor is built in front of the hogan also for a ceremonial purpose.
A larger arbor is also built about fifty yards from the hogan on the southwest side. This is to be used as a cook shed where visitors are received and are fed. The relatives of the patients will help build the cook shed. The shed is usually divided into two rooms. The room on the north side is reserved for the main patient and his family to prepare food for the visitors. The south room is reserved for the wife of the patient and her family to use for receiving friends and relatives.
IN THE NEWS:
HONORING OUR RELATIONS - The Earth Mother -
The World Drum Project: In Kansas City
by Linda VanBibber, Manataka Correspondent
The World Drum was hosted in Kansas City July 19th through the 23rd by Women of the Drum. We were excited and pleased to have the Drum with us for these few days and it is with many blessings that it leaves us today.
The Drum arrived in Kansas City on Wednesday, July 18th. I was personally privileged to receive the Drum. It spent it’s first night in my home and I was able to experience the Drum privately for which I will be ever grateful. The Drum speaks. When you play Her (or She plays you), She talks and gives Visions. I saw the faces of many people, but particularly one elder man, much wrinkled. I do not know who he is, but his spirit travels with the Drum. I prayed for unity as I played the Drum. The Drum said “Unity Is. Pray for Awareness.”
At noon on Thursday I delivered the Drum to Regina Compernolle, founder and leader of Women of the Drum so that she could also spend some personal time with the Drum before it’s first public appearance in Kansas City. Each third Friday of the month Women of the Drum play at White Light Books Holistic Resource Center in the Westport area of Kansas City, one of the most eclectic areas in the city. Since the Drum’s arrival coincided with this event, we took the Drum with us to play and educated people concerning it’s Mission. Flyers were sent out for two weeks prior to the Drum’s arrival.
People were drawn to the Drum. Children were drawn to the Drum. Someone would initiate a rhythm with the Drum and we would all join in with our drums. We played for over three hours and everyone was enchanted with the Drum and it’s message. People were invited to a ceremony with the Drum at Dogwood Forest, the home of Regina and Elaine, also a Woman of the Drum.
The Drum was a guest speaker Saturday on KKFI, Community Radio with talk show hosts Sharon and Molly. The Drum was played over the airways to expose as many people as possible to its Mission and Message.
The public Drum Ceremony was held at Dogwood Forest on Saturday night from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Attendees brought diverse cultural and spiritual backgrounds to the ceremony including Brazilian Candomble, Native American, Kenyan, Wiccan, Catholic and Baptist.
The ceremony was opened with a Dance presenting the Drum to the Four Directions. This was followed by the Seven Nations Thanksgiving Address including thanksgiving for the Spirit of the Drum. Then each participant held the Drum, stated their intention for healing and awakening and started a rhythm which was joined by others. The ceremony was closed with a celebratory dance. We have no doubt that the vibration was felt by all upon Mother Earth.
Sunday night the dancers of Women of the Drum honored the Drum and its Mission with a dance and salute. This was followed with a private ceremony with Women of the Drum expressing their heartfelt wishes for the healing of our Mother Earth and using the rhythm of the Drum to carry that vibration to the Universe.
There is no way to express the impact that the experience of the World Drum made on the participants here in Kansas City. We will never forget this experience and some of us plan to attend other World Drum ceremonies in Arkansas. It was with some sadness and a fond farewell and best wishes for a safe journey that the World Drum was sent on Her way to Michigan City, Indiana, this morning. For more information on the World Drum Project: www.theworlddrum.com
World Drum coming to Manataka
The one-year anniversary of the World Drum project will be at Manataka October 20-21 according to Amanda Morningstar Moore, coordinator of the Manataka event.
The World Drum Project began on the steps of the Norwegian Parliament by Morten Wolf Storeide of Oslo, Norway. "Storeide is a member of Manataka and was recently honored with two of his poems in the last edition of the Smoke Signal. These poems came to him shortly after journey with his drum.
"We are hopeful that Storeide will join us here at Manataka during on the World Drum's first birthday," said Moore.
Storeid told Moore that he plans to have the World Drum return to him in Norway for a peace concert after the last ceremony in the North-American tour. He went on to say that the journey of the drum will not end. "It will continue on and on and will return to the United States again."
According to the World
Drum Project website
http://www.theworlddrum.com/ the purpose and goals are to "wake people from
their lethargy and indifference... to demand action from our governments and
politicians... to take drastic actions to reduce and stop pollution and
poisoning [of Mother Earth]...
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR...
Manataka receives dozens of letters each week. Space does not allow us to publish all letters but we make a concerted effort to
print letters that are representative of a majority. Let us know if there is a topic you feel needs to be addressed.
Trouble for Australian Aboriginies
Greetings everyone at Manataka from Australia,
Out of the blue, here come this funny little man
we name Prime Minister, unstable on his own version of help and
incredibly pledging to help Indigenous people up in the Northern
Its all a big yahoo and where normally he would head in the other direction when seeing an indigenous person as he knows no one likes him, now, with the spot light on his falling numbers of support, PM Howard starts rolling in the military looking to stamp out the sexual predators that haunt the little kids up there, of course there are only indigenous people under this microscope, the white collar pedophiles that give Howard financial support still access their internet alternative egos and are free to roam.
Summer Gathering 2007
How can I begin to thank you for the honor of attending your Summer Gathering on June 22-24th. I was brought there by Quatisi and Jim as their guest.
Your kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness by all members Creator brought into my life that day have left a warm feeling, more patience, and a calmness I so badly needed.
I have worked with the Native American Music Awards & Assoc. for 6 years now, and have such pride in Native youth, and the musicians/artists I have been fortunate enough to meet. I encourage all parents to let their children express themselves in writing, artwork, musical instruments, or singing in the type of express- ionism they feel closest to in their daily lives. Please always teach the children the Traditional ways, to keep them alive and not distorted as time goes by, and to respect Mother Earth, their elders, other people and their property so that they never bring disrespect to their Tribe and/or its elders.
I again must say how truly blessed and honored it was to meet all of you. May our paths cross many times to come in the future.
Today is a day of great blessing................Thank you for all that you do......Love and prayers, Momfeather
Stop Buffalo Killing
I enjoy receiving the
Smoke Signal! The killing of Yellowstone bison reminds me of the
way the "white" men tried to get rid of the Indians before! Can
the killing be stopped?!! I plan to join Manataka. Sally Allaway
PHILADELPHIA, Miss. - The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians appeared Thursday to have elected a new chief for the first time in three decades.
Eight-term incumbent Chief Phillip Martin, 81, trailed former Tribal Council member Beasley Denson by 211 votes according to complete but unofficial returns. With absentee ballots counted, Denson had 1,697 votes to Martin's 1,486.
During Martin's tenure, the 9,000-member tribe emerged from extreme poverty thanks in large part to the development of a sprawling resort with casinos and a water park on tribal land in the red clay hills of east central Mississippi.
But Martin, 81, was also criticized for the tribe's ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and for the hiring of non-Choctaws in casino management.
Denson, 57, would become only the third elected tribal chief since the 1830 Treaty of Dancing RabbitCreek, after which most members were driven to Oklahoma.
© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Cobell v_ Norton - Government Argues it Never Victimized Indians
Be warned that you will be shocked
by James Cason, the . acting director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He says
he knows of no Indians who have been victimized by the government's management
of their trust accounts.
Never mind that the government has been unable to give any Indian an accurate accounting of their account in the 118 years since the accounts were created.
Your accounts, Cason says, are "pretty darn accurate." As for the evidence of massive mishandling of your trust monies by the government, he says: "We haven't found the evidence." Perhaps that is because his
department is not taking any steps to gather the evidence as required by court order.
And, that's the way the Department of the Interior now views its previous, repeated admissions of mismanagement. No harm, no foul because Mr. Cason is unable to see the obvious results of the damage Interior has brought to Indian people. Obviously, that's because he has never bothered to read the record of mismanagement that has been documented for decades.
As trust account beneficiaries, it is critical you understand what Cason is saying and what he is not telling the public.
He is not saying that he has examined only a tiny fraction of the trust accounts he is under court order to review. And he is allowing his staff to make some potentially serious mistakes. He is assuming that every record Interior finds is accurate.
That's not what is required for a true accounting. In those audits, there must be some documenting evidence that if a ledger says a payment was made that the payment was actually made. A check or a copy of that check
has to be produced and it has to be shown that the payment was made to the proper account holder.
What Cason is doing is little more than a quick, hurry-up review, not a
It assumes that every document
Interior has is totally correct. No backup, no confirmation. That's not the
accounting the government needs to perform and Cason knows it.
He has told the courts that a full accounting will cost "$12 billion to $13 billon or perhaps significantly more." He says the government has spent $100 million to date. By his own figures, he has barely scratched the surface of what he needs to do.
There is also a recent SRA International study that placed the government's liability for trust mismanagement at $10 billion to $40 billion.
Everyone, including the federal judge overseeing this case, knows that Cason is talking about only a fraction of the records that are needed for a full accounting. Most of the records are destroyed and lost.
But, not all of the program is a nightmare of betrayal to Indian people. I assured viewers in a later segment that we will not accept Cason's callous reasoning. We intend to press the case for a full accounting of what happened to our money in a case that a federal judge has said "set the gold standard for mismanagement of a government program."
Some of the questions were tough and illustrated a bias against Indian people and women. Please watch the program and I think you will see what type of opposition we can expect to face as we move toward Congressional action on the 50 principles that would end this controversy.
Be assured we will not be deterred by Mr. Cason's inability to see the harm the government has done to Indian people.
I can only imagine how he would feel if it took him 118 years to get a statement from his bank. I bet he would finally realize what a victim is.
To view the latest information concerning this case, go to www.indiantrust.com
This article is brought to you by ORGANIC BYTES, from Organic Consumers Assoc.
"Laughter - that is something very sacred, especially for us
Indians." -John (Fire) Lame Deer – Rosebud Lakota
Laughter is mental, laughter is emotional, laughter is physical and laughter is spiritual. Laughter helps us find balance. If we get too angry, laughter will turn that emotion in a balanced direction. If we have a mental picture of someone who is too strong, laughter will help ease the tension. If the body is stressed laughter will release natural relaxants into our muscles and our nervous system. Laughter often changes our attitude. We need to lighten up and laugh more.
teach me to
By Don Coyhis
By Don Coyhis
Manataka "Spirit Award"
for exemplary volunteer service to the organization and community was awarded by unanimous decision of the Elder Council to the following:
After attending several gatherings, Tammy Timberlake moved with Stewart, her life partner to Manataka in 2004. They gave up lucrative incomes, a beautiful home, friends and family to be at the Place of Peace. Tammy is a retired nurse and loves to paint, sculpt and work with her exotic animals.
Coming from riches to rags, Tammy and Stewart suffered for the next three years while living in a small trailer without running water and electricity. They suffered serious health problems and money was tight. The nights were cold and the days were hot. Regardless of these tribulations, Tammy generously gave of her time, energy and love to many Manataka projects and events.
Our love and admiration of Tammy Timberlake is boundless. We offer our sincere congratulations for this well earned award. She will go down in Manataka history as an important and beautiful influence on shaping Manataka's destiny.
From - Dr. Wayne Garland, ND/TCM
Authorities Ignored Vioxx Warnings - 270,000 Patients With Strokes & Heart Attacks
Drug maker hit with $13 billion in
lawsuits! Yes, $13 billion. But what if you’re dead?
“This Vioxx debacle is yet another terrible indictment of the drug industry’s mad greed backfiring with appalling consequences - over 270,000 strokes and heart attacks.
It gets worse.
Trials showed as early as four years ago that the drug would increase the risk of heart attacks and debilitating strokes.
Authorities did nothing to limit its use, instead they accepted the drugmaker’s (Merck’s) pathetic suggestions that the increased risk “could be due to something else”.
Puleeeze! Pull my other leg, it plays Jingle
Bells, as my grandmother used to say! This is now the biggest prescription
drug recall in history. And it should never, ever have happened.
The link to cardiovascular problems first appeared in a study conducted way back in 2000, seven years ago. The study involved a five-fold increase in myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) and a two-fold increase in stroke rates.
Further questions about the safety of Vioxx were also raised in 2001, prompting the FDA to require the label be changed to highlight a potential risk! But who reads labels printed in font so small it is like the Lord’s Prayer on a pinhead?
Celebrex, Bextra Just As Bad, Maybe Worse
As bad as Vioxx is, the alternatives are just as bad and even worse. Celebrex the other painkilling “COX-2 Inhibitor” arthritis drug, works the same way in the body.
And Bextra, the latest wonder
drug, has been found to be twice as dangerous as Vioxx. The
incidence of heart attacks and strokes among patients given Bextra was more
than double that of those given placebos!
No wonder patients are screaming for an answer. Doctors are being grilled with questions from their arthritis patients, particularly as the response by doctors is to switch people over to Celebrex or Bextra.
“The magnitude of the signal with Bextra is even higher than what we saw in Vioxx,” Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, a cardiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. “This is a time bomb waiting to go off.” (His words, not mine.)
Dr. Fitzgerald is the world’s leading expert on these kind of drugs, he is no dummy or drug company stooge. He went on to say,
“The latest findings added to growing worries that all COX-2 inhibitors such as Bextra, Celebrex and Crestor should be used with great, great caution.”
Kitchen Herbs That Heal
By Cynthia Barstow
Gardening is in the air. Even those of us lacking a single green thumb can grow a handful of tasty and restorative herbs. They’re that easy. And from a little effort in the dirt, you’ll soon find yourself simmering homemade salve and flavoring your food with the leaves of your labors.
Most herbs grow happily on sunny windowsills or in garden beds. Pick up your chosen seedlings at any local garden center, along with some soil and pots, if needed. Then just set your freshly potted herbs on a south-facing windowsill or wait until after the last frost and pop the seedlings into the earth. Add water, sit back and watch the growing take place.
Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
It’s no surprise that these four herbs are hummed together; they’re the perfect culinary basics. And all four do well outdoors in warm, sunny areas. Rosemary and thyme are perennials, meaning once you plant them they’ll come back every year. So will sage in milder climates. Little or no garden? No problem. They do quite well in cramped quarters or pots. Beyond their flavor contributions, these herbs pass the “good for you” test, according to Zoe Gardner, program coordinator of the University of Massachusetts Medicinal Plant Program. Parsley has received little attention from researchers, says Gardner, but it has traditionally been used to treat indigestion (just ask Peter Rabbit!). Plus, it’s high in vitamins A and C, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and riboflavin.
From Crystal Harvey, MAIC Correspondent
Fluoride Action Network
Fluoride Damages Teeth, New Warning by Dentists
New York – July 16, 2007 -- Fluoride supplements put children six and under at significant risk of permanently discolored teeth, according to a review of studies recently posted on the American Dental Association’s (ADA) web site in their new section, “evidence-based dentistry,” for dentists and their patients. (1)
Fluoride supplements, in graduating amounts up to 1 mg daily, are often prescribed to children who don’t drink fluoridated water, ostensibly to reduce tooth decay.
“This review confirmed that in non-fluoridated communities the use of fluoride supplements during the first 6 years of life is associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing dental fluorosis, write researchers Ismail & Bandekar and first published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, February 1999, (2) but posted to the ADA’s website July 2007.
Fluoride ingestion, once thought to reduce cavities, can lead to dental fluorosis – white spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted tooth enamel. Modern science indicates fluoride absorbs into tooth enamel topically, primarily.(3)
Studies link dental fluorosis to children’s kidney damage (4) and bone fractures (5).
The ADA and Centers for Disease Control recently advised that fluoridated water should not be mixed into concentrated infant formula, in order to decrease dental fluorosis risk – now a growing U.S. problem. (6)
Never safety-tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) (7), fluoride supplements do more harm than good.(8)
“While fluoride is proclaimed a significant cavity reducer, there is little, if any, science to support that," says lawyer Paul Beeber, President, New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation.
A National Institutes of Health 2001 news release supports Beeber's assertion: "... the (NIH) panel was disappointed in the overall quality of the clinical data that it reviewed. According to the panel, far too many studies were small, poorly described, or otherwise methodologically flawed." (9) Over 560 studies evaluated fluoride among those reviewed by the NIH Consensus Development Program panel for the Diagnosis and Management of Dental Caries.
Recent research shows that fluoridation delivers risks with little, if any, benefit.(10)
“Save money, save our health, save the planet. Stop fluoridation,” says Beeber.
Contact: Paul Beeber firstname.lastname@example.org
2) "Fluoride supplements and fluorosis: a meta-analysis," Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology, 1999 Feb;27(1):48-56, by Ismail & Bandekar.
4) "Dose-effect relationship between drinking water fluoride levels and damage to liver and kidney functions in children," Environmental Research,2007 Jan;103(1):112-6. Epub 2006 Jul 10, by Xiong, et. alhttp://tinyurl.com/34lj92
5) "Dental and Early-State Skeletal Fluorosis in Children Induced by Fluoride in Brick-Tea," Fluoride 2005;38(1):44–47 Cao, et. al http://www.fluorideresearch.org/381/files/38144-47.pdf
8) "The case for eliminating the use of dietary fluoride supplements for young children," Journal of Public Health Dentistry, Fall 1999, by Burt http://tinyurl.com/2bnoff
9) http://consensus.nih.gov/2001/2001DentalCaries115html.htm10) "Community Water Fluoridation and Caries Prevention: A Critical Review," Clinical Oral Investigations, by Pizzo et.al, 2007 Feb 27;
SOURCE: New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation. Inc.
No offense intended for any individuals or tribes.
Two Indians and a
West Virginia Hillbilly were walking through the woods. All
of a sudden one of the Indians ran up a hill to the mouth of
a small cave. "Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!"he called into the
cave and listened closely until he heard an answering, "Wooooo!
Wooooo! Woooooo! He then tore off his clothes and ran into
The Hillbilly was puzzled and asked the remaining Indian what it was all about. "Was the other Indian crazy or what?" The Indian replied "No, It is our custom during mating season when Indian men see cave, they holler
'Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!' into the opening. If they get an answer back, it means there's a beautiful woman in there waiting for us."
Just then they came upon another cave. The second Indian ran up to the cave, stopped, and hollered, "Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!" Immediately, there was the answer. "Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!"from deep inside. He also tore off his clothes and ran into the opening.
The Hillbilly wandered around in the woods alone for a while, and then spied a third large cave. As he looked in amazement at the size of the huge opening, he was thinking, "Hoo, man! Look at the size of this cave! It is
bigger than those the Indians found. There must be some really big, fine women in this cave!" He stood in front of the opening and hollered with all his might "Wooooo! Wooooo! Wooooo!"
Like the others, he then heard an answering call, "WOOOOOOOOO, WOOOOOOOOO WOOOOOOOOO!" With a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face, he raced into the cave, tearing off his clothes as he ran.
The following day, the headline of the local newspaper read....
NAKED HILLBILLY RUN OVER BY TRAIN......!
ANIMAL RIGHTS... AND WRONGS
Credits: Photo provided by National
Resources Defense Council by photographer Brian J. Skerry
SACRED SITE WATCH:
NORWICH, Conn. - The Mohegans were wiped out long ago in the novel “The Last of the Mohicans,” but today the real American Indian tribe is flush with casino cash and using it to restore its proud past.
The Connecticut tribe has reclaimed the Mohegan Royal Burial Ground and is restoring it to pay homage to its famed Chief Uncas and his descendants, who were mythologized in James Fenimore Cooper’s 1826 work.
The project has been dubbed “The Lasting of the Mohegans.”
“Writing somebody out of history is another form of genocide,” tribal historian Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. “We certainly can’t allow Uncas to be forgotten.”
The Mohegans operate one of the world’s most successful casinos and are among about 50 tribes in the U.S. that have managed to reclaim burial grounds or other sacred sites, said Suzan Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, an Indian rights organization in Washington.
In recent years, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes have preserved a massacre site in Colorado, while the Nez Perce have taken control of worship sites in Idaho, Harjo said. Several tribes in California who operate casinos also have reclaimed burial grounds, she said.
'Using newfound wealth'
“More and more, the native people are using newfound wealth to purchase what should be theirs anyway,” Harjo said.
But several hundred burial grounds and other sacred sites remain threatened by development, according to Harjo.
In Connecticut, the Mohegans tried for centuries to protect and reclaim their burial ground. But with few resources, the tribe had little leverage.
“The Royal Mohegan Burial Ground has been a source of anguish for the tribe since the 18th century,”
Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. “We hope that we have lived up to their expectations and given them some peace.”
In a stark reversal of fortune, the federally recognized tribe of nearly 2,000 is giving Norwich, a once-prosperous city in eastern Connecticut, $1 million for economic development and another $1 million to the Masons who operated a popular lodge on the site.
The Mohegans spent $1 million to demolish the Masonic temple last fall and are spending another $1 million to restore the burial ground into a park-like setting with stone work and plantings.
Presidents Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant and William Taft paid visits to the burial ground to honor Chief Uncas, who was an ally of English settlers.
Burial ground encroached
“This is really the place where the two civilizations came together,” Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. “As Americans, we honor great colonial leaders. Naturally it seems appropriate to honor the great Indian leaders of the same period.”
Uncas granted the settlers land that later became Norwich in return for a promise that his tribe would keep the burial ground, Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. But the burial ground was gradually encroached upon by settlers, she said.
“In many ways the restoration of this burial ground is fulfillment of the original agreement between Uncas and the original settlers of Norwich,” Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. “Uncas in many ways created a model of cooperation between settlers and Indians.”
Hundreds and possibly thousands of Mohegans, including Uncas, were buried in the royal cemetery dating back at least to the 1600s, Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. The exact location of Uncas’ grave is unclear.
The Mohegans had tried to keep the 3.4-acre site undeveloped since the last tribal burial there in 1876, suing unsuccessfully in the 1890s and 1930s, arguing that the land had been illegally encroached upon.
Norwich officials endorsed the project, saying it reversed a historic wrong. By the end of the year, tribal members hope to visit the Royal Mohegan Burial Ground, surrounded by new historical markers.
“This goal created a lot of patience for a lot of generations of people,” Tantaquidgeon Zobel said. “I think the key is a belief that eventually the right thing would be done.”
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