Living Memorials

Brothertown singing traditions, remembered by quahog clam shells (wampum material) and a singers’ “Memorial Lesson” for OCCOM.

February for me is Brothertown Singing Month.
There’s no such thing–this is just for me personally.
But there are good reasons…

Wampum and music– they are animate.
They remind us. They are memory keepers.
Living memorials. As are we who sing.

Three years ago today,
peoples gathered,
Brothertown, shape note singers, academics, more,
and we sang for each other,
and we heard the music first written and published,
though sometimes much older than that,
by Thomas Commuck (Narragansett/Brothertown) (1804-55)
in his musical tunebook Indian Melodies (1845).

The quahog clam shells,
the wampum beings–
–they have something to remind us–
that’s what they do.
But we have to listen.

Here are some views of memorial-wampums I crafted lightly–too lightly really to be wampum, I admit– with the whole half shells, their bodies!, given me by the quahogs. The gift must always move. These were gift memorial wampums I gave to as many of the traveling singers and core organizers and Brotherton as I was able to make . . . . . . wish I could have made triple as many . . . They have traveled back now to homes all across the continent,
where they whisper still: “sing Commuck” “sing for Brothertown”

it was ten years ago this month (!), February 2011, that I ordered my own first facsimile of Commuck’s Indian Melodies, and opened an ever-surprising door of learning and searching and meeting and relations and, I’ll admit, endless compulsive reading, and teamwork with so many wonderful people . . .
. . . I had no clue then that there could be such a thing as the Calumet and Cross Heritage Society, Inc., 501(c)(3), promoting Brothertown Indian culture and heritage, or that I might be one of its founding officers and members of the Board of Directors!

February 3rd, 2018, was also a reveal of sorts for Calumet and Cross Heritage Society, which had put up the $$ for the musical “program booklet” = selection of ca. one third of Commuck’s original contents which best told the Brothertown story, plus many modern add-on features . . .
🙂 What a great singers’ and Brothertown resource !!!
–still available– info here https://www.calumetandcross.org/


Shifting topics,
yet not–

memory, memorials, living memorials . . .
wampum and music are animate . . .

“people of wampum” might include all the Northeastern Algonkian peoples and also the Haudenosaunee.
The Haudenosaunee especially used (use) wampum ceremonially for memorials and adoptions and condolences; besides the usual gift-relationship-reciprocity establishment or maintenance among peoples, and political and diplomatic messages, and other communal and sacred functions and meanings.

Sir William Johnson, in explaining his expenses in Mohawk country to his Royal and Parliamentary financiers as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern colonies, described often the day or days of annual councils which were taken up entirely with sharing of news, remembrances, condolences, and memorials for those who had walked on since the last year’s gathering . . .

Such observances were widespread in colonial era “Indian Country” (and before, and still…)

In this context,
I found it extra-striking in recent-months’ stumble upon when I found for myself
what I am convinced is exactly
tunesmith Abraham Wood’s (1752-1804)
Memorial Lesson
for the Reverend Samson Occom (Mohegan/Brothertown) (1723 – 1792–not a coincidence!).

From The Columbian Harmony (Joseph Stone and Abraham Wood) 1793.

We should sing this tune more.
[[ ! Remember: the most main melody is in the third staff down = the “Lead” part = Tenors of all description and some octave-doubling by high women’s voice — but all these parts are wonderful! ]]

It’s one thing for shape note singers and musical researchers to dig and search and sift and feel and find sources for TUNES and TEXTS sung in the living hollow square, shape note singing traditions.

It’s a whole nother thing to explain all the EXTRA-MUSICAL customs ubiquitous in the tradition,
such as the
all-day sing with dinner on the grounds
the memorial lesson . . .

The more I learn,
the more I feel that these elements really entered shape note traditions through the participation and traditions of singing Native Americans, Brothertown very high on that list . . .

Rev. Samson Occom’s journals in the fall of 1785 describe a full day of community gathering, shucking corn and tending to the harvest at his Montaukett brother-in-law David Fowler’s place in the new Brothertown community on Oneida land, upstate “New York”,
with singing of psalms and hymns all through the labors,
and with a break in the middle for communal shared meal.
That’s an all-day singing with dinner on the grounds.
I don’t know of earlier precedent.

And Abraham Wood’s Memorial Lesson for Samson Occom, published within a year of Occom’s death, makes for me a clear early landmark in the mainstream singers’ practice of Memorial Lesson, and a really interesting case of mutual acculturations….

The tune is titled OCCOM.
Although not attributed in originals,
the text also is Occom’s.
It is the only text of his own which Occom included in the landmark interdenominational hymnal which he compiled and published (1774: New London, CT).
The hymnody meter of the tune and the text is C.P.M., or “Common Particular Meter”– and this meter is noted as “Occom’s favorite meter” (Wm. DeLoss Love, 1899, p. 186)– so, now there are actually several identified Rev. Occom texts to choose from which work with this tune! I am inspired by that . . . read on . . . 🙂
And the musical style of Wood’s tune OCCOM– wow– it is wild.
What . . . a . . . tune !!
It reminds me of nothing so much as William Knapp–a rural English composer often credited with innovating the fuguing tune and inspiring substantial trends in West Gallery and North American colonial ==> shape note musics.
It’s not like most of Wood’s other music.
It feels very particular and personal; rangy and emphatic; oddly chromatic [I believe whole-heartedly in exactly and only the three C-sharps in all parts combined with which Wood highlighted the tune! etc.]–and such varied, idiosyncratic, athletic rhythms!
Abraham Wood was born and died in Northboro, Mass. He didn’t get around much, as Occom did. We have no indication they ever met.
And yet, Wood knew, and he was moved.
Something about the Reverend Samson Occom (Mohegan/Brothertown) and/or his works,
moved Abraham Wood, inspired his memorial to Samson Occom in words-set-to-music, led him to create and to publish his new memorial tune within the year of death.
What a grand overlapping of the New England singing school and Native and (would become) shape note singing traditions!
And mutual influence, I believe– “mutual acculturation” as jargon may prefer.


I can’t wait ’til we can gather again and sing.
There’s some Commuck I really want to hear with you all.
And there’s a Memorial Lesson for Rev. Samson Occom I really want to sing and hear with you all.

Even while we await regathering,
wampum is whispering, waiting with us, reminding us . . .
. . . we who gather alive with the generations, for the generations,
also will remember those who are no longer with us here,
especially those we’ve lost in the last year, or since our last gathering.
It’s the Native way. It’s the shape note singers’ way.

Until then, to help us all prepare,
here are my new type-settings of Abraham Wood’s tune OCCOM; with a couple different Occom texts, just to feel how they handle.

Please sing!

also, careful ! –this tune has been a pretty persistent “ear-worm” for me since my stumble-upon . . . warned you . . .


more wampum beings — quahog clam shells — and one rugged passenger….

Rev. Occom’s Tune: Modal Rhapsody for Brass Quintet

Here is a photo essay to accompany “Rev. Occom’s Tune: Modal Rhapsody for Brass Quintet.” This Occom Rhapsody is not only sheet music, but a multi-media music educational package of many stories. Thanks for tuning in here!

This blog entry provides visual material to accompany the piece of music Rev. Occom’s Tune: Modal Rhapsody for Brass Quintet, by the Rev. Samson Occom (Mohegan/Brothertown) (1723-92) and Allen Gabriel Kastelle (2020).

I’d expected to get right to the pictures of my walks with Samson Occom(’s tune),
but the remarkable circumstances of the world premiere long-scheduled for April 5, 2020, then cancelled so near to concert date, seem to call for a brief detour into the idea of the amazing persistence of art, or artists, or at least some artistic works.

I remain deeply honored that the Brass Quintet of the United States Coast Guard prepared to give the world premiere of my score for brass quintet,
but unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemic response has cancelled the expected concert date. The USCG Brass Quintet were awesomely prepared, and are super-smart and great to work with.

Occom Rhapsody poster with CANCEL copy

I am also very grateful for and honored by the commission of music from Columbia Congregational Church. It has been a collaborative, customized process throughout with some really smart help and brainstorming from Columbia, CT. Here’s a glimpse of Columbia publicity for the concert (now cancelled–don’t come!), including a detail from the fabulous Nathaniel Smibert portrait of Occum as handsome, vigorous younger adult.

Coast Guard Band concert - Historical Collaboration - Columbia Views cropped

Remarkably, although people do not gather today, and my music is not sounded, still, already, the piece of music EXISTS.

“Perseverantia vincit” —
— motto of Temple University, Phila.

KAPorter arts quote

I have that Katherine Anne Porter quote from the back of a 2003 donation envelope for the Bay St. Theater, Sag Harbor (the Hamptons), NY, where I worked with Julie Andrews.
I always find that quote encouraging, and it has often lived on my music stand.

Ms. Porter’s writing about arts substance and reality is quite striking.
It reminds me of the cheerfully romantic metaphysical language of intellectual property law. IP law monetizes Platonic ideals—makes ideals real in that sense.
The Work in which my Copyrights and future Phonorights inhere has already been proven to exist, because I as Author have Fixed [an example of] it in Tangible Form.
But the Work itself which is mine is explicitly Intangible Property.
Yet, this Intangible Work feels actually quite real, and powerful, and magical.
Even though it has never sounded, never yet shook the air of a gathering, the Intangible exists.

For the persisting history of this existing Intangible Property, there are stories and informations I wish to be available to any listeners. My efforts lately have shifted from concert publicity to preparation of a sheet music edition. Sheet music is I believe not far from printing and distribution.
However, it’s not just sheet music that I’ve made, but rather a multi-media music educational package. The photos & captions essay below here is one element of the package. I should thank also a private committee of friends and stakeholders in the stories who helped greatly in sculpting the narrative and editing the details of both “One Composer’s Notes” and “Occom’s Favorite Meter”–they know who they are. Together, these documents (pictured below) make up the program supplement for listeners: another crucial element of the whole package.

Thus, to mark this scheduled and cancelled premiere date;
to whet the appetite of possible future performers and listeners;
to make available the audience program supplement and more;
I continue with original plan to give here today an essay of photos & captions to accompany Rev. Occom’s Tune: Modal Rhapsody for Brass Quintet.

Enjoy!—as soon as you can—this digital message is as transient and persistent as the electrons which bring you this message, and keep your memory.

Thanks for tuning in!                        —Allen Gabriel Kastelle


one composer's notes- Occom Rhapsody- program supplt-ready 2020-03-06Occom's Favorite MeterGeneral Performers' Notes - Occom Rhapsody 20200404

I give above photos only of the program supplements rather than inserting their substantial texts here, thus also retaining nice formatting. They are “One Composer’s Notes” = programmatic details about the music and “Occom’s Favorite Meter: Describing a Standard Hymnody Meter; Sample Verses from Rev. Occom’s Poetry.” Similarly, for this oddly silent premiere date, I add a picture of the page of “General Performer’s Notes,” which may be helpful in imagining how everything works together. So many stories!


Here, on State St., in New London, Connecticut (was Pequot Plantation, was Nameaug), I’m sure that my little feet have stepped exactly in the footsteps of the Rev. Samson Occom.

20180621_150146 copy

Closer in for more detail: doorway, look up, look down…

20180621_150242 copy

20180621_150300 copy

20180621_150053 better StateSt plaque

Samson Occom got his hymnal printed here in 1774. Seven years later, it would be one of only two buildings in downtown New London to survive the fires set in attack by Benedict Arnold after his turning. The other surviving building was Nathaniel Shaw’s mansion, also mentioned in Occom’s journals as place and personage to visit. That building also still stands, and houses today the New London County Historical Society, where I have been helped in my research saga. I should add picture of this other fine building where I’ve likely walked in Occom’s exact footsteps.


20180818_152932 Uncasville Norwich

Now, let’s go north a ways, to Mohegan.

In the Mohegan Church entry, there is a modern painting of Samson Occom–it echoes some details of the Nathaniel Smibert portrait.

20170326_103858 mod Occom painting copy

Perhaps the nicest hands ever painted for Occom!    –1997 painting by Douglas Henry

20170326_103920 mod Occom by Douglas Henry copy

And Crow Hill, with modern government and services building of the Mohegan Tribe.

20170407_154721 Crow Hill nation seal zoom copy

20170407_155335 Crow Hill gov't bldg copy


20180215_142716 copy

Then, about those spellings. Further travels have made me quite fond of the “Occum” spelling.

20170326_104731 Occum Ln big

20170326_105200 Occum Ln Martin Ct

20170326_111939 Occum Lisbon

20170326_104659 Occum Ln w MFD

…and, for Wally Lamb:


Recall just how much Rev. Occom travelled. His ambit is large, and inspires the story boxes incl. commissioned, poseable Occom doll and great stuff and stories, by Megan Fulopp (Brothertown).

Occum's ambit is large copy

Pursuing his ambit, when passing through Middletown, CT, the Rev. Occum was friendly with the Rev. Ebenezer Frothingham, Separatist, founder of South Congregational Church.

From Occom’s journals, 1774, beginning trip to Oneida land which would become Brothertown:

20200405_023856 E Froth in Occom Journal

I have my own connections in Ebenezer Frothingham’s South Church, often visited when traveling to town, like Occom, from New London County!

CAM00688 copy

CAM0068520180408_105517 ribbons So Chh

20180714_195644 SoChh rear window zoom

As noted in the journal entry above, after Middletown (Mattabessett), Occom and his brother-in-law David Fowler (Montaukett/Brothertown) went on to the “Indian Town” beside Farmington, homeland of the Tunxis people, in Occum’s time already a small village with mixture of residents from many other Connecticut Native groups and places. Although the English word “Farmington” is often used to describe the Native peoples who lived there, the original name lives on. I preferred this sign to the golf course’s. Place matters. Land use matters.

20180508_183616 TunxisCC

Sometimes Rev. Occom travels with me.
Sometimes as far as Wisconsin!

BINpicnic 2017 group pic copy
Sometimes, Rev. Occom travels with me.
Here we are back in Mattabessett, ready to share and present at the Middlesex County Historical Society, twice-in-a-row annual state-wide open house day mini-residencies:

20180609_101922 sun-dappled Occom&story box

20170610_104241 in MCHS set-up detailR


But, worlds turn upside down, things don’t always go as you planned, then, sometime, regardless of whether you’ve finished living your life, it ends.
In my program notes (“One Composer’s Notes”), I understate the musical brass quintet expression of Occom’s death with the line:
“Then, Occom walks on.”
but observe also:
“And he does walk on in the generations.”

sssshhhhhhhhh — follow me — listen, look, think of the generations…
“This is the land of Mundo (a sacred place); conduct yourself therefore accordingly.”

Back in Mohegan:

20180818_142423 Shantok land of Mundo copy

20180818_142527 Shantok burial ground copy

But, I didn’t get detailed in the Burial Ground…
…that’s not what time it was.

20180818_114444 Mohegan Wigwam Festival copy

Sometimes, following Occom’s footsteps means:

20180818_094940 copy powwow day

So many sevens! And so many stories– very special gifts from very special people here– including an Occom descendent (!?more than one possible!–wish I were more clear)

Just a brief paddle away, or overland and over the Yantic River, in Norwich, one may find the Royal Mohegan burial ground, much lost, but some remaining clustered around a venerable Uncas monument. One stone there in particular speaks in current context:

20160320_161609 Chas Bohema Occom descendent 1870

“Charles D. Bohema — great grandson of Rev. Samson Occum.” (that spelling…)

A few steps away, these flowers,
photo on March 20th in its year:

20160320_161217 copy Royal Mohegan spring flowers

Back in Mattabessett (Middletown),
a tale of remarkable serendipity on the historical society grounds.
Here we were, ready to share:

20180609_101846 MCHS table lay-out

when who should appear but a woman I’ve never met before, introducing herself as a Mohegan, a descendent of Joseph Johnson (Mohegan/Brothertown founder). A hero! Joseph Johnson died very young, and his wife stayed in Connecticut instead of migrating to the new Brothertown settlement on Oneida land in New York. But she was Tabitha Occom, daughter of Samson Occom and his wife Mary Fowler (Montaukett/Brothertown). Thus, Joseph Johnson and Tabitha descendents are also Samson Occum descendents.
I showered her with copies of my materials, and with tunes played on violin.
Here she is–her sprightly manner and motion belie a great age–so Mohegan!

20180609_134702 JJ + SO descendant

Then, time to pack up for travel again–
–so like Occom!

20180609_145229 copy the end

after re-stocking studio,
the Rev. Samson Occom story box resumes its elevated and ready place.

20180301_222922 GKaudio still


Thank you so much for sharing these walks with me and Rev. Occom!
I look forward to any time any of us may hear the music–
–spread the word with brass players you know!
Thanks!                                 — AGK


“Be it remembered”–1843 Copyright Claim by Thomas Commuck (Narragansett / Brothertown) for his tunebook The Indian Harmonist

Commuck’s tunebook Indian Melodies (1845), as-published, went through substantial changes since the author’s copyright claim of Nov. 11, 1843.

One-hundred and seventy-six years ago today, a copyright notice was signed and sealed by the clerk of the District Court of Brown Co., Wisconsin Territory, not far from the Brothertown and Stockbridge communities on the east shore of Lake Winnebago. See newspaper clip from the Green Bay Republican, Tuesday, 19 December 1843, p. 3, here:

Commuck deposit notice

Thomas Commuck, Narragansett/Brothertown, had been working on a tunebook for community singing. By 1843, he had completed the project sufficiently to deposit in court a book title for copyright, along with the most terse description of contents: “original tunes in a variety of metres; also a few anthems and set pieces . . . . to which is added a few favorite tunes from various authors.”

The comparison of Commuck’s 1845 tunebook publication with his 1843 plan reveals substantial changes of still unknown provenance. It seems that much happened to Commuck’s manuscript between Wisconsin 1843 and the 1845 publication by the New York City publishers for the Methodist Episcopal Church.

As published, Commuck’s tunebook includes only the music he himself composed–with a couple important exceptions of older tunes from Native orature which Commuck was the first to publish in print and music notation (namely, “Missionary, or White Pilgrim” and “Old Indian Hymn” [–actually a hymn-tune 🙂 ]). He explains this change in his own words in the published 1845 preface. “The author had inserted in his original manuscript a number of airs which have long been in use among the Brothertown Indians, which it was thought inexpedient to publish, as it might interfere with the rights of the authors of those tunes. Had it occurred sooner to the author of these original melodies, he would have solicited from several well-known authors permission to copy into this work a few tunes from each of their published works . . . ” How grievously ironic, then, is the combined compliment and disrespect which met Commuck’s work through the theft and re-printing of his tune “Missionary” in 1850 and 1854 editions of The Sacred Harp and The Southern Harmony, respectively, under a changed title of “The Lone Pilgrim”, and further, with music composition claimed explicitly by compilers of the works, B.F. White and William Walker, resp.

Not only a single tune, but the very title of Commuck’s complete work also changed. His proposed title The Indian Harmonist became instead Indian Melodies. This title change is likely related to the decision (by publishers?) to call in the famous hymnist, composer, choral leader, and compiler Thomas Hastings–a major figure in USA mainstream 1800s hymnody. Hastings is credited on the title page of Indian Melodies for the harmonizations of tunes from Commuck’s proposed Indian Harmonist.  Hhmmm.  Wouldn’t an “Indian Harmonist” have harmonized?
Whose harmonies then do we have in the published book?

Commuck 1845 title page

The particular title page pictured here is a scan of a facsimile of the particular copy of Commuck (1845) held in The Brothertown Collection. I was honored to view this collection in Wisconsin in the summer of 2017, in the Oneida History Department (thank you, Dr. Courtney Cottrell, Brothertown Indian Nation THPO, for permission!!)–since the Oneida Nation has been exceeding generous and wonderful in helping to purchase the collection for Brothertown, and through holding and caring for and processing the collection (Thank you!!!). Caroline Andler (Brothertown) was also very kind to me with generous research help in 2017 (and before and since)–this facsimile was given by her.

The “Patent Notes” item on title page merits mention (I drew that faint smiley-face over the words “Patent Notes” on the facsimile–all objective here!–not an historical marking–sorry to confuse!). ‘Patent Notes’ here is a synonym for shape notes, the publishing and singer-helping notation in which today’s shape note singing tunebooks are still published.
Whose idea was it to publish Commuck’s tunebook in two versions, the “Patent Note” edition, and the default, standard round notes edition?
Did Commuck write his manuscript in shapes?  Were the tunes by other authors, now lost but meant to be included, from what we think of as the shape note tradition?  Or did the idea come from New York, hoping for wider audiences and better sales? The odd thing about the New York idea is that Thomas Hastings was a vehement, vociferous opponent of shape notes.

Who was thinking what, choosing to bring together:  centuries of New England and British hymnody traditions; an amalgamated Native Nation gathered from over a half dozen other Native communities of southern New England and East End of Long Island; music notation systems associated alternately with state-religions and institutions and urban centers or with myriad dissenting, Dissenting, and/or rural religious communities north and south, east and west of the Appalachians, and the resulting musics built from European, African, and Native American singing traditions, influences, and mutual acculturations; and the unlikely and accidental actor in the midst of all this, Thomas Hastings !!???   The connections with Methodism have also been earnest, persistent, complex, and important for Commuck and at least some others of his community–how is that denominational affiliation related to all these other questions?

These are only a few of the evocative perplexities and promptings for the current researches . . . .
Stay tuned for more reports, because:–
–“Nothing changes faster than the past!”
[this last beautiful quip is from my historian colleague of Columbia, CT, Andrea Stannard — thanks!]

Thanks for reading!                                 — by A. Gabriel Kastelle —

Occum’s Ambit Is Large : SOJOURN

“Here I present you, O Christians of what Denomination soever, with cordial Hymns, to comfort you in your weary Pilgrimage. . .” –Samson Occom (Mohegan/Brothertown), 1774.

or should this be the title: “uncommon Measures, for new Tunes and new Singers” ??
Then I’m quoting Occom, and reflecting in his innovative character on the changing form of this post, for this post itself has a path . . . . it was already growing before it broke the soil . . . . Sojourn.  Ravens are in their strength in winter. This time, my artistic take on things, so I’ll keep my photo caption turned title. Yet, still, we share Brothertown Indian singing heritage and achievements. Edits addition evolution all likely to continue. Enjoy!

I begin with an extract from lecture notes I produced in 2012 for a twenty-minute presentation.  Ever-so-slightly touched-up. 🙂 I hope I pasted it right to keep all appropriate credits.

Then have a look around the photo gallery, read the vignettes-essays and photo captions amongst the pictures, and learn more.  Thanks for reading!  –A. Gabriel Kastelle

“___from Samson Occum’s own hymnal, published 1774 (New London, CT: Timothy Green, Jr., printer): A Choice Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs; Intended for the Edification of Sincere Christians, of all Denominations, an innovative title with matching and more-than-usually public content! (Occom had made press appeals earlier in his compiling process asking for favorite hymn poems and recommendations from any readers among the public.) It’s interesting to me that he doesn’t give Sojourn or Travel or Pilgrimage as a topical category of hymns along with the others, but that his Preface does nonetheless devote a paragraph to an elaborate description of his audience’s ‘weary Pilgrimage’ to their heavenly homeland, and that examination of the texts shows a great emphasis on the themes of travel, path, sojourn, and separation from heavenly homeland:
‘. . . . I have taken no small Pains to collect a Number of choice Hymns, Psalms, and spiritual Songs, from a Number of Authors of different Denominations of Christians, that every Christian may be suited. I have, in the first place, chose out some awakening and most alarming Hymns, next to them penitential, then inviting, and then consolating Hymns, and the last Part contains Hymns of the Birth, Death, Ressurection, and Ascension of Christ, and his Appearance in the last Great Day. These Hymns are in various Metres, and especially the last Part are of uncommon Measures, for new Tunes and new Singers.
‘Here I present you, O Christians of what Denomination soever, with cordial Hymns, to comfort you in your weary Pilgrimage; I hope they will assist and strengthen you through the various Changes of this Life, till you shall safely arrive to the general Assembly Above . . . . where you shall sit down in perfect Harmony with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and with all the Saints and Angels in the New Jerusalem . . . .’ ”

Thank you, Samson Occom.

Occum's ambit is large.jpg

Occom was Moody and Sankey a century before Moody and Sankey.

Holding down the pulpit and a voice in written part music, he toured England and Scotland with companion preacher, fundraising for Indian education in the North American colonies.  Trans-atlantic new birth Christian preacher, singer, hymnodist, Samson Occom–his ambit was large.

Also the musical pitch ambit of Thomas Commuck’s (Narragansett/Brothertown) tune named for OCCUM–consider the “tenor” or “Lead” line in the the third staff down in picture above–it is large! And the alto leaps through an octave in the same time. Are these intentional puns on Commuck’s part? I find so many similarly-nuanced details in Commuck that I wonder more and more these days…

Occum's Raven Hair.png

above is the February picture in my calendar from Calumet and Cross Heritage Society, Inc. 501(c)(3).

This portrait above is of the Reverend Samson Occom (Mohegan/Brothertown), examined and ordained 1759, Long Island Presbytery, Presbyterian Church, Rev. Samuel Buell presiding and preaching.

This credentialed professional knows his stuff. Look at the impeccable wardrobe–all the white frills in all the right places–yet no white powdered wig!–instead, his raven hair.
That’s a statement.  Occum owns his hair.  It’s a micro-rebellion.  I admire that.

‘Raven’ is a fraught term–a tough reality–in colonial New England.

Analyzing hymn texts “likely . . .  designed by and for Christian Indians” (p. 82), Joanna Brooks dwells for a bit on appearances of Ravens in her chapter on Occom in her 2003 book American Lazarus (Oxford: Oxford U P). Referring to this couplet:
‘Confide in that God who hears young ravens cry–
Be stedfast in duty, till death shall draw nigh.’
Brooks (2003, p. 83) continues:  “This striking description of God as the one ‘who hears young ravens cry’ recalls several biblical texts, including Psalms 147:9, Job 38:41, and Christ’s teaching that his disciples ‘Consider the ravens: for they never sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them’ (Luke 12:24). It also signifies on an old and unfriendly custom of racial address: New Englanders called Indians ‘ravens’ because, like the ravens of the Bible, they were poor, they appeared not to work, and they were dark.” Much can be said about European observations of other cultures–meanwhile, the point I want to grasp here is the pure racism behind making ‘raven’ a racial epithet.

The deeper I get into the story, the more I wonder how much raw racism breathing violence was a key impetus pushing Brothertown emigration. To explore the idea, I borrow a telling anecdote from 1767. This year saw one of Occom’s peaks of fame and presence in the English language press on both sides of the Atlantic. He was nearing the end of his two-and-a-half year preaching fund-raising tour of Great Britain, preaching to multitudes, singing on the way, and effectively raising big money which would later be malappropriated for the founding of Dartmouth College.

Here’s a quote from John Wood Sweet’s 2003 book Bodies Politic (Philadelphia: U Penn P, pp. 108-9), with internal quotes from a 1767 letter by David Crosby to Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, for whose Indian school mission Rev. Occom’s raised funds were intended.
Wood writes:
“In 1767, an aspiring young missionary on his way back to college in New Haven stopped at a tavern and entered an argument so disturbing that he sent a detailed account of it to his mentor, Eleazar Wheelock . . . gentlemen were joking [sic] about the conversion of Indians to Christianity. The best means of Christianizing or civilizing Indians, they jeered, was ‘powder and balls.’ . . . [[When challenged [good!], the so-called gentlemen quipped back]] ‘Would you permit your daughter to marry an Indian?’ . . . [[Another continued that he ]] ‘could never respect an Indian, Christian or no Christian so as to put him on a level with white people on any account especially to eat at the same Table.’ No, they declared, citing Wheelock’s most celebrated protege . . . ‘not with Mr Ocham himself be he ever so much a Christian or ever so Learned.’ ”

Powder and balls.
Powder and balls for any but ‘white’, already a dividing identity concept in use before the United States were even formed.

Gentlemen, “Keep your powder dry”—I think that might still be the town motto of Lebanon, Connecticut—it remains anyway a famed colonial-era slogan of the area. Hey, even if there’s no war, you never know when you might happen to see one of those “others”, right? Even be he Ocham himself. So
Keep your powder dry.
Powder and balls.

Good to know which side you’re on, when powder and balls are about. They’re always about.
Pointed at you, such will toward violence, such belief in righteousness of violence, could easily spur an emigration. I get it.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to out-run European racism—or is it finally a uniquely American persisting sort of ignorant and self-contradictory, really un-patriotic, violence?—and within only another couple generations, the Brothertown emigration to Oneida land could be seen to be the first of two migrations, a double Exodus but with homeland left behind, the second into now-Wisconsin, since and still impacted and targeted by ubiquitous modern dispersion forces. Remember the Walleye wars? Racism travels so well. And persists. And makes the travel weary. Still. Definitely matches the sojourn and pilgrimage theme here.

How prophetic of Occom, how compassionate, already in 1774 to introduce his collection of hymns with these words:
“Here I present you, O Christians of what Denomination soever, with cordial Hymns, to comfort you in your weary Pilgrimage; I hope they will assist and strengthen you through the various Changes of this Life.” Also, when the same preface states “These Hymns are in various Metres, and especially the last Part are of uncommon Measures, for new Tunes and new Singers,” I think we can guess whose and who some of these tunes and singers are, and to whom they may seem uncommon . . . .

In Occom’s sojourning lifetime here on earth, his raven hair–his first Mohegan Indian identity–defined him completely in the eyes of too many English, filtered their vision more than anything and everything else about him.


In the face of all that, Rev. Occom continued to travel and work amongst many colonial and Native communities before the first Brothertown emigration. Here’s a place where Occom worked on his hymnal. Above, picture from recent walk in New London, CT – once known as Pequot Plantation – before that as Nameaug (sp? – or did I trans-locate a bit? happy to receive corrections – thanks!). Central building featured is one of only two buildings in New London which survived the fires set by Benedict Arnold after his turning.
It happens to be the print shop of Timothy Green, Jr., who printed Samson Occom’s 1774 hymnal.

It has happened quite often that I’ve thought:
my little feet may be stepping exactly into the footsteps of Samson Occum!
[sidewalk detail: ]

158 State St.jpg

Many more developments followed. Finally a separation, an emigration, seemed the best hope. . .

the circle grows.JPG

. . . . and the circle grows . . . .

[[I have a memory of a quote but fail to find citation. I’ll provide better reference when possible, Lord willing–meanwhile, approximato:
Samson Occom presented to the Montaukett and Shinnecock of the East End of Long Island the Brothertown idea: the idea of emigration together to Oneida land.
A strong feeling among the Montaukett in response was:
“But how will we know how to live where there are no clams?”
It’s a great question. Especially for all those members of the seven communities contemplating the Brothertown idea, all of whose homelands included the quahog clams and their noble-purple shells. I wish digital cameras could better catch the real colors!
Here is a collection of some of those half shells, after using graphite pencil and fixative to craft unique commemoratives for the Febr. 3, 2018 singing of Commuck in Connecticut:

commemorative quahogs.jpg

I helped make that singing happen. February is Brothertown singing month to me.

. . . . the circle grows . . . .

but let’s look back at Occom’s 1774 hymnal:

Occom Biblio Info.jpg

Here are a couple pages which match the current SOJOURN theme, and also match Occom’s long and large path . . . . his ambit is large.  Notice the beautiful near-literary first (?) antiphonal instructions in verse for alternation of WOMEN’s and MEN’s voices, and of course the WOMEN are smarter.
Extra-interestingly: both Hymn XXXIX and XL on pp. 42 and 43 below are still, to the best of my knowledge and I believe that of modern hymnody, of unknown authorship, and first published in Occom, 1774. “for new Tunes and new Singers.” Lots of fuel for speculation here. . .
“A Dialogue between Pilgrims”, a page from Occom 1774.
And “LO! we are journeying home to God”.
That’s a large ambit. Yet so immediate, and shared.

PilgrimDialogue 1of2.jpg

PilgrimDialogue 2of2.jpg

Here’s another text which I learned from Occom (1774). “I SOUJOURN in a Vale of tears” by John Mason, by whom Occom’s circle of singers was well-pleased. I share in the pleasure, thanks to Samson Occum, so much so that I made the musical setting in 2014 which follows these four of the published ten verses I selected:

1 I SOJOURN in a Vale of tears,
Alas how can I sing?
My Harp doth on the Willows hang,
Distun’d in ev’ry String.

2 My Musick is a Captive’s Chains;
Harsh Sounds my Ears do fill;
How shall I sing sweet Zion’s song,
On this side Zion’s Hill?

9 I have a God that changeth not,
Why should I be perplext?
My God that owns me in this world
Will own me in the next.

10 My dearest Friends they dwell above;
Them will I go to see:
And all my Friends in Christ below
Will soon come after me.

SOJOURNER (2nd) .jpg


. . .some Pacific Northwest traditional Ravens, surrounding raven-haired Occom. . .

. . .the circle grows. . .

dancing ravens.jpeg

Thanks for reading!!    🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂     [Raven’s magic number is Four]

Occom raven crop sor.png

Sons of the Forest. T. Commuck, Manager.

One-hundred sixty-eight years ago today, there was a concert.
An “Indian Concert of Vocal Sacred Music” with “A brief History . . . before singing.”
So we see that I’m not the first to present combined musical and historical-interpretive presentations about Brothertown singing heritage.
Consider the “Sons of the Forest”–early edutainment–concertizing with history lecture, T. Commuck listed as Manager, surely Thomas Commuck (Narragansett/Brothertown), six years after the publication of his tunebook Indian Melodies.
This newspaper clipping is rich. So rich.
I leave it to speak for itself. Directly, ironically, proudly, leaning into tropes while also defying them. Maybe more. I don’t believe I get all the nuance here. Rich. Well done. 🙂

Sons of the Forest cncert advert 1851 Milwaukee copy.jpg


1854 Fourth of July Speech by wise Mahican John W. Quinney

“Oh! what a mockery!! to confound justice with law. Will you look steadily at the intrigues, bargains, corruption and log-rolling of your present Legislatures, and see any trace of the divinity of justice? And by what test shall be tried the acts of the old Colonial Courts and Councils?”



Interesting speech of JOHN W. QUINNEY, Chief of the Stockbridge Tribe of Indians.

Albany Free-Holder, July 12, 1854. [as re-printed in WISCONSIN HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS. Vol. IV (1859), pp. 313-20. Viewed in Wisc. Hist. Soc. 2017 then re-typed 2018 by A.G. Kastelle]

[abbreviated introductory commentary:]

There was a large gathering of the people, numbering about two thousand.
. . . .
The Stockbridge Indians once owned all the land on the Hudson river. There is no record of their having sold any part of the land constituting the manor of Rensselaerwyck. That part of Mr. QUINNEY’s speech which touches upon the manner in which most of the land was purchased from the Indians, contains too much truth. We presume that hardly one of the old Indian conveyances was fairly and honorably made. The whole of Saratoga County, and parts of Schenectady, Fulton, and Montgomery, were bought of two or three Indians, who had no power to convey, for a little rum, a few blankets, and trinkets, and these constituted the ground upon which the patent of KAYADEROSSERAS was granted. . . .
Mr. QUINNEY’s speech contains several hard hits. After speaking of the laws passed to legalize titles fraudulently obtained, he puts the following questions: “Will you look steadily at the intrigues, bargains, corruption and log-rolling of the present Legislatures, and see any trace of the divinity of justice? And by what test shall be tried the acts of the old Colonial Courts and Councils?”
Well and stoutly put. Who will answer them?
The last half of this speech is admirable. It is a bold, stern and manly protest against the uniform and persistent injustice which has been meted out to the Indian race. We hope to see it republished in all the newspapers of the country.


       “It may appear to those whom I have the honor to address, a singular taste, for me, an Indian, to take an interest in the triumphal days of a people, who occupy by conquest, or have usurped the possession of the territories of my fathers, and have laid and carefully preserved, a train of terrible miseries, to end when my race shall have ceased to exist. But thanks to the fortunate circumstances of my life, I have been taught in the schools, and been able to read your histories and accounts of Europeans, yourselves and the Red Man; which instruct me, that while your rejoicings to-day are commemorative of the the free birth of this giant nation, they simply convey to my mind, the recollection of a transfer of the miserable weakness and dependance of my race from one great power to another.
My friends, I am getting old, and have witnessed, for many years, your increase in wealth and power, while the steady consuming decline of my tribe, admonishes me, that their extinction is inevitable — they know it themselves, and the reflection teaches them humility and resignation, directing their attention to the existence of those happy hunting-grounds which the Great Father has prepared for all his red children.
In this spirit, my friends, (being invited to come here,) as a Muh-he-con-new, and now standing upon the soil which once was, and now ought to be, the property of this tribe, I have thought for once, and certainly the last time, I would shake you by the hand and ask you to listen, for a little while, to what I have to say.
In the documentary papers of this State, and in the various histories of early events in the settlement of this part of the country by the whites, the many traditions of my tribe, which are as firmly believed as written annals by you, inform me that there are many errors. Without, however, intending to refer to, and correct those histories, I will give you what those traditions are.
About the year 1645, and when KING BEN (the last of the hereditary chiefs of the Muh-he-con-new Nation) was in his prime, a Grand Council was convened of the Muh-he-con-new tribe, for the purpose of conveying from the old to the young men, a knowledge of the past. Councils, for this object especially, had ever at stated periods, been held. Here, for the space of two moons, the stores of memory were dispensed; corrections and comparisons made, and the results committed to faithful breasts, to be transmitted again to succeeding posterity.
Many years after, another, and the last, Council of this kind was held; and the traditions reduced to writing, by two of our young men, who had been taught to read and write, in the school of the Rev. JOHN SERGEANT, of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They were obtained, in some way, by a white man, for publication, who soon after dying, all trace of them became lost. The traditions of the tribe, however, have mainly been preserved; of which I give you subsequently, the following:
“A great people came from the North-West: crossed over the salt-waters, and after long and weary pilgrimages, (planting many colonies on their track,) took possession , and built their fires upon the Atlantic coast, extending from the Delaware on the south, to the Penobscot in the north. They became, in process of time, divided in to different tribes and interests: all, however, speaking one common dialect. This great confederacy, comprising Delawares, Munsees, Mohegans, Narragansett, Pequots, Penobscots, and many others, (of whom a few are now scattered among the distant wilds of the West — others supporting a weak, tottering existence; while, by far, a larger remainder have passed that bourne, to which their brethren are tending,) held its Council once a year, to deliberate on the general welfare. Patriarchal delegates from each tribe attended, assisted by priests and wise men, who communicated the will and invoked the blessing, of the Great and Good Spirit. The policy and decisions of this Council were every where respected, and inviolably observed. Thus contentment smiled upon their existence and they were happy. Their religion, communicated by priests and prophets, was simple and true. The manner of worship is imperfectly transmitted; but their reverence for a Great and Good Spirit — (whom they referred to by looking or pointing upwards,) the observance of feasts and fasts, in each year; the offering of beasts in thanksgiving and for atonement, is clearly expressed. They believed the soul to be immortal; — in the existence of a happy land beyond the view, inhabited by those whose lives had been blameless: while for the wicked had been a region of misery reserved, covered with thorns and thistles, where comfort and pleasure were unknown. Time was divided into years and seasons; twelve moons for a year, and a number of years by so many winters.
The tribe, to which your speaker belongs, and of which there were many bands, occupied and possessed the country from the sea-shore, at Manhattan, to Lake Champlain. Having found an ebb and flow of the tide, they said: “This is Muh-he-con-new,”—”like our waters, which are never still.” From this expression, and by this name, they were afterwards known, until their removal to Stockbridge, in the year 1730. Housatonic River Indians, Mohegan, Manhattas, were all names of bands in different localities, but bound together, as one family, by blood, marriage, and descent.
At a remote period, before the advent of the Europeans, their wise men foretold the coming of a strange race, from the sunrise, as numerous as the leaves upon the trees, who would eventually crowd them from their fair possessions. But apprehension was mitigated by the knowledge and belief, at that time entertained, that their original home was not there, and after a period of years, they would return to the West, from whence they had come; and, moreover, said they, “all the red men are sprung from a common ancestor, made by the Great Spirit from red clay, who will unite their strength to avert a common calamity.” This tradition is confirmed by the common belief, which prevails in our day with all the Indian tribes; for they recognize one another by their color, as brothers, and acknowledge one Great Creator.
Two hundred and fifty winters ago, this prophecy was verified, and the Muh-he-con-new, for the first time, beheld the “pale-face.” Their number was small, but their canoes were big. In the select and exclusive circles of your rich men, of the present day, I should encounter the gaze of curiosity, but not such as overwhelmed the senses of the Aborigines, my ancestors. “Our visitors were white, and must be sick. They asked for rest and kindness, we gave them both. They were strangers, and we took them in—naked, and we clothed them.” The first impression of astonishment and pity, was succeeded by awe and admiration of superior art, intelligence and address. A passion for information and improvement possessed the Indian—a residence was freely offered—territory given—and covenants of friendship exchanged.
Your written accounts of events at this period are familiar to you, my friends. Your children read them every day in their school book; but they do not read—no mind at this time can conceive, and no pen record, the terrible story of recompense for kindness, which for two hundred years has been paid the simple, trusting, guileless Muh-he-con-new. I have seen much myself—have been connected with more, and, I tell you, I know all. The tradition of the wise men is figuratively true, “that our home, at last, will be found in the West:” for, another tradition informs us, that “far beyond the setting sun, upon the smiling, happy lands, we shall be gathered with our FATHERS, and be at rest.”
Promises and professions were freely given, and as ruthlessly—intentionally broken. To kindle your fires—to be of and with us, was sought as a privilege; and yet at that moment you were transmitting to your kings, beyond the water, intelligence of your possession, “by right of discovery,” and demanding assistance to assert and maintain your hold.
Where are the twenty-five thousand in number, and the four thousand warriors, who constituted the power and population of the great Muh-he-con-new Nation in 1604? They have been victims to vice and disease, which the white man imported. The small-pox, measles, and “strong waters” have done the work of annihilation.
Divisions and feuds were insidiously promoted between the several bands. They were induced to thin each others’ ranks without just cause; and subsequently were defeated and disorganized in detail.
It is curious, the history of my tribe, in its decline, during the last two centuries and a half. Nothing that deserved the name of purchase, was ever made. From various causes, they were induced to abandon their territory at intervals, and retire further to the inland. Deeds were given, indifferently to the Government, or to individuals, for which little or no consideration was paid. The Indian was informed, in many instances, that he was selling one parcel, while the conveyance described other, and much larger limits. Should a particular band, for purposes of hunting or fishing, desert, for a time, its usual place of residence, the land was said to be abandoned, and the Indian claim extinguished. To legalize and confirm titles thus acquired, laws and edicts were subsequently passed, and these laws were said then, and are now called, justice!! Oh! what a mockery!! to confound justice with law. Will you look steadily at the intrigues, bargains, corruption and log-rolling of your present Legislatures, and see any trace of the divinity of justice? And by what test shall be tried the acts of the old Colonial Courts and Councils?
Let it not surprise you, my friends, when I say, that the spot on which we stand, has never been purchased or rightly obtained; and that by justice, human and divine, it is the property now of the remnant of that great people from whom I am descended. They left it in the tortures of starvation, and to improve their miserable existence; but a cession was never made, and their title has never been extinguished.
The Indian is said to be the ward of the white man, and the negro his slave. Has it ever occurred to you, my friends, that while the slave is increasing, and increased by every appliance, the Indian is left to rot and die, before the humanities of this model Republic! You have your tears, and groans, and mobs, and riots, for individuals of the former, while your indifference of purpose, and vacillation of policy, is hurrying to extinction, whole communities of the latter.
What are the treaties of the general Government? How often, and when, has its plighted faith been kept? Indian occupation forever, is, next year, or by the next Commissioner, more wise than his predecessor, re-purchased. One removal follows another, and thus your sympathies and justice are evinced speedily fulfilling the terrible destinies of our race.
My friends, your holy book, the Bible, teaches us, that individual offences are punished in an existence, when time shall be no more. And the annals of the earth are equally instructive, that national wrongs are avenged, and national crimes atoned for in this world, to which alone the conformations of existence adapt them.
These events are above our comprehension, and for wise purposes. For myself and for my tribe, I ask for justice. I believe it will sooner or later occur—and may the Great and Good Spirit enable me to die in hope.
WANNUAUCON, the Muh-he-con-new

Ethics, Native Sovereignty, and non-Tribal Me

Indigeneity, Native Sovereignty, the incredible invisible video, Othering the white guy: Good Works–I am grateful!

I would like to be more clear more often in saying what my research is about, so let me say it again. This work is about the proud story of Native achievement found in the community singing heritage of the Brothertown Indian Nation, and about ways that singing lives on today.  Short answer:  Brothertown singing lives on in shape note singing, and thus permeates pervasively in USA culture.  But then, to elaborate specifically and to confirm details turns out to be enormously fraught and complex.  Orature meets literature, and much of the story occurred before audio recording existed.

And then, even what I’ve learned, or helped to create, I can’t always say!  Not because I can’t, but because I’m not allowed.  Or, I am allowed, but it needs to go through committee first.  Or Tribal Council.  Or Tribal Historic Preservation Officer.  There’s a process.  I respect that.  We’re in communication!  Relations are on-going.  The chain of friendship must always be brightened.

Native sovereignty matters. Place matters. I need to take a bit of a detour in ideas before getting on with my blog about the Brothertown Indian Nation singing legacy.

Reclaiming Indigenous V V cover

Over the last few months, I’ve been browsing occasionally but with great interest in the book Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision (2009) Marie Battiste, ed. (Vancouver: Univ. British Columbia Press). In an appendix, the “Principles & Guidelines for the Protection of the Heritage of Indigenous People” linked below are reproduced in full. I highly recommend taking a look at that inspiring and challenging global document from a U.N. subcommission:
[as an aside, my Anchorage-born self loves that I was most easily able to find this text on the web through the Alaska Native Knowledge Network!—another wonderful website to browse!]

I shared these ethical principles and guidelines on indigenous heritage with a group to which I belong which is handling some historical Native American musical material. Immediately, a leading figure in the group who does much other archiving work responded with these “Protocols for Native American Archival Materials” saying, “We follow these!”
Wow. More detail, inspiration, respect, and challenge—especially for academics or library and archives types. Please take a look. 🙂

These linked documents and their ideas are weighty, serious, righteous, timely, and important. For everyone. For our relation with place. For human survival on this precious globe. We need local (i.e. Native) knowledge, environmental balance, Indigenous epistemologies and values. If they’re not respected, not maintained, not given to the generations—well, any culture, any species can become extinct. We’re on this globe together.

Often, the systems, life-ways, places, and relations with Others which allow and cultivate everything about Indigeneity are expressed as sovereignty—or sovereignties: geographic, political, intellectual, cultural. We all need Native sovereignties, and their fruits, literal and metaphorical! I believe that. I respect that. It’s on my plate every day, and in my bones—as is true of everyone. We’re all in different places in recognizing and relating to these realities, and in living them out wisely.

But, who’s ‘Indigenous’ anyway? Who belongs in a place, any place? How do we relate to place? How do we relate to the soil, and sustain it? How do we relate to our culture, and sustain it? What are we making and giving to the generations which hopefully will follow?  How can/should Indigenous knowledges and ways inform ANYone’s answer to these questions?  Or, what about when Natives of a certain place and climate and bioregion are dis-placed, or migrate, or their environment changed around them?  Aren’t we all migrants these days?  Isn’t that part of how the whole big globalized machine of the 1% works?  Isn’t it profitable to divorce the masses from healthy relations with soil, air, water; to pretend that place doesn’t matter; to turn everywhere into company-town, to turn all populations into desperate migrant labor and fodder for prison plantation planet? These are huge questions among a larger web I think about a lot, and deserve many books, many lives of answers lived…

Meanwhile (despite things like BIA regulation insanity), sometimes it’s a little bit less complex to ask and answer questions about sovereign Tribes, questions like:  who’s Tribal?  Who’s not Tribal?  Which Tribe?  When?  Where?  But, things get more complicated again when one digs in to sovereignties….   Who gives or recognizes sovereignty?  How did they get to do that?  Instead, is it like this?:  sovereignty just IS–it inheres in a people.  But, still, sovereignty must be claimed.  Or RE-claimed.  Or just lived out!–forget claiming, which is a relation with the Others.  Isn’t real freedom when you just do your thing, and don’t have to go to court or go to war for the right to it first?  Are these questions about political sovereignty? Cultural? Intellectual?  There are some good arguments that growth in ANY sovereignty enhances political sovereignty, at least to some degree.  My musical-cultural researches and results may not be about the most earth-shaking, nation-state defining, survival-determining issues facing people; but everything is connected, and cultural pride and belonging are healthy for anyone–and I happen to have expertise and life experiences which suit me uncannily well for exactly the musical and travelling-migrating historical project in my hands here.

I’m trying to learn and share a story of a certain singing subculture entwined with my whole life and with the Brothertown Indian Nation and their parent nations, and with the Oneida and other Tribes and Nations the Brothertown have lived with during their migrations from New England and Long Island homeland to western New York to Wisconsin. Some hint of the broader global Indigeneity ethics and sovereignty issues were a necessary background for me to get on with my blog post about my current archives project!

Oh–and, last bit of background.  I should say: I’m non-Tribal.  I’m white USA American, with these special flavors:  I was born in Anchorage, Alaska; raised in Oregon and Washington states.  I’m half Norwegian (my Dad is a Minnesota Viking–it’s not just a mascot, you know), half Swedish (with 1/16th of Finn on the Swedish side–we keep track), family on both sides in the USA now for roughly a century and a half.  I grew up singing liturgies, hymn tunes, even shape note tunes (just not in shapes) in Lutheran churches.  When I moved to Philadelphia, I got along with people best in the Black neighborhoods.  I have enjoyed some remarkable musical trainings, including degrees in violin performance and composition+.  I do the music free-lancer thing, with teaching.  I eat my food with chopsticks and play erhu music reading the Chinese jianpu music notation–there’s no explaining these things.  I’ve always read too much.  There’s always music running in my head.  Still I’m also always listening.  It all gets a bit jumbled sometimes.  Sounds like being human.

There.  Onward.

I wish I were better at showing my research results and more regular about putting them up here.  But, among the many challenges to those aims, a big one, ironically, is Native sovereignty.  “My” findings are not [only] mine—they are Brothertown’s!  Multiply that by the fact that the Oneida Nation are holding “The Brothertown Collection” at this time.  The Brothertown Collection is a unique, undigitized, extensive (over 1000 items), varied collection of materials crucial to my research.  The Oneida have it beside Green Bay, Wisconsin. Here’s one of my favorite views of the Brothertown Collection:

Need to do - Box 14

I mentioned that’s it’s a big collection right?  I don’t have permission to show you the inside of that box.  I respect that.  I have boxes like that in my office.

Some weeks ago, I was invited to “sit in” in a live video conference with mostly just Brothertown Tribal members and featuring presentation by a Tribal member about The Brothertown Collection, and just how it ended up with the Oneida anyway.  I was honored and grateful to be included!

Visuals were shared on-screen by the presenter, including the spreadsheet created in the Oneida History department with brief inventory descriptions of most of the collection, and the Accession Numbers for the maybe roughly half of the collection which has actually been accessioned and more thoroughly cataloged so far.  I was impressed!  When I was working in July in Oneida History Dep’t as part of this White Raven Archives Project, a computer station was turned on where I could view that spreadsheet.  Well, I could look at that back in the hotel room, and spend archive time more efficiently with requested items, right?  So I asked please whether I might put the spreadsheet on my thumb drive.

Oh, no.  I was told I could have pencil and paper.  OK.  I respect that.  So here’s a fragment from my notes–a little sample of labors.

fragment of Gabriel sprdsht notes +O-H

More rules: white gloves when I got inside the boxes.  And even that only with supervision.  And my bags / backpack outside the room.  I respect that.  Standard archive rules, actually.  But we learn that sometimes things are different for Tribal and non-Tribal.  I respect that.

During the video-conference, the factoid was mentioned that it had been reported to the presenter that only one non-Tribal researcher had ever asked for access to The Brothertown Collection.   !!!

I raised my hand.  “I guess that would be me.  I’ve done that.”  So, then it became mutually edifying for us to compare our experiences, Tribal and non-Tribal Brothertown, in our communications with Brothertown Tribal Council, and with other Brothertown position-holders, and with the Oneida Nation and History Department members.  Again, I was glad and grateful to be there and to be able to help with my perspective.  But in continuing conversation, it turns out that procedural questions arose, and not all was clear, and it’s my sense that, in fact, it is exactly by dealing with me as the Other that various Brothertown office-holders and policy makers are actually learning, deciding, creating their appropriate stance and actions.  Learning about sovereignty!–what is theirs, how to claim it, how to own it, how to exercise it.  Good!  But that’s Tribal business, I respect that, so I tried to shut up at that point.  And who knows, I may have all that wrong–I’m non-Tribal, I don’t know.  But that’s OK–“Othering” the white guy in Amerika can only be good, or at least fair enough!  I’m being Othered exactly by a perspective of Native sovereignty, which I not only respect, but also advocate.

Later, presentation returned to contents of the collection.  I was awesome.  My knowledge, my fluency, the demonstrated fruits of my good preparation and long and focussed labors in Wisconsin, even the quality of my personal pencil index abstracted from that spreadsheet were all well demonstrated.  Or so I say.  You’ll have to take my word for it.  It was decided that access to this video-conference would be restricted to Tribal members.  I respect that.  Now.  This bit was a little tougher for me, slower in coming around.  Come on, Gabriel–don’t be a hypocrite!  Where’s your Native sovereignty advocacy now that it hurts you personally a weensy tiny bit?

I’ve been so busy, and so scattered, and so painfully behind in the fund-raising!  And besides, plowing through more boxes and folders at CT Historical Society, making more photos and notes for processing and working over.  I wish I were better at showing my research results and more regular about putting them up here.  I imagine that better blogging, better sharing, encourages people to give me financial encouragements, because they see the fruits of the labors, they see something of what value that money is buying!  But, ironically, among the many challenges to these aims is Native sovereignty, which I am promoting and advocating and increasing!

In other entries of this blog, I have shared links to previous video conferences of this sort.  I was so looking forward to getting the link to this video conference–it would have been so nice and compelling, I thought, and CONCISE for you dear patient readers, and so so easy for me the scrupulous yet prolix writer, to just give a brief paragraph of context, and then the link to the video.  Blog entry done. Click.  See for yourself!  No need to trust my writing, my memory–hear my words, and especially those of others, for yourself!  Besides, literacy screws up memory–orature people have better memories.  Oh, and while you’re here and that was so easy, why not click on that PayPal button or send something to the P.O. Box.  They won’t remain for long!

But no.  I mean, Yes!  Please do click and send!  Thanks!  But, no, I can’t share the video to encourage you in that.  We named names and got personal and got into Tribal business and experienced some other edifying but perhaps insider stumble-upons, and, I think appropriately, it was decided [I don’t know by whom–that’s OK–that’s sovereign Tribal business–I’m non-Tribal] that this one should not go public.  I was in it, but not of it, and now it is gone from me.

So weeks have gone by.  I have many titles and topics planned and in development for blog entries here.  But I just couldn’t get around the idea, then the conviction, that it was the right time in events and the right point in the blog, and just unavoidable that I do this Ethics and Sovereignty entry.  Yet despite weeks of brewing, simmering, condensing, here we are with so many words. Til finally I can’t bear it, and I know I need an entry.  Labor pains.  Boom.  Here we are again.

One more story bit.  Sometimes, it turns out that non-Tribal individuals can become remarkably well-steeped and active in Tribal culture, heritage, and advocacy.  Otto Heller of Wisconsin was one of those guys for the Brothertown throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Here are some of my notes from the invisible silent video:

RE Otto Heller

Otto Heller somehow gained possession of a vast collection of Brothertown materials going back to the 1790s+.  Then he also collected and added more.  And studied.  And gave heritage tours and lectures.  Helped organize century anniversary events of Brothertown achievements and communicated and coordinated about those with members of Brothertown parent tribes still in New England. He has four big spiral notebooks filled with dense, neat manuscript of an entire big book of history of Brothertown.  He gathered details, before the web as we know it and before certain recent books and publications, which I know only could have come from collections in Connecticut and New Hampshire.

During the video conference, a Tribal member made some comparison between Otto Heller and me–an Otto Heller for our times, or the new generation, or the new millenium!!  I don’t recall the words precisely, but you’ll have to take my word for it anyway, since I can’t double-check with the video, because that’s Tribal, and I’m not. And I respect that.  We all need the fruits of Tribal sovereignty.  I’ll go further.  The global mainstream thing isn’t working, and threatens the globe, or at least its human habitability. Nobody survives without a rise in global Indigeneity, a tide-shift in respect for and practice of Native knowledges and values, by everyone, in all the different places of the planet.

Anyway, I expect that I will be sharing more in future, as the cultural landscape evolves.  I’ve been very graciously invited in to much that is Brothertown’s (and stories of Oneida should be another blog entry!), for which I am honored and grateful.  I’ve enjoyed good times and good work with many wonderful, sweet, smart, funny, warm, beautiful, rugged people; made some good friends; gained and helped new colleagues.  Communications continue. Relations are ongoing. And negotiations. And diplomacies.  The chain of friendship must always be brightened.


July Brothertown Indian Nation Annual Picnic

warmth, welcome, surprises, serendipity, and a music’s homecoming… …a great day. Thanks!!

…one big reason of the many for my travel to Wisconsin beginning in early July 2017, and for the precipitous timing of departure before funding was secured (a.k.a. “leap of faith”), and for the need for car, was that I was invited to the Annual Picnic of the Brothertown Indian Nation, July 15 this year.  The event was held in the Brothertown Indian Nation Community Center (BIN CC) , actually a transformed huge store space in a small shopping plaza near Lake Winnebago in the city of Fond du Lac (the foot of the lake), where the greatest concentration of today’s enrolled tribal members live.  I also really liked the travelling gear trailer in the parking lot!

Among seemingly half of my entire CT studio jammed into car was my travelling road show of everything I needed for a performing, interpretive, interactive, Q&A, show-and-tell presentation about the Brothertown Indian Singing Legacy.  Maybe my favorite performance style: free and open, share the floor with people close in a room together, perform music, explain context, respond to questions, riff on observations– like a plumped-up Bonsai Concert from my New London Violin Training Gymnasium open house days (which is how my presenting about Thomas Commuck and Brothertown Singing Legacy began in 2011!), like my presentation mentioned and pictured in first blog entry here (given in historical society in Middletown, CT), like the presentation in real-time interactive web video-conferencing on Brothertown Forward’s Zoom platform in April of this year.  🙂  🙂  🙂

Although I was invited, the programming I was bringing back to Brothertown wasn’t entirely exactly expected or planned out.  I had imagined that maybe most appropriate would be for me to tuck away in the far corner museum room of the BIN CC, and have a somewhat separate acoustic space for me and violin and interested friendly experiencers, away from the big room and the powwow drums and singing and celebrations.  Whenever a few were gathered, I would “turn on” and present–stand and deliver!–and, if not so much gathering, then I could wander the room, meet and greet, hear stories, listen to drumming and singing, enjoy serendipities, oh yeah: of course, EAT!–and then back to the museum and present some more. Right?

But everyone had lots of surprises that day.  It turned out to be spectacular and charmed!  At the entry door, the hand which opened it for my encumbered self turned out to be that of Tribal Council Chair Jeremy Marx.  It was delightful to meet first exactly one of those with whom I had already been corresponding for my research clearances &c. (more on that saga in future blog entries!).  He is one of those down-to-earth, straight-ahead, humble, strong, immediately likeable, warm, affable sorts of guys–just the beginning of a long day of such feelings!  Very soon next, I recognized from pictures another of my Tribal Council email correspondees, Jessica Ryan–again, the warmth and welcome and beauty were wonderful.  I explained my imaginings of where/how to set up and why, but Jeremy encouraged me to set up in the main room.  Anyway, I chose a far corner, for the borrowed acoustic sound shell effect of it, and for the security-feeling a violinist gets by being out of traffic–I drove the 1000+ miles with Grandpa’s violin, after all!–and for consideration for the expected drumming and singing and storytelling to have their own distant zones…

…but, Wisconsin–much of middle USA–had been experiencing a series of dramatic rainfalls throughout the week and half before the picnic (including a couple of insane deluges I experienced during the long driving with my world in the car!).  Maybe for this reason, maybe for other reasons, many people didn’t make it to this year’s picnic.  We heard about travel challenges; about farms, property, animals, which required attention from water damage or threat…  Tribal attender with name I can’t resist, Raven!, and with a rain gauge at home reported three separate recent single days each in excess of seven inches of rain–and on one of those, another friend an hour’s drive away [(“as the Raven drives”? ;-)] reported over eleven inches in one day!…

As it turned out, the friend-tribe Stockbridge and their powwow drum didn’t appear; particular famed story-teller didn’t appear; hoped-for Brothertown elder with shape note singing experience and affinity didn’t appear;  . . .food was ready, people were gathered, yet for a brief bit, it all felt oddly hollow. . .   . . .but not to worry: great things happen in hollow squares, and in other open spaces shared by gathered people. . .

So, pretty early on, I was approached by council members asking if I’d be OK with gathering chairs around for mostly everyone and starting my presentation–surprise!  A very kind, generous request, considering how little they actually knew about what I might be up to!  “Sure!  I’m ready!” . . .

…and suddenly, Brothertown hymnody and singing history and legacy, brought back to life and music, became the central focal event of the 2017 Brothertown Indian Nation Annual Picnic!!!   More than once, I mentioned to the rapt auditors that, well, after all, it’s a picnic, and the food’s over there waiting for us…  …but, no, there were more questions, more stories shared, more music, requests… and on and on  !!

Early in my presenting, another digital correspondent and non-tribal guest arrived–  Seth Wenger, from Iowa that day!–  Seth is a shape note singer who has just begun a program at Yale Divinity School, and he has joined a project team of people from Yale, shape note community, and Brothertown Indian Nation who are joining together to SING Thomas Commuck (Narragansett / Brothertown) for recording audio clips to join anticipated uploading by Yale Indian Papers Project of a Commuck tunebook of 1845…  …but perhaps THAT’s yet a whole nother saga for a future blog entry!  Still, we were able to share what we knew about that project with the gathered people of Brothertown, which is good.  More serendipity.  And we sang a bit impromptu from the Sacred Harp–more Native/Brothertown-relevant music, I believe…  😉 .

I don’t have much in the way of pictures or audio from this big event–I was busy!! and my hands were full, not to mention my brain!  Others were documenting.  However, I was able to get some autographs and comments from people, sort of yearbook-style, in a little notebook kindly gifted me by a Brothertown citizen only the day before.  Comments include:  “I was amazed to hear the music of my ancestors. Beautiful.”   “…It was very emotional to be able to hear the Brothertown shaped note singing & Indian Melodies [= the title of Commuck’s tunebook].  Both the performance and the supporting lecture were informative and entertaining.”   “I know the Generations will appreciate all you’re doing.”   “Very interesting.  We were on the 1999 Eastern Bus Trip and heard this type of music for the first time.  Please keep it going.”   and, a couple final selections, each in clearly adolescent-girl-handwriting 🙂  “We thought you were a really good musician and learned a lot.”  and  “You make it seem easy to play the violin but it’s really not so easy lol.  But I loved your music [sic– really it’s her music!! Brothertown music I’ve arranged and returned!] and I think it’s great you’re sharing your talent with very many people as you can.”

oaw  !!!    melting!

Then I did get to become periphery, and get some photos, plus a group photo which was shared.

For the group pic, they said “Elders in front”, but then insisted that Seth and I take front center seats–so we brought along honored Elders Samson Occum and Thomas Commuck to hold in the picture! It was a bit the cat-herding thing–lots of attenders aren’t in the pic.  Next going down left, a blurry shot of awesome active auctioneer hawking, could it be, a CD of Thomas Commuck tunes, specially autographed by their modern arranger, performer, and recorder-producer–where did that come from!?  And a zoom-in detail of old-style nation flag.  Beside those, second layer down on right, the calumet (pipe) and spear cross, a part of tribal logo/seal, on a nice honoring parchment intro to the tribe.  Cheerful colorful regalia pictured next down on left was that of honored June Ezold, Tribal Council Chair during much of decades-long Federal re-recognition attempt begun in 1980; then to the right, zoom in detail of parade / 3D-crafted version of Nation logo/seal!.  Along bottom, not from museum but hanging in the big main room, gift blankets from Mashantucket Pequot and from Mohegan from 1999 Eastern Bus Trip.  Finally, a selfie with sort-of-accurate official Wisconsin road sign marker about the Brothertown, on my drive back to motel after picnic–just another windy day on the east shore of Lake Winnebago, in Brothertown Township.  Holy ground.  🙂

Thank you thank you Brothertown Indian Nation people, every one of you I met, for being so warm and welcoming and beautiful!!!  It was a great day.

Radio Interview in CT + upcoming event

Thankfully Stephan Allison is a shrewd and wonderful interviewer, so he helped keep me on track as we introduced Brothertown Indian Nation and a century-long+ continuity in Brothertown community singing, deeply and originally related to my own roots Americana shape note singing.
🙂 🙂 🙂

Perhaps I should have repeated more often that this interview was also meant to be promoting the next event for project fundraising, namely my concluding set in double-bill performance at The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main St. in Middletown, CT
Friday, August 18, 8 pm, $10;
guitarist R.D. King leading off,
myself concluding the evening with Brothertown Indian Singing Legacy, with some new Wisconsin travel results!
More info here:

LA !

Thanks for reading! …and listening! 🙂

Caroline Andler’s brief Brothertown Indian Nation history

[[Here’s my favorite intro. essay for Brothertown Indian Nation history and for beginning to appreciate the unique and awesome achievements of the Brothertown. This posting is special reading: not maintained any more on the Brothertown Indian Nation website, but found in my old devices, saved from my first Febr. 2011 flurry of learning on the topics! Enjoy! — Gabriel K. ]]

Brothertown Indian Nation
Brief History
by Caroline K. Andler

Brothertown or Brotherton Indians – the name has been used interchangeably for over two hundred years – are unique from many other tribes. Ours is an amalgamated group that was formed from the Christian members of the coastal tribes who made the first contact with the Europeans. As a result of the Great Awakening, a religious movement in New England during the 1740’s, many Indian people in southern New England converted to Christianity, including numerous Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Montauk, Tunxis, and Niantic. Today’s members of the Brothertown Nation are descendants of these tribes. Missionaries who worked among the Algonquian speaking tribes gathered our ancestors into seven towns. In Rhode Island, this town was Charlestown. In Connecticut, the towns were Groton, Stonington, Niantic, Farmington, and Mohegan. On Long Island, New York, the town was Montauk.
As our ancestors tried to live Christian lives in New England and New York, they found it difficult to resist the pressures from settlers of European descent who lived around them. Non-Indian settlers encouraged them to abuse alcohol, give up farming, and sell their lands. By the 1700’s, the tribes were poverty stricken, decimated by wars and disease.  They were struggling to survive both economically and culturally. A small group of young natives educated at Eleazer Wheelock’s Indian Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, became the impetus for forming a new community. Two of our Mohegan ancestors, Joseph Johnson and Samson Occom, became the leaders of a plan for removing some of the Christian Indians of the seven Praying Towns to fresh country where they might live amicably together. (See The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Literature and Leadership in Eighteenth-Century Native America, by Joanna Brooks, ed., Oxford University Press, 2006). In March 1773, at Mohegan, representatives from the seven Indian towns gathered to discuss Johnson’s project for the emigration to new lands. Johnson made the long trip to New York to ask the Oneida Indians to share a piece of their vast lands. Johnson delivered the chief speech on January 20, 1774, in the Oneida council house at Kanawarohare. (See To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson 1751-1776, by Laura J. Murray, ed., University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.)
Following negotiations, the Oneida promised their brothers a ten-mile wide tract of land in what is now called Upstate New York. In the spring of 1775, Johnson led a small group of mostly Farmington young men to Oneida and began planting crops and putting up homes in preparation of the main party yet to come. The timing couldn’t have been worse. By 1777, our ancestors were driven from their new land by the British and their Indian allies. They were forced to flee, seeking safe haven with the Stockbridge in Massachusetts until after the American Revolution. (see http://www.mohican-nsn.gov/). With the end of the war, our ancestors took up where they had left off. They quickly established a form of government for their community and returned to clearing and planting the land. However, they did this without the leadership of Joseph Johnson, who had died in the summer of 1777. Having earlier married Samson Occom’s daughter Tabitha, Johnson was survived by his young bride and their two sons.
In 1784, Samson Occom came with the first group to migrate after the war. Though old and ailing, he continued to work, to teach, to preach, to collect funds for his beloved people. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister, a hymn writer, and an experienced schoolmaster. On November 7, 1785, Occom named the settlement. “But now we proceeded to form into a Body Politick – we Named our Town by the Name of Brotherton, in Indian Eeyamquittoowauconnuck.”
By the early 1800’s, our ancestors began to feel the demand for land from non-Indian settlers. The state of New York began to purchase vast tracts of Oneida land, leaving the New York Indians with a rapidly shrinking land base. In the end, the Brothertown Indians left their New York homelands for less coveted lands in Wisconsin. The federal government lent its support to a plan for moving three of the New York Indian tribes to unsettled lands in Wisconsin. In 1821, and again in 1823, delegations composed of tribal representatives from the Brothertown, the Stockbridge, and the Oneida, traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin and negotiated the purchase of millions of acres, with both transactions solidified by treaties. Soon afterward, the Menominee contested the treaties because they felt they had been misled. They challenged the treaties so profusely that the United States Senate refused to ratify either treaty. The federal government finally mediated the dispute in 1831 and 1832, with a series of three treaties.  As part of the compromise, 23,040 acres along the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, in present-day Calumet County, was reserved for the Brothertown. Indians from the three tribes began leaving New York in small groups, traveling to Wisconsin by water, taking the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, and then steamboat on the Great Lakes and into Green Bay. The first group arrived in the new country in 1831, just one year after Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.
Our ancestors were hardly settled in their new location, having been pressured out of New York and pushed off their land at Kaukauna, when a new threat appeared. The federal government entered into negotiations with the tribes in New York and Wisconsin to exchange their land in Wisconsin for land in Indian Territory. On January 15, 1838, the United Stated concluded a treaty at Buffalo Creek, New York. This treaty would put pressure on the tribe to move once again, this time to Kansas.   Brothertown Indian Thomas Commuck wrote: “Here we have taken our last stand, as it were, and are resolved to meet manfully, that overwhelming tide of fate, which seems destined in a few short years, to sweep the Red Man from the fact of existence. The thought is a sad and gloomy one, but the fiat seems to have gone forth, and we must submit.”
Our ancestors’ one, and possibly only, protection against this was to secure land in the same manner as the property of non-Indians—through private ownership. By a perversity of law, as long as the land was held in trust by the federal government, common and inalienable, it was subject to loss by government action. The Brothertown Reservation, like all reservations in the U.S. today, was technically owned by the federal government. In an effort to remain on the new lands in Wisconsin the Brothertown headmen requested a congressional Act that would divide the lands into individually-owned plots and grant Brothertown tribal members United States citizenship. Our ancestors were officially granted citizenship in 1839, eighty-five years before Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act. They were the first American Indians to receive U.S. citizenship.
The Brothertown Indians did not seek relief of the right to self-govern or dissolution as an Indian Tribe. The Brothertown Indians continued conducting their tribal business just as they had since the establishment of the tribe in New York. They sent delegates to Washington, D.C., continuing to press claims against the government for the benefit of the tribe. In 1854, Laton Dick, Orsamus Fowler, and Lucius S. Fowler were given power by the Brothertown Nation at a public meeting, to “prosecute and obtain” “…a just and equitable claim against the government of the United States.”  William Fowler went to Washington, D.C. as a delegate of the Brothertown tribe, pressing the claim of the Brothertown Nation based upon the assertion that the tribe should have received more land as a result of the treaty of 1831. On Feb 9, 1855, the judgment was made “By the ninth section of the act of Congress approved July 31, 1854,” authorizing the Secretary of the Interior “to investigate the claim of the Brothertown tribe of Indians against the United States and report the facts to Congress at its next session, or earlier if practicable, together with an estimate for such amount as may be found justly due the said Indians.” The report went on to deny that “any amount is justly due said tribe of Indians by the United States.”
In 1876, the Brotherto[w]n tribe appealed to Congress for legislation to permit the General Land Office to issue patents on certain unappropriated land within the Brotherto[w]n Reservation to the Brotherto[w]n tribe. The appeal provided that:  “It is desired by the Brothertown Indians that the act to be passed empower and authorize the Commissioner of the General Land Office to issue a patent for the lands so unpatented to Laton Dick, Sen., Lucius S. Fowler, David Fowler and Orrin Johnson, residents of Brothertown, Calumet County, State of Wisconsin, and members of the Brothertown Indian Nation.” The memorial was signed by Lyman P. Fowler, “Delegated Representative of the Brothertown Indians.”  Two years later, on April 20, 1878, Congress passed legislation entitled “An act to authorize the issue of a patent of certain lands in the Brothertown reservation, in the State of Wisconsin, to persons selected by the Brothertown Indians.” To do this, a majority of the tribe had to approve the sale, and Congress appointed five trustees among the Brothertown Tribal members to sell the land after the majority of the tribal members had approved the sale.
On February 10, 1893, a petition was filed “by the Indians who were parties to the treaty of Buffalo Creek, N. Y., on January 15, 1838 (7 Stat. 550), to enforce an alleged liability of the United States for the value of certain lands in Kansas, set apart for these Indians, and subsequently sold by the United States, as well as for certain amounts of money agreed to be paid upon their removal. These claims were referred, under the act of March 3, 1883, known as the ‘Bowman Act,’ to the court of claims. That court reported its findings to the senate January 16, 1892; and thereupon, on January 28, 1893, Congress passed an act to authorize the court of claims to hear and determine these claims, and to enter up judgment as if it had original jurisdiction of the case, without regard to the statute of limitations.”
In the 1920’s and well into the 1930’s, the Brothertown joined the Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee in a legal battle over some of their previous land holdings in New York in a land case begun by Laura Cornelius Kellogg. She insisted the New York lands had been taken fraudulently by New York State and by land speculators. Kellogg and her husband organized a massive Iroquois land-claims suit. For this legal effort, they made exorbitant promises and collected funds from poor Indians in communities throughout the United States and Canada through a “Club” system, which, in the Brothertowns case, was run by members of the Brothertown tribe. They wrote letters, collected dues with threats of not being eligible to collect any money if members didn’t pay dues and make “loans” to the Kelloggs. You paid your dues and were a member of the “Six Nations.” Although the suit was dismissed, the suit and the demonstrated unity of the Brothertown people, even those who no longer lived in Wisconsin, illustrate the continuity of our tribal identity.
In 1950, the Brothertown Indian tribe participated in an action against the federal government via the Indian Claims Commission, an agency created to settle outstanding Indian claims against the United States. The Brothertown, along with the Oneida and Stockbridge-Munsee, took part in this lawsuit to receive reparation for lands the United States had taken without adequate compensation. After many years of litigation, we received a cash award. We need an updated tribal roll to collect individual annuity payments. Robert Fowler, a Brothertown tribal member and attorney from Fond du Lac, assembled the tribal roll. This activity brought together those tribal members who had fallen out of touch as a result of serving in World War II.
In 1978, the United States Department of Interior established guidelines for Indian tribes to regain federal recognition lost for various reasons. In the spring of 1980, we informed the Department of the Interior of our tribe’s intent to petition for federal acknowledgment and regain our government-to-government relationship with the federal government. We continue to work toward that goal.
Today, there are over 3000 members on the Brothertown tribal roll, all of whom descend from the Brothertown people who had the foresight to request U.S. citizenship to prevent being removed under the Indian Removal Act. Our ancestors received their allotment of reservation land when it was divided up under the Act of 1839. Most Brothertown still live in Wisconsin, near Fond du Lac and Lake Winnebago. We maintain an elected Tribal Council which holds meetings monthly. We are, as a tribe, continuing our fight for federal acknowledgment.
“For 170 years the Brothertown Indian Nation has maintained itself in spite of overwhelming economic, social and political pressures. We have been forced to move repeatedly in order to preserve our way of life.  We have received guarantees from the United States, only to find the same government acting to strip us of our land.  In our forefathers’ final effort to preserve our land base, they accepted land in severalty and citizenship, but instead of keeping the tribe together, the Act hastened our land loss.  Despite the interference and failure of the federal government to protect the tribe, we, the Brothertown Indian Nation, have survived.  It is our desire to continue the community of Brothertown Indians for our children and children’s children and on and on for perpetuity.”


“Brothertown Indian Nation: A Brief History” by Caroline Andler —
from Brothertown Indian Nation website, accessed Febr. 25, 2011.