2017 archives project investigating Brothertown Indian Nation singing traditions

It started for me with a tunebook, the Indian Melodies composed then published in 1845 by Thomas Commuck, Narragansett / Brothertown Indian–in shape notes!

I am independent scholar and shape note singer Gabriel Kastelle.  I knew that these tunebooks don’t come from nowhere, that there must be a community of singers behind this tunebook.  We were a little slow finding each other!  But in a crescendo of nigh-compulsive investigations since 2011 when I obtained a facsimile copy of Commuck’s tunebook, I have uncovered a continuity in singing tradition filling the generations among the Brothertown Indian Nation from Samson Occum’s landmark hymnal publication in 1774 to the 1840s tunebook of Thomas Commuck. The Brothertown founders were active leaders and teachers of singing throughout the later 1700s, including Samson Occom, Mohegan / Brothertown;  Joseph Johnson, Mohegan;  and David and Jacob Fowler, Montauk / Brothertown. The communal singing practice travelled well with the migrations of the Brotherton themselves: the singing followed with the Brothertown through the first Exodus to Oneida territory in now New York state, ca. 1780s – 1810s+; and through second Exodus 1830s+/- and onward to lands west of Green Bay in Michigan Territory, now Wisconsin state, unto the time of Commuck’s 1845 tunebook and even beyond!

I have also shared the inspiring sagas behind Brothertown singing over the years, beginning with two presentations in my New London Bonsai Concert series, first in April, 2011; later in August 2012 (these are musician’s open studio mini-concerts).  Then, facets of the story were focussed on in a class presentation and final paper in my first semester (Fall 2012) of work on recent musical M.A. degree from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (degree earned Spring, 2015).  I have presented at various progress points in my researches to the Mohegan Tribe, at the invitation of their Cultural Department, in spring 2013; to First Congregational Church, Middletown, in fall 2013; to faculty and fellows / students of Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music (coordinated with their new neighbors in the Divinity School facilities, namely the Yale Indian Papers Project!), Fall 2016;  direct in live video-conferencing, April 9, 2017, to Brothertown Indian Nation members and more, through Brothertown Forward’s ‘Zoom-Casting’ (viewable through link below); and in recent weeks to South Congregational Church, Middletown (founded by Samson Occum’s Separatist friend Ebenezer Frothingham!) and Middlesex County Historical Society, also Middletown, CT.

Many great threads and ideas and hunches and beliefs have sprouted from all this work, all showing proud and honorable Native achievements including little-known yet important contributions to lasting North American shape note singing culture…

…but I don’t quite have any of the individual “chapters” of this grand saga at a point of finish and polish that can get them into academic publication, where they belong.

Also, I have been graced in recent months with a greatly deepened network of friends and contacts within today’s living Brothertown Indian Nation, and with invitations to join annual gatherings in Wisconsin, and to work with the special “Brothertown Collection” held by the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin for the Brothertown people…

…and, quick, before symphony season and schools start up again, I should follow up on these special invitations and opportunities, and I should catch up on music manuscripts and other special texts in Rauner Special Collections at Dartmouth, in New Hampshire…  …and even on a host of leads so near as Hartford, in State Library, and CT State Historical Society, yet all too often far enough away in time and money that leads go uninvestigated for years…    So many archives, so little time, and so many miles on my car already…

For all these reasons, and to help get the story out better, and because I am an independent scholar without institutional support for a sabbatical for just this kind of research, travel, and writing-sharing work,  I have to do my own fundraising to make possible the exciting breakthroughs on which I’m poised…   only a few months should make a big difference!

I am now able to accept direct help on these projects.  Spread the word!  Think of others with overlapping interests who may wish to help.  Think of Wisconsin and New Hampshire friends who might be able to share temporary housing or other helps, cutting costs for hotels &c. …   Able to host a dinner party / house concert?  I’ll present in music and story and solicit helps!  Other ideas?  Let me know!

I have an assistant fund administrator, who can check P.O. Box while I’m on the road, deposit checks, get statements and balance info, &c. — this assistant is member of South Church, founded by Occom’s Separatist friend Ebenezer Frothingham!

[[here I have deleted at later date the previous 2017 fund-raising links and info.
The 2017 research, travel, fund-raising surge is over.
I remain involved with the communities and in the researches for the long haul.
For more info, please feel free to contact me!

Gabriel Kastelle  <gabrielviolin “at” gmail.com>  ]]

Thank you!

I’m hoping additionally to add more info here, likely in blog entries telling the story both looking backwards in time, and as it unfolds in near future!   Some of this info will address itinerary and budget plans, which are in development, and already in re-development, and in flux–constantly moving targets!  But in case of extraordinary success in raising funds, my possible personal moneys received have limits in total amount and in timing, and any and all donation funds remaining after expenses will be given to Brothertown Tribal endeavors, including the BINCC (the Brothertown Indian Nation Community Center in Fond-du-Lac, WIsconsin).

Meanwhile, here are some general links, with caption mini-commentaries.

Here is my extensive intro to hymnody and Brothertown Indian Singing Legacy, recorded from live, interactive video-conferencing in April, 2017.
[[actually, it’s the red-letterYouTube link found inside the page linked here, at the bottom, which goes to the video…]]

live video-conferencing as above, but with Joanna Brooks presenting.
Joanna Brooks is the editor of that BIG volume of Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan, part of my “show-and-tell” collection in photo, on far right:

here’s just one of many great blog entries by “Brothertown Citizen”, one of the Brothertown Forward group– searching around this blog site is very fun and informative!!
For example, here’s a helpful collection of links to other texts and resources:

Here’s the Brothertown Indian Nation’s own website, the heritage page.
!!! I’ve sought a different page to link, but within just the month or so, it seems to me that the website has gone through substantial remodeling, and I can no longer find the historical survey essay by Peacemaker, Elder, and Tribal Genealogist Caroline Andler which I was seeking… !! [[that’s why scholars always add the DATE to the website URL info when showing what they found on the web–web changes! …sometimes too much! [IMHO] ]]

…and then, lacking what I sought, maybe it’s best to just link to “Home” page, and let you navigate from there or not as desired!

And a picture:
here’s my table of show-and-tell, ready to present, set up for June 10, 2017, Statewide Open House Day, at the Middlesex County Historical Society, Middletown, CT

MxCo Hist Soc setup

Author: whiteravenarchivesproject

musician, independent scholar, shape note singer, Brothertown Indian Nation cultural researcher and ally

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