Ethics, Native Sovereignty, and non-Tribal Me

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

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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:
http://ankn.uaf.edu/IKS/protect.html
[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!”
http://www2.nau.edu/libnap-p/protocols.html
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 it 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.
🙂 🙂 🙂
https://archive.org/details/RiverValleyRhythms08-10-2017

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:
http://buttonwood.org/event/gabriel-kastelle/
http://buttonwood.org/

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

EEYAMQUITTOOWAUCONNUCK
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.

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!

Checks may be made out to “White Raven Archives Project” and sent to
White Raven Archives Project
P.O. Box  262
Middletown,  CT  06457-0262
This old-school method may be best.  No hidden fees.

and/or donations may be given in digital land through PayPal, here (!)


Donate Button with Credit Cards

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.
https://brothertownforward.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/brothertown-hymnody-update-and-link/
[[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!!
https://brothertowncitizen.wordpress.com/2017/05/
For example, here’s a helpful collection of links to other texts and resources:
https://brothertowncitizen.wordpress.com/brothertown-digital-historical-library/

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] ]]
http://brothertownindians.org/heritage/

…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!
http://brothertownindians.org/

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