"Much is at stake, and we are the keepers of the earth."
- Lincoln Geiger
Day 9 - Saturday, July 1, 1995 - The Sunbow 5 pilgrims took a day of rest from walking, and shuttled their camp to the home of Kahuna Sassacus (Eustace Lewis) of the Eastern Pequot nation in Groton, Connecticut.
Kahuna and Ron Lonewolf Jackson welcomed the walkers to Quinnehtukqut (Connecticut), honoring the walk with the gift of a feather from a Red-tailed hawk.
Sitting at his kitchen table, Kahuna told the walkers a series of stories. He spoke first of how, for many long years, the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics has been dumping chemicals upon the earth and sea here, in his ancestral Pequot territory. He said he company used harsh chemicals to degrease the nuclear submarines that they build, then dumped the the toxic crud unwisely. The groundwater in his neighborhood is no longer safe to drink, he said. It is thoroughly poisoned with chemicals.
Sassacus - Bronze by Philip Cote.
Kahuna Sassacus explained that his name comes from the era when European settlers were first entered Quinnehtukqut. The sachem of the Pequots at that time was a man named Sassacus. He had played a big part in the events of the era.
While talking with Kahuna in his kitchen, the walkers came to learn something of the history of the land they are walking over. Kahuna said this region of Connecticut was the location of the first Indian War in America - the Pequot Massacre that occurred nearby in what is now called the town of Mystic.
In 1620 when the Pilgrims landed to their north in Massachusetts, the Pequot numbered about 6,000 human beings. They were an agricultural people who raised corn, beans, squash and tobacco, supplementing their diet with hunting and fishing.
The beginning of English settlement in Connecticut provoked confrontations. There was a series of raids by settlers and then counter raids by the Pequot. According to historian Lee Sultzman, the spark that ultimately ignited the Pequot War was struck during the summer of 1636 when a Boston trader named John Oldham was killed near Block Island. From his pulpit in Boston, preacher Richard Mather blamed the Pequot for Oldham's death and denounced them as the "accursed seeds of Canaan."
Preacher Mather's rhetoric helped to ratchet the intensity the ensuing confrontation into a "holy war" -- the Puritans crusading against the "savages" and the "forces of darkness."
To avenge Oldham's murder -- and to avenge other raids blamed on the Pequot -- a joint expedition of about 400 men attacked the Pequot's main village, located near present-day Mystic, Connecticut. The attack included English, Dutch, Mohegan, Niantic, and Narragansett warriors.
In the attack the colonial settlers were able to trap the Pequot people inside their village. Because the Pequot warriors were away raiding colonial settlements near Hartford, most of the people trapped in the village were women, children, and elders.
Through the dark of night the colonists surrounded the village. Then as the sun began to brighten the sky on the morning of May 26, 1637, they attackers ignited torches and set the wigwams and wooden fortifications ablaze. As people fled from the village, the colonists fired their muskets over and over, shooting the panicked human beings they saw. In confusion amid the wild flames, many Pequot families were roasted alive within their village. Almost 700 native human beings died that morning.
Massachusetts Governor William Bradford described the massacre in this manner: "It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they (the settlers) gave praise therof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully…"
|Slave ship - Much like The Giggles, the ship that carried Pequot people away from their ancestral home to a life of slavery.
In subsequent actions many of the Pequot people who were captured were executed. The remainder were packed off to the Caribbean on a ship named Giggles, and then sold as slaves for profit.
One of the keynotes of our prayer walk is forgiveness. Grandfather Commanda often says that we don't need to forget what happened in the past, but we do need to forgive. It's a hard lesson, but it's critical on the spiritual path. Otherwise, Grandfather says, we carry within ourselves bitter seeds that will in time poison our soul. This day in Quinnehtukqut the Sunbow walkers offered up prayers for healing and forgiveness for the spirit of all, and all that happened on all the sides.
In the evening Rita was invited to be a guest on a radio talk show out of the University of Connecticut. Over public airwaves she talked about the Seven Fires prophecy. She told the listeners that right now we have a choice between two roads: the road of spirituality and respect, or the road of greed and materialism, which leads to destruction.
Rita emphasized the necessity of taking care of our earth's mineral resources. She said that minerals have a specific role in maintaining a stable energy field for the earth in times of turbulence and change -- a role that is little appreciated by mining interests, large corporations, or the general public.
"What happens when dams are built, trees are clear cut, and the minerals are extracted? The whole balance of the Earth Mother is affected, and the weather patterns begin to change," Rita said. "That is what is happening now."
By e-mail, Virginia Redden Boland of Connecticut offered to our odyssey her translation of a Wampanoag birth poem.
Virginia said she hoped the poem would help us to appreciate that through our efforts to light sparks for the Eighth Fire, we are also helping to birth something wholesome and beautiful for all the people.
Saiagird (Whom Thou Lovest)
Wunny Wunny Krieth
Wunny Wamiaquene Wunitu Tahnam
Ani Ani Hota Ota
Beautiful Beautiful Bundle
The Wind Laughs
All is Peace
Beautiful Heart Finder Bless
-- Wampanoag Birth Poem (translation by V. Redden Boland)
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden
Read Day 10 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire