Friday, July 1, 2005
Tribes visit the Benfield Land
On June 28, 27 representatives from several Indian tribes visited Carlisle to examine the land that the Narragansett call a "sacred landscape."
Several selectmen waited in the back field but then realized the Indian group had assembled in the wetland where they were performing a ritual blessing. The ritual was a Tobacco Ceremony to Honor the Spirits at the Sacred Site. Each person approached a small fire to burn a bit of "sweet grass." As insects buzzed and the sky forebode a coming storm, an Indian pipe sounded through the woods.
After the ritual, the tribe invited Selectman John Williams, Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, and this reporter to engage in a handshake ceremony. The leader of the group commented that such ceremonies used to take all day, but in deference to modern time pressures, this one would go more quickly. At each handshake, the representative identified himself by name and tribal affiliation: Narragansett, Aquinnah, Pequot, Oneida, Mohawk, Choctaw. The Indians then walked into the woods to investigate and discuss the stones and other features of the landscape.
The group met later for lunch and discussions at Town Hall with Selectmen Doug Stevenson, Tim Hult, and John Williams. Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett, was the spokesman for all the tribes. According to Tim Fohl of the Carlisle Historic Society, who has acted as a liaison, there was an "amicable discussion" where all agreed to work together to honor the land while providing the affordable housing the town has planned for the Benfield site.
The gathering in Carlisle was a unique event in a three-day meeting
of the combined tribes. The Pequot arranged the chartered bus that brought
the group from Foxwoods. After Carlisle, they headed to Upton to look
at a "stone chamber" before returning home.
1. Alabama/Coushatta of Texas
© 2005 The