by Diane Dix
|Standing Stones on Burnt Hill, Heath MA (photo courtesy of Martin Miller)|
Simply said, the members and friends of the Nolumbeka Project regard much of New England as a vast ritualized landscape.
In addition to the Wissatinnewag property now under our stewardship, we are continuing our efforts to protect the re-burials at White Ash Swamp and are involved in a number of other preservation efforts to identify and protect other American Indian burial sites.
In 2008, members of the Nolumbeka Project were instrumental in proving the eligibility of the Turners Falls (MA) Sacred Hill Ceremonial Site for the National Register of Historic Places. Without this intervention, the site would have been destroyed by the extension of the airport’s runway. Nolumbeka Project members assisted by providing records from our Archives; giving first person accounts verifying the sacred nature of the area; clearing brush; monitoring the site; and participating in important meetings. Visit http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/guidance/TurnerFallsDOEDecision-Redacted.pdf for details about this important preservation success.
To gain an understanding of the vastness of our mission, one must realize that much of the history we were taught in school about the pre-European history of New England was based on a deep and pervasive cultural bias. Until recently, there were academics, “experts” in the field of archaeology and anthropology, who asserted that the New England American Indians did not build with stone. (Some also said there were no Native Americans in Vermont!)
Although much has been destroyed or misidentified, stone monuments, earthworks, burials and other evidence of the existence of a highly developed culture remain. The monuments, although very similar to ancient monuments worldwide, were deliberately disconnected from the true history of the native culture. Much of this cultural denial was perpetrated by English land speculators, and by some Christian ministers whose goal, as worded by Rev. John Eliot was to, “to convince, bridle, restrain and civilize” the Indians “and also to humble them”.
Because of this deep cultural bias, the lithic remains of the Native Americans of New England remained hidden in plain view for centuries. Many of these features are constructed with stone and blend quietly and reverently into the natural surroundings. Yet, once one awakens to their presence they seem to be everywhere. Most were constructed hundreds, even thousands of years ago, when the Indians burned much of the land to control the vegetation and foliage did not obstruct the sightlines. Often these monuments lead the eyes to the place where the earth meets the sky.
Like many acknowledged sites in pre-Christian Europe and elsewhere, many of these structures are oriented to important astronomical events, such as the sunrises and sunsets on the solstices and equinoxes. Others signal the time to plant crops or burn the land. Many of these ritual sites connect with other sites to form networks that stretch for hundreds of miles.
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