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Our Heritage

Mohican history is the soul of Stockbridge



Bonney Hartley stands in front of the Mission House, where this summer the flag of the Stockbridge Munsee nation has come to fly.

Photos Jay Rhind

Bonney Hartley stands in the Stockbridge cemetery and gazes across the stones. “It is so much more real for me,” she says, “and for other people who have come out to stand in front of a place and say this is my direct ancestors’ land. When I stand there, for me that’s meaningful, because we are displaced. We don’t have our land.”

Her ancestor stood here in 1735. He was Naunauneekkanuck, and here he took the name David. The eastern half of this plot belonged to him—by the English system of land deeds. Before European colonists forced their way here with boundary lines and stone walls, these hills belonged to his people for hundreds of years. In 1783, the Mohicans here were forced to move West. But they have always kept in touch with the Berkshires. In the last three years, Berkshires organizations have made a united effort to reach back and help preserve her tribal heritage. Cory Hines, a program coordinator with the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, is working with Hartley, The Trustees of Reservations, and the Bidwell House to tell the story of the Mohican nation in Stockbridge and in the Berkshires—through new exhibitions, tours, and interpretive trails.

Stockbridge began as a community of Mohican families and European colonists. The descendants of the Mohicans who founded this community now live in Wisconsin as part of the federally recognized Stockbridge Munsee Nation, with 1,500 members. But in the first years of Stockbridge, small wooden Colonial houses and domed Mohican dwellings stood side by side, with a meeting house,

a schoolhouse and cows grazing along the main street.

“It’s easy to picture what that time looked and felt like,” Hartley says. “You can look and connect over time, and connect to people.”

She is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribal Historic Preservation, and she came to the Berkshires four years ago as a representative for her nation, working from Troy, N.Y., to protect historic sites in the region. Working with Hines and local museums, she has found that many here don’t know the history of the Mohicans.

Going back 10,000 years and more, the Mohicans [Muh-he-con-neok] are “the people of the waters that are never still.” They lived along the tidal rivers and across the hills from the Muhheakantuck (Hudson River), through the Housatonic and east toward the Connecticut River Valley. In the 1730s, the Mohicans held together through more than a hundred years of epidemics and war. They had lost their land to English and Dutch incursions, and colonists kept coming. Illnesses had vastly reduced their population. They faced a stark choice: Learn English, accept the influence of a Christian missionary and settle within an English framework, or leave their land for a place beyond the colonists’ reach.

They petitioned the state legislature to grant them a township within the Commonwealth, though not all at the council agreed and some felt they were giving up too much, says Hartley. In the first years of the township, 125 Mohicans communally owned 2,300 acres in Stockbridge, about six square miles of good land. The first missionary, John Sargeant, spoke Mohican and held worship services in that language. 

And the Mission ended within a generation.  For 50 years, colonists and town officials systematically took back the land. They forced the Mohicans to divide their communal fields into lots and assign each lot to one man, making the land easier to take away. Colonists brought lawsuits, surveyed land they did not own, and held town elections without warning, forcing votes against Mohican landowners. One such lawsuit was brought by the Williams family, for whom Williamstown and Williams College are named.

In 1783 they set out west, eventually to Wisconsin. Many now live on 2,500 acres of reservation land, about the size of their township in Stockbridge. Many have kept friendships and other connections in the Berkshires. Retired Stockbridge police chief Rick Wilcox has worked with the people of the Stockbridge-Munsee in various ways, such as to create one of the most visible testaments to the Mohicans here, a stone monument on land they have honored for generations.

Wilcox’s research—combing through land deeds, transcribing them to make them available to tribal members, and tracing centuries-old boundaries and measurements to connect the names of the Mohican people to the land they once held here—has invigorated the new walking tour. Petrick-Huff imagines student exchanges, visits in both directions, and welcome to Stockbridge signs in Mohican and English.

 

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Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
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Calling all fans of Scottish food and Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series. Don your tartan, make like Jamie’s clan motto and be ready! You’re invited to an amazing Outlander...

Cost: 100.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Friday, Jan. 25 Wilton Library Mini Golf Tourney for Adults, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. The kids had so much fun at last year’s Mini Golf fundraiser, that Wilton Library is holding one for adults only...

Cost: $50 and up

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
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Original members of the Billy Joel Band featuring Liberty DeVitto on drums, Richie Cannata on saxophone and Russell Javors on rhythm guitar. The band recorded and toured extensively with Billy Joel...

Cost: $40

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Telephone: (203) 438-5795
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Born from humble beginnings in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT The Alpaca Gnomes cut their teeth in the neighborhood bar scene by playing marathon shows filled with originals and a wide...

Cost: $15.00 - $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Jeanne Moore
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
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Are you a lifelong with a passion for sharing history? Find out about becoming a Museum Docent! Docents are trained volunteer educators who present guided tours and other education programs to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Bring the baby and enjoy a lively conversation inspired by the art on view. Enjoy light snacks while socializing with newly-made friends. Crying babies welcome and activities provided for older...

Cost: Member price: Free Non-Member price with Museum admission: Free

Where:
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum of Art
Telephone: 914-232-9555
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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Blending nature and spirituality, Connecticut artist Lori Barker explores the rhythms of life in a new collection of mixed media works on display at the Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
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Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

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Winter Guided Hike @ Woodcock Nature Center Saturday January 26th, 10-11:30am, FREE ​ Join Mr. Sam for a hike where we'll investigate whats going on in nature in the winter season and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Woodcock Nature Center
56 Deer Run Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Woodcock Nature Center
Telephone: (203) 762-7280
Contact Name: Sam Nunes
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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
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  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
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Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
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Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
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Saturday, January 26th from 1:00 - 2:00 PM, Ages 4+ Attend for groovy crafts, snacks, games, and more in celebration of the Pete the Cat book series. This event is free and no registration is...

Cost: Free

Where:
Keeler Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
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Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
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Hudson Chorale, the area’s largest mixed voice chorus, is poised to please.  The group will begin its 2019 season with two matinee concerts on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 3:00 pm and Sunday,...

Cost: Advance Sale-$25; Door-$30; Students-$10.

Where:
The Chapel at Maryknoll
55 Ryder Rd
Ossining, NY  10562
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Sponsor: Hudson Chorale
Telephone: 1-800-838-3006
Contact Name: Anne Norum
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Join us for a very special evening of music from these four accomplished singer songwriters: David Ray, Mike Latini, Dave Goldenberg, George Mallas.  

Cost: 20.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Telephone: 860-355-0300
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Join us for another incredible evening of music featuring four local singer songwriters performing original music! Doors open at 7pm in New Morning’s handicapped accessible Community Room on the...

Cost: Free

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
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