Weeks of April 20th and April 26th 2021
(This is part of the Studio Assistants’ Blog-post series recounting projects we were working on last year and only now are writing them up.)
Written By Eleanor Stewart, Studio Assistant
Coming into the studio on a regularly scheduled Monday afternoon, I was excited to find that Gabrielle had some new projects for me to take a look at. I met her at the studio and she walked me through a stack of articles about different Indigenous stories she was interested in researching . There was one article about a GoFundMe protesting a highway in Northampton, MA, that was going to be built over an old Indigenous civilization. There was an article about the Mohicans, who are Indigenous to the Berkshires, and the different ways they are reclaiming and retelling their history. Gabrielle also told me she was interested in getting involved with two creative activism projects: One about a racist stone at the end of Bridge Street in Great Barrington called the Talcott Raid stone and one about a problematic online moccasin company, Wassookeag Moccasins. The Talcott Raid stone is a memorial that celebrates the “victory” of Major John Talcott’s genocidal massacre against Indigenous people. The Stone is located next to the Housatonic River, right across the road from Railroad Street Youth Project. The moccasin company, Wassookeag Moccasins, is a white-owned company that had no obvious interest in mentioning the origin of moccasins or giving any kind of reparations to Native Americans for appropriating their culture. Gabrielle also gave me information for an online moccasin company, Minnetonka Moccasins, that works a little harder to give tribute to the Native American history of moccasins, as well as giving reparations. Gabrielle asked me to research both the Talcott Raid Stone and Wassookeag Moccasins and see what we could do to call them both out (or in) on their racism.
I went home, read the articles Gabrielle gave me, took notes, and I started my research on the Talcott Raid stone first. The Talcott Raid Stone reads:
“Twenty rods north of this stone was the old Indian Fordway on the middle trail from Westfield to the Hudson River. Nearby was the site of the Great Wigwam where Major John Talcott overtook and dispersed a party of Indians, August, 1676. Dedicated by the Thursday Morning Club August 1904. Rededicated 1989.”
I found an article in the Berkshire Edge by Bernard Drew called “History Markers in Mysterious Places,” in which Bernard critiques the Talcott Stone and even asks “Why are we honoring a Massacre?”* I also read the article that Gabrielle gave me called “‘It’s been Erased’:…Stockbridge Mohicans Retell, Reclaim Their Story in Berkshires” by Nancy Cohen**. I learned about the strides that are being taken in the Berkshires to center Indigenous stories and retell incorrect or racist history. The article talked about bringing Native artifacts in Berkshire County museum exhibits back to Native tribes, recreating the Mission House in Stockbridge to broaden the history of Indigenous people and not just focus on John Seargent, and changing racist names like Squaw Peak Trail on Monument Mountain to Peeskawso Trail. I was motivated and inspired about how we can correct old and racist normalities into spaces that respect Indigenous people and their history. It made me think about what is possible in terms of the Talcott Raid Stone.
Gabrielle suggested I reach out to some members of the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe because their tribe is native to the area and may have some input on how to go about addressing the Talcott Raid Stone. I drafted an email to Bonney Hartley and Heather Bruegl about the Talcott Raid Stone. Bonney is the Historic Preservations Manager and Heather was, at the time, the Historian and Lecturer and Director of Cultural Affairs of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe Community. The Stockbridge-Munsee tribe now reside in Wisconsin because they were pushed westward during colonization. We asked them what they think about the Talcott Raid Stone and if they have ideas about what would be a good solution because we would love to help correct the stone in a way that respectfully highlights Indigenous history rather than a massacre.
I also drafted a letter to the online moccasin company, Wassookeag Moccasins, and inquired why they are not acknowledging Native American history, as well as explaining on their website where moccasins and their brand name come from. I wrote them that we were surprised to find no information about Native Americans on their website and explained why it’s important to acknowledge that moccasins are a traditionally Native article of clothing. I said that it was also important to give some sort of reparations and support Indigenous people who are alive today for the same reasons. I suggested that this company look up Minnetonka Moccasins as a company if they need an example of how a moccasin company can give respect to Native American culture.
In terms of the Women of Influence project, after the working group zoom I was feeling insecure about the list of women I had collected. I wanted to get some help on who to choose for the project. So, I came up with an idea to get a youth group from Railroad Street Youth Project in Great Barrington to collaborate with me on narrowing down our list and eventually helping to embroider the portraits. I told Gabrielle my idea and she was excited because she would like to see this project as a series, with different groups participating in the process. I created a draft proposal to present to RSYP so that we could get this youth group started and begin the next stage of our project!
*Link to Berkshire Edge article: https://theberkshireedge.com/history-markers-in-curious-places-a-quiz-for-berkshire-explorers/
**Link to “It’s been Erased’:…Stockbridge Mohicans Retell, Reclaim Their Story in Berkshires”: https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/01/16/stockbridge-mohicans-retell-reclaim-story-in-berkshires
#TheTalcottRaidStone #WassookeagMoccasins #TheBerkshireEdge #RailroadStreetYouthProject #MinnetonkaMoccasins #IndigenousHistory #Stockbridge-Munsee #MonumentMountain #Peeskawso #Mohicans