Pow Wow at Sacred East Rock and the Legend of the Stone Giants

Sleeping Giant State Park from ACQTC archives

Indian Country Today

Pow Wow at Sacred East Rock and the Legend of the Stone Giants

On June 1-2, the Third Annual Connecticut Native American Intertribal Urban Council Powwow was held on ‘Founder’s Day’ at East Rock Park. Coordinators for the event included Jim and Jennifer Rawlings for CNAITUC and Norman Momowetu Clement for Quinnipiac and the Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy. The Connecticut Native American Intertribal Urban Council meets the first Saturday of each month at 545 Whaley Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut, in a section of the local NAACP Complex, which provides free space to CNAITUC for planning and coordinating their growing annual event.

East Rock is a 375-foot traprock mountain in the heart of New Haven (formerly called ‘Quinnipiac’ meaning ‘Long-Water-Land’) and is situated between the Quinnipiac and Mill or East Rivers. It is one of the three most sacred landmarks of the Quinnipiac and is called Wappintumpseck in our language. The other two (also traprock mountains) include West Rock (Mautumpseck) and Sleeping Giant (now a state park).

Legend has it that long ago the twin Quinnipiac Culture-Hero Stone-Giants lived on and were raised up on East Rock. The famous "Giant Steps" were created by them as a stairway to the summit from the still-existing Quinnipiac Indian trails below, up a circuitous path and the face of the cliffs. At the top is a large earthen mound once used by Quinnipiac Powwamanitompoag (Men of the Dreamer’s Society) and Wampanoag (Men of the Dawn Sky) shamans.

Hobbomock and Maushop (Malsum), the twin stone-giants are the subject of numerous legends and tales. They once guarded the sacred mound where the shamans paid tribute to Pinessi (Thunderer) and the Morning Star. Both twins had supernatural powers and were half human and half supernatural. Their demise was a great battle between them and the thunderbirds. Maushop climbed up a massive tree when the rains created a monstrous flood. The thunderbirds sent their lightning bolts and the limb holding him gave way. He was drowned and his body was washed up on the west end of Quinnipiac and is now seen and known as West Rock (Mautumpseck). Hobbomock battled on valiantly and made it a ways to the northeast, where a flock of thunderbirds sent a barrage of lightning arrows that struck him, toppled him, and his prone body is now seen and known as Sleeping Giant State Park.

The Quinnipiac Indian Trail is the oldest of all Connecticut Blueblazed hiking trails. It passes through all three sacred landmarks and is the heart of our maweomi (central council fire) otan (principle town). Today a war-memorial (c.1800’s) sits at the summit atop our ancient sacred mound.

To the right of our sacred mound at the summit is a spot where the Intertribal Powwow takes place. A shuttle picks up people waiting to attend at the parking lot at the base of East Rock Park. Once on top, if you walk due west, about 50 to 100 feet, there is a stone wall four-feet high and to the right is a pavilion-styled lookout. The vista below provides a unique observation point for all of New Haven and the Long Island Sound, just to the southwest on a clear day. Our ancestors sent scouts and arrumoag (wolf doge) to look for deer below to hunt by signal.

Momowetu and Gordon Fox-Running Brainerd, elder Medicine Man of the Qinnipiac Totoket (Branford) Band (also Curator of the Quinnipiac Dawnland Museum in Guilford) attended planning sessions and performed a cleansing and honoring ceremony to the ancestors buried within the sacred mound (all shamans and sachems). Momowetu and Fox-Running have attended all three CNAITUC annual pow wows now.

This year, for the 3rd annual, the Eastern Medicine Drum and the Eastern Sun Drum performed. Boys’ and men’s traditional and eastern war dance, teen girls and boys specialty, women’s traditional and blanket, place dance, and golden age categories competed this year. Drums were provided courtesy of the Pequot and Mohegan Tribes of Eastern Connecticut.

Quinnipiac and Lenape members of the Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy came from Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. Special guests included Michael True-Heart Morningstar, Vice Chair of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe. Also a special guest attending was Professor Bowern, Linguist, and her student, who are working with us to organize and formalize a unique teaching project for the ancestral Wampano-Quiripi language dialect.

Quinnipiac and Lenape members also celebrated the recent invitation by the City of New Haven in celebrating its 376th anniversary and the founding of New Haven after two Treaties were signed between Quinnipiac and the Puritan Theocracy. Fox-Running and Momowetu set up an information booth for the public at that event, too, held on April 27, 2013.