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The Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council Celebrate History

On June 25, 2011, the Quinnipiac, or “Long-Water-Land People” joined their hands, hearts, and minds with their long-time neighbors and friends from the Old Stone Church at East Haven, Connecticut, for a major celebration of friendship and traditions.

On that historical day, direct descendants of the Quinnipiac (known today as ACQTC of The Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council) marked 12,000 years of survival as the only true aboriginal nation who are indigenous to Quinnehtukqut (Connecticut), while direct descendants of the Old Stone Church Congregation of East Haven celebrated their 300-year anniversary of its founding in 1711.

Quinnipiac refugees who had been displaced from lands at their original 1,200-acre reservation of Mioonkhtuck (East Haven) were given refuge at a sanctuary just behind the Old Stone Church (and it is still there today). A traditional powwow (a spiritual word that derives directly from the Quinnipiac R-Dialect of the Algonquian Language) took place with music, dancing and exhibits of Quinnipiac artifacts from the Quinnipiac Dawnland Museum.

Craftwork demonstrations, such as the face mask, carved in the traditional manner by Ed Wolf Walker Conley, flint knapping displays, in-construction display of the weju (one type of dwelling used by our ancestors, sometimes called a “wigwam”), orations, speeches, ancient traditional ceremonies, as well as today’s powwow ceremonies, raffles, face-painting for the kids – all these were free of charge and open to the public.

When European settlers arrived in the early 1600s at Quinnipiac, they saw powwow (pauwaus) or Quinnipiac shamans, who performed sacred dances and organized traditional feasts at eight major annual events to honor the seasons and their subsistence patterns. The Quinnipiac Sachemdom – prior to European colonization, formed the maweomi or Central Council Fire of the legendary Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy. They could summon a force of 12,000 warriors from ancestral strongholds known as menunkenum, all along their trails and river banks. The English called these palisaded indigenous forts, “castles.”

After the welcoming speeches and announcements, the first ancient traditional ceremony, called “Washing Away the Tears” was performed. Representatives from both the Quinnipiac and the Old Stone Church re-enacted the ceremony of mourning. In the Wappinger-Mattabesec tradition, there were three sacred paths in life, where common people became rennawawk or “true human beings,” who walked the land in harmony with all other living things. There is the white path of peace and commerce/bartering; the red path of war, conflict, and honor; and the black path of mourning and condolences.

These three colors form the colors of the ACQTC and Wappinger-Mattabesec Confederacy. During the processional and the Grand Entry on June 25, the Confederacy flag of red, white, and black was lifted high by Quinnipiac Medicine Chief, Kirouana Paddaquahum.

In the Dawnland (Northeast Woodlands), tribute-wars were acts of stealth intended to capture enemies who were then taught the ways of the rennawawk and were given to grieving families who had lost loved ones to war and natural disasters (floods, famine, drowning, etc.). These captives were treated with love and kindness and accepted as family, no matter what their former race, band or clan status.

“Washing Away the Tears” is the Quinnipiac version of the Mourning-Condolence ritual where friends and family sang songs, brought gifts, and provided food to show their love and friendship to grief-stricken members, - thus to ease the pangs of grief and loss.

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During the Washing Away the Tears Ceremony on June 25, Quinnipiac War Chief, Ed Wolf-Walker Conley (a retired U.S. ARMY MP) and master craftsman donned one of his ceremonial mesingash (False Face Masks). In the Algonquian and Iroquoian traditions, the False Faces were spirits of the forests who appeared to the powwamanitompoag (Quinnipiac Men of the Dreamer’s Society) and taught them secrets of healing. The “Whistler” or “Blower” mask was used in this ceremony, where it represents the Dawnland spirit of healing. Chief Wolf-Walker carried a deerskin bag of sacred ashes that were traditionally blown or whistled over a person to promote healing.

In this ceremony, it represents healing the centuries of grief and guilt experienced by both sides and literally washed away their tears of past experiences.

Quinnipiac Medicine Chief Kirouana Paddaquahum conducted the special healing and ancestral ceremonies, with Sunksquaw Little Owl Thunderhorse, reading the oration and quietly directing participants when and where they were needed, then reading the words to the Washing Away the Tears Song and to the Lord’s Prayer in Wampanoag, as written by Linda Yellow Feather. Kathy Mallory quoted the Lord’s Prayer in English.

Next, the re-enactment or re-affirming of the friendship between both groups was performed through the Sacred Bond of the Covenant. A speech was delivered by Bob GrayWolf and copies of a document entitled, “Sacred Bond of the Covenant” was signed by both groups. Quinnipiac leaders presented gifts to the church, which included a traditional string of wampum beads. Wampum are cylindrical beads made from the quahog clam and was accepted as the first legal tender in Connecticut.

The church presented gifts to the Quinnipiac. ACQTC leaders also presented a string of wampum beads to East Haven Mayor April Capone, who had attended the Signing of the Sacred Bond of the Covenant Ceremony.

The Grand Entry was led by Quinnipiac War Chief Wolf Walker and other veterans and a color guard that included USA, USA-Indian Scout, Connecticut, ACQTC-Wappinger-Mattabesec, ACQTC Totoket Clan, and Thunder Clan flags, a troop of Boy Scouts, Quinnipiac members from ages 3 to 77, and their guests.

The Host Drum was the Nimham Mountain Singers, who are representatives of the Nimham Wappinger family who served as War-Captains and Sachems during the American Revolutionary War in many battles. They performed traditional songs from the Dawnland.

The creators and architects of this historical event included several people. Iron Thunderhorse, Quinnipiac Grand Sachem, Historian, Linguist, and Thunderbird Clan Shaman made sure all aspects held to tradition. His wife, Ruth Little-Owl Thunderhorse, Quinnipiac Sunksquaw, served as powwow coordinator, and Kathy Mallory of the Old Stone Church with Pam Standish acted as co-coordinators for the Old Stone Church.

After the powwow, the Quinnipiac and Old Stone Church members held a traditional Nickommo. The church kitchen handled this aspect beautifully and served up a delicious traditional turkey feast with corn, pumpkin, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pecans, all of which originated among the indigenous peoples of these two continents.

ACQTC has 2,500 members in the USA and Canada. Over 1,000 hail from Quebec and Nova Scotia provinces. They were refugees who migrated from southern New England after King Philip’s War (Metacom’s Revolt) in the years 1705-1710; just before the Old Stone Church was founded. Feature articles on the official Quinnipiac website, ACQTC.ORG, include a highly-recommended study on the linguistic and cultural roots of the word “powwow” that are shared throughout this land, once called Torupe Munham (Turtle Island). Other features include facts and traditions about the Qunnipiac’s duties as Gechannawitank (Aboriginal Land-Stewards and Guardians of Sacred Landmarks), and as wampum-makers. A News & Events Section keeps members and the public informed of other events in “The Long-Water-Land.”