Part I: An Introduction to Brothertown
While it may be tempting to believe that our Brothertown ancestors, with their agricultural lifestyle, European clothing, Colonial homes, and English speech, were doing everything they could to leave their “Indianness” behind them, that would be an erroneous notion. On the contrary, preserving their race and heritage was extremely important to the Brothertown founders. There are a number of examples one could offer as proofs of this but none so starkly evident as that line from Occom’s journal entry of November 7, 1785, which reads, “We named our town by the name of Brotherton; in Indian Eeyawquittoowauconnuck (emphasis added)(1).”
The formation of this town was not undertaken lightly. Plans began at least as far back as March 13, 1773, when members of seven Native communities met in Mohegan (2). Long trips were taken on foot through the snow(3), letters were written(4), Oneida headmen and local leaders like William Johnson(5), the area’s British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, were consulted. A “Colony Law Book” was obtained (6), a layout of the new town was drawn up, and agreements were made on how the town would be run and who would oversee certain positions (7). Primarily due to the American Revolution, nearly 15 years passed between that first meeting in Mohegan and the day they finally “formed into a body politick” on their new land. This was a well-planned and long-sought-after venture. The name they gave to their town could not have been bestowed lightly either; it too was well considered.
…..to be continued
(1)Occom, Samson. Journal entry November 7, 1785.
(2)Murray, Linda. To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776, p 207.
(3) Hutchins Report, https://www.madisoncounty.ny.gov/motf/brothertownone%5B1%5D.pdf,p.24.
(4) Ibid p23ff.
(6)Wimpey, Elijah. Letter to the House of Representatives of the Colony of Connecticut, May 25, 1774. Available online through the Yale Indian Papers Project.
(7)Occom, Samson. Journal entry of November 7, 1785