All nations have their own unique anniversaries, holidays, and nationally-revered “heroes”. Annual dates of remembrance not only honor a nation and its ancestors but are an effective way of ensuring that these events and people remain perpetually in the individual and collective memory of a nation. Celebrating its people and anniversaries also helps to instill national pride and fosters a sense of community amongst citizens.
The Brothertown Council is currently considering resolutions to memorialize two important dates as annual Brothertown days of remembrance: July 14th, the anniversary of the death of Samson Occom (1792) and celebrated as his feast day in the Episcopal Church; and November 7th, the date in 1785 that Occom recorded in his journal as being the date “we proceeded to form into a Body Politick we Named our Town by the Name of Brotherton, in Indian Eeyawquittoowauconnuck (https://collections.dartmouth.edu/occom/html/diplomatic/785554-diplomatic.html).”
Brothertown held its first annual election on the 7th of November 1785. On that day, as can be read in Occom’s journal, the names of the elected were as follows: Jacob Fowler was chosen Town Clerk, Roger Waupieh, David Fowler, Elijah Wympy, John Tuhy, and Abraham Simon were chosen to be Trustees; and Andrew Acorrocomb and Thomas Putchauker were chosen as Fence Viewers. This board of Trustees would have handled Tribal business and responsibilities very much like our current Council is tasked with. The Fence Viewers, while not quite Peacemakers (a position which did not exist in Brothertown until 1796), did help to maintain the peace as far as livestock was concerned. For example, it would’ve been their job to make sure that any fences were secure. Even where there were no fences, it would have been their duty to ensure that one family’s horse was not eating another family’s corn. If such a thing did happen, they would find a solution to keep it from happening again.
On May 19th, the Tribe will hold its next annual election. I encourage all of you to participate in this 233-year-old Brothertown tradition and exercise your right to vote. As of this writing (Monday May 7, 2018), there are still 11 more mailing days before absentee ballots have to be in Fond du Lac in order to be counted. If you have not mailed your ballot and verification form back yet, please do so today. If you haven’t decided who to vote for, you may find it helpful to watch Brothertown Forward’s recorded Meet-the-Candidates presentation (link available for the asking).
Carry on our 233-year-old Brothertown tradition and vote!
Sunday, February 25th at 6:30pm CT/7:30 ET, Brothertown Forward will be hosting an online community discussion on the Thomas Commuck shape note singing event held at Yale on February 3rd. This event is open to everyone; whether you attended and would like to discuss your experience there or would simply like to hear how it went. To log in, please go to https://zoom.us/j/2529226987 or dial +1 646 876 9923 and enter the Meeting ID: 252 922 6987.
For a sneak peek of the day itself, please see https://youtu.be/h42vaBNZLUo.
Sunday March 4th at 6:00pm CT/7:00 ET, Ms. Laura Murray, author of To Do Good to My Indian Brethren, will be speaking to us about her research and book on Joseph Johnson, the youngest of our Brothertown founders. The log in information for this discussion is the same as the one above.
Saturday June 2nd, we will be meeting in “Old Brothertown” New York to perform annual cleaning and maintenance at our Brothertown cemeteries. In addition to overgrowth and the accumulation of trash, normal yearly rainfall causes dirt to run over onto the slabs where grass and weeds quickly begin to grow. Without yearly maintenance, the graves of our ancestors not only fall into ruin and decay but run the risk of being lost to us forever. Please consider donating one weekend every year, or even every few years, to go to New York and fulfill your duties to those who have walked ahead. We are working on putting carpools together as well as trying to obtain sponsorship to defray the cost of lodging, eating, and other travel-related expenses. If you would like to donate your time but travel costs are prohibitive; if you are willing to drive or looking to carpool; if you can’t attend but would like to make a donation; or if you’d simply like to be put on a contact list for future trips, please contact me at brothertown citizen at aol.com.
For a calendar listing additional Brothertown-related dates, please see the Tribe’s website at BrothertownIndians.org.
When “Brotherton” was founded in New York in the 1700’s and Brothertown, Wisconsin in the 1800’s, the Brothertown Indians weren’t just forming a town but a familial community. The difference between a “town” and a Tribal “family” is clearly visible not only in their community gatherings (as discussed in the previous post) but also in Brothertown’s migration patterns and current-day interactions with one another. When you ask a Brotherton today, “what does Brothertown mean to you?” , most will tell you that “Brothertown means family”.
When they were squeezed out of their lands in upstate New York, the Brothertown Indians moved to Wisconsin Territory–together. Over the course of 10 years, virtually the entire community picked up and relocated to Wisconsin. While it is true that problems with the whites made it difficult for them to remain in New York, the government did not force them out; they each had a choice. Nor did anyone force them to move to Wisconsin Territory with the rest of the group. Indeed, there were a few who moved back to the parent communities, or to other states, but the majority of the Tribe moved to the east side of Lake Winnebago. Why? Because, they didn’t just see themselves as a people who happened to populate the same town, they saw each other as family. This familial-based connection of the Brothertown Indians is not only evident in their historical communal-relocation practices, but it is also visible in their interactions and practices today.
In a family, people share their time and talents with each other; they do things for the common good of the family without recompense. This includes paying bills and taking care of paperwork, answering phones, making appointments and repairs, cleaning, doing dishes, and so on. These are the same things that the Brothertown people do for their Nation. Every one of the Peacemakers; Council people; Enrollment, Election and all other Committee members; museum, office, and Tribal store workers is a volunteer who has given freely of their time and talents, often for years on end. Most of them hold down more than one position at a time. Among other duties, Tribal Council members answer phones, make ID cards, run the museum and stock our Tribal store. Peacemakers do double duty by helping to keep track of donations and sending thank you letters. Other volunteers write grants, mail ballots, count ballots, run bingo, cook and/or clean at the BINCC. In one case, a man moved his family out of state to Wisconsin for 2 years solely to help work on enrollment files in the Tribal office. Many other volunteers have spent tedious years and uncountable hours researching, documenting & writing our recognition petition to OFA. Every single one of them is a volunteer; they’re not paid, they do it because this is their family.
Recently, a short informal survey was posted on Facebook. The question posed to everyone was, “What is Brothertown? Stated differently, what does Brothertown mean to you?” Here were the answers:
Raven De: Brothertown, to me, is extended family, of sorts. It’s a connection and closeness that’s unspoken, but you can feel it at tribal gatherings.
Katrina Joyner: cousins
Raymond Brooks:… to me Brothertown is my Circle of life….NATIVE PEOPLE OF TURTLE ISLAND BONDING TOGETHER AS ONE IN THE SPIRIT OF LOVE as a FAMILY, under the Blessings of the Creator The head of our Family
Greg Wilson: I view the tribe as our touchstone – connecting us to each other through the past, present and future.
Lani Bartelt: I view the Tribe As A Window For My Grandchildren To See Their Ancestors, their customs and beliefs!
Tom Schuh: I view it as knowledge and remembrance.
Not only did the majority of respondents seem to clearly view the Tribe as a “family”, but they see this family as a continuum; comprised of the people alive today as well as those who have walked ahead and those who will come after.
“Brothertown”, today, means the same thing that it did to our founders in the 1700’s and the same thing that it meant to those who moved to Wisconsin Territory in the 1800’s; Brothertown means family.
We are now five months away from the 2018 Brothertown Indian Nation elections. If you plan to run, now is the time to begin formulating your campaign and announce your candidacy. You should contact the office or a member of the Elections Committee to announce. The deadline to get your name in is the March, 2018 Council meeting (meetings are typically held the 3rd Saturday of the month). Announcements can be made from the floor that day. The positions up for election are Vice-Chair (currently held by Robert Fowler), two Council seats (currently held by Roger Straw and Linda Shady) and one Peacemaker position (held by Renee Gralewicz who stepped in to fill the recent vacancy left by Caroline Andler).
Today, the first candidate has publicly announced his candidacy. Seth Elsen, grandson of Ranona Elsen who was very active with the Tribe in the 1980’s and instrumental in getting our original petition together, is a descendant of the Mohegan Brueshels. Despite college and graduate school, and being newly married (2016), Seth has been actively involved with the Tribe over the past decade. He has served on the Envision and 2013 grant committees and has been instrumental in helping to organize the well-attended annual Pacific Northwest gatherings. More recently, Seth has taken over the responsibility of the Brothertown Indian Nation Quarterly Report.
By all indications, Seth seems to be taking his candidacy very seriously. He has a blog site and Facebook presence wherein he identifies several key issues that he says are important to him and that he plans to work with Council to accomplish. One of these issues is the transparency of the workings of our Tribal government. As a resident of the state of Washington and through his contact with hundreds of other displaced Brothertown, he is well aware of the importance of communication for our people. Transparency, he believes, will help to unite the Tribe, encourage more active participation, and strengthen our community. He also plans to assist in expanding volunteer opportunities so that out-of state members can be more actively involved no matter where they live. To learn more about Seth and his campaign, please check out his website at https://sethelsen.wordpress.com/ and/or follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BrothertownSeth/.
If you are planning to run for a position in the 2018 elections and would like to have your candidacy information posted to this blog, please send an email to BrothertownCitizen at aol.com.
This Sunday, December 10, 2017, Brothertown Forward will be hosting a presentation by Craig Cipolla, author of Becoming Brothertown. Cipolla will be speaking to us about the research he did on our Brothertown cemeteries in New York and Wisconsin in 2008.
This event is open to the public and begins on Zoom this Sunday evening at 7CT/8ET. You can join via telephone, smart phone, tablet or computer using either this link: https://zoom.us/j/774361835 or by dialing +1 408 638 0968 and entering Meeting ID: 774 361 835.
Coming up the following Sunday, December 17th, also at 7CT/8pm ET, we will be hosting Lani Bartelt and Mark Baldwin and will be discussing/remembering the Tribe and its activities during the 1980’s. Connection details will be posted on Facebook or can be obtained by contacting me or BrothertowForward at gmail.com.
Finally, thank you to Renee Gralewicz for sharing the following link and recording of the recent presentation on Native American Activisim at the BINCC given by Heather Bruegl, Oneida: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clT2-x9sI-8&t=8s
Renee also shared another link concerning sulfide mining which was given at UW Fox Valley by Guy Reiter, Menominee: https://www.youtube.com/watch:v=hqX2OyhF4PQ&t=20s
Additional Brothertown related YouTube videos can be found on Brothertown Forward’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVyIbYm-3pJ-sJ-XsXm6rog/videos?view_as=subscriber
Photo credit: Thank you to Gabriel Kastelle for taking this picture in August at the Mohegan museum.
~Peacemaker Renee Gralewicz gave a Zoom presentation on The Brothertown Collection on the 27th of August. Among other things, the talk included background information on how the Collection was obtained, an index of some of the contents, and several scans of letters written by Brothertons who served during the Civil War. A recording of this presentation should be available soon. Please contact BrothertownForward@gmail.com for further information.
~Also via Zoom AND in person at the BINCC, Craig Cottrell will be doing a talk on our Brothertown Constitution September 16th immediately following the Council meeting that day (approximately 1:30pm CT). All Brothertons are welcome to attend. Please contact Brothertown Forward (BrothertownForward@gmail.com) for login information.
~The deadline for submitting articles or member news for the next quarterly report is October 10th. Please have everything in to Seth Elsen (SethElsen@gmail.com) by that date. If you did not receive the summer edition this past July, please contact the office to update your email address. If you normally receive your newsletter via the US Post Office, you did not receive the summer issue. The editor very recently learned that there was a problem in the relay to the printer and the last edition was never printed. He hopes to avoid similar problems and delays by working more directly with the printer in the future.
~Mark your calendars for Brothertown Homecoming October 21st.
~The next trip to “old Brothertown” in New York for cemetery clean up is scheduled for the first weekend in November (Nov. 3-5). Current plans are to arrive at the local hotel Friday evening, go out to the cemeteries Saturday morning and then spend some portion of the afternoon with local historical society members and do some sightseeing. A trip to nearby Hamilton College may also be in the works. If you’d like to participate, please contact me at BrothertownCitizen@aol.com.
~Finally, I am pleased to report that a number of the Samson Occom doll display sets have found homes. If you’d like to visit one, they can be found at the Mohegan Tribal museum in CT, Amherst College in Massachusetts, Marshall Historical Society in New York, and soon, in Wisconsin at the Brothertown Museum and at the Wisconsin Historical Society. Additionally, an Occom travel set will be auctioned off at the Tribal Homecoming on October 21st. I still have a few doll sets available for sale. If you are interested in one of them, please let me know.
If you haven’t already seen it on the Brothertown Facebook page, the summer quarterly report is out. Seth Elsen did a wonderful job! It is eye-catching and in an easy-to-read format. There is one article in particular that I would like to share. It is about our other arm of government: the Peacemakers. Before I do that though, I need to address something that is missing from this report.
Last November, an item appeared in the quarterly report which incorrectly singled out head Peacemaker Edd Welsh and Peacemaker Dennis Gramentz as not having been sworn in. Both men had, of course, been sworn in long ago. This fact has been verified by our Chairman. Council was emailed with the request that a retraction be printed in the next quarterly report. However, for some reason Council put this to a vote and decided not to print a retraction. Why? If an organization publicly prints an inaccuracy about someone(s), should it not also publicly print a retraction to correct that error? Both for the sake of the individuals who were wronged and also for recipients who may not know that this was only an error.
While we are on the subject of swearing in Peacemakers, our newest elected Peacemaker, Mr. Greg Wilson, will be sworn in at the Brothertown picnic this Saturday at the BINCC. Also, Ms. Renee Gralewicz was sworn in as a Peacemaker earlier this year after Peacemaker Caroline Andler resigned. Here is a copy of that article:
New Peacemaker Named
Congratulations and thank you to Renee Gralewicz for stepping into the Peacemaker position recently vacated by Mrs. Caroline Andler. Ms. Gralewicz is a veteran of the U.S. Army and currently an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley. Among other Tribal volunteer projects and positions, she did an exemplary job serving as Tribal Secretary from 2009 until 2014. While her dedication and abilities will certainly serve the Tribe well in her new capacity, Peacemaker Andler leaves some big shoes to fill.
Mrs. Andler has served as a Peacemaker since 2014. Prior to this, she held numerous positions in the Tribe including Secretary, Genealogist, and Chairperson of the Recognition Committee. Yet none of these titles even begins to reflect the dedication and service she has extended to and for the Tribe and its citizens since the 1990’s. Her dedication to the Brothertown people has often been felt on private and personal levels while at other times, such as with her instrumental involvement in the return of the “Brothertown Collection”, her impact has been felt more broadly.
The Tribe honored her in 2009 with the Joseph Johnson Award for “OUTSTANDING SERVICE to the Tribe.” This was part of a resolution passed by Council which also cited several more of Mrs. Andler’s Brothertown achievements and gave voice to the heartfelt “THANK YOU!” and recognition that her steadfast efforts deserve. She has truly been, and continues to be, someone Joseph Johnson and all of our Brothertown Ancestors can be very proud of.
Hymnody was a long-term cultural practice among the Brothertown Indians. It neither began nor carried on in a void. Rather, like seeds in a field, Brothertown hymnody was planted, cultivated, and harvested; repeatedly. The fruits of these harvests are visible throughout our history as well as in modern times.
Hymn singing was something the Brotherton engaged in, generally at least weekly, and often, daily, since the very beginning. It should not be surprising then, to see these “seeds” bear fruit. Most often, fruits reaped were on an individual and private level and are no longer identifiable (i.e. not found in a book or among someone’s memoirs). At other times, such as with Wesson Gage Miller’s quote in Part Four of this series, one can witness a bit of this harvest in the form of praises lauded by those who heard the Brotherton sing. At still other times, harvests have been larger with a more easily identifiable connection to the well-cultivated, fertile soil of Brothertown’s rich and enduring practice of hymnody. Such is the case with Thomas Commuck and his Indian Melodies.
In 1845, seventy-one years after Samson Occom published his hymnal, Wisconsin Brotherton Thomas Commuck published a book of his own. Commuck’s book, unlike Occom’s, contained music notation in addition to text. Commuck wrote his own melodies but did not write the texts he joined to them. Like Occom, his publication rendered Commuck the honor of a Native American “first”. Thomas Commuck was the first Native American to publish his own tunes in “Euramerican” music notation (16) (contemporary notes on a music staff). Notably, Indian Melodies was also the first book in Wisconsin to be printed using shape notes. This is an interesting detail.
According to the mainshakers.com website, “Shape notes, [is] a form of musical notation that assigns geometric shapes to note heads… to simplify community a cappella [voice only] singing.” Shape note singing, for those who have never heard of it, is nothing like the refined sound of a choir. In fact, it is “not performance but participatory music…usually sung at full volume in an exuberant outpouring of sound and feeling.” “It has a distinctive sound… [and] unusual harmonies (17).” Harmonies are sung in three and four parts. All of this exactly matches what we know of Brothertown singing from the beginning. While the founders only used 3 part harmonies at Moor’s school, by Commuck’s time at least, the Brotherton were singing 4 parts.
In recent months, the musical planting and cultivating which our Brothertown ancestors labored at, has begun to sprout anew. In April of this year, independent scholar and shape note singer, Gabriel Kastelle, gave a presentation to our citizens on Brothertown hymnody. Kastelle’s talk is available to watch at https://youtu.be/ObynOmEWr88. Also in April, two students at Yale Divinity School gave a presentation on Thomas Commuck and his Indian Melodies. They are planning to do a similar presentation for Brothertown citizens via Zoom on June 4th at 8pm ET (please contact me for login info or check the BIN Facebook page). Finally, talks have been underway to both have Commuck’s tunes sung and recorded by shape-note singers and to have the singers travel to Brothertown, Wisconsin to help us “re-remember” this important part of our culture.
Thomas Commuck’s Indian Melodies was not randomly published in a musical void. It was the direct result of the long continuity and prominent place of hymnody in Brothertown. The seeds our ancestors planted have borne fruit for hundreds of years: from pre-Brothertown to Occom’s hymnal to Commuck’s Indian Melodies and beyond. With the recent renewed interest of individual scholars, the shape note community, and others, now is a good time to begin cultivating these ancestral fields once more. God willing, may this renewed interest in Commuck’s music yield a fruitful harvest for the Brothertown Indians, the shape note community and all those interested in Thomas Commuck, hymnody, and/or Native American culture.
(16) Levine, Victoria Lindsay. Writing American Indian Music: Historic Transcriptions, Notation, and Arrangements p. xxxvii.
(17) http://ncshapenote.org/what.shtml What is Shape Note Music?
While the early New England missionaries and Wheelock’s Moor’s Charity School did indeed teach three part singing to many of our Brothertown ancestors, the evidence shows that this was not the first time it had been used among our people. The evidence also shows that at least 125 years before the founding of Brothertown, Native American hymnody amongst our parent tribes in New England was not mere recitation of tunes but was ‘shaped’ by them: adapted, enlivened and sung in a unique manner; a manner one might correctly term “shape-note singing”, although the term itself had not yet been invented.
For the Brothertown people, hymnody has been a culturally expressive, enduring communal activity from generation to generation. Our ancestors carried this tradition with them from New England to Brothertown New York, and from New York to the shores of Lake Winnebago. Now it is our turn to plant and cultivate. Let us not dishonor our ancestors by laying Brothertown hymnody back on the bookshelf of history between the bookends of Occom’s Choice Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs and Commuck’s Indian Melodies. Rather, let us do our part to commemorate and revitalize this important cultural practice of the Brothertown Indians. Familiarize yourself with the tunes, watch the video mentioned above, and/or order Gabriel Kastelle’s CD sampler of 9 Commuck tunes arranged for and played on the violin. Visit the fasola.org website to learn more about shape note singing and to see where you can take part in a singing in your area. Take your Brothertown friends and family along with you. Be ready next homecoming, picnic, or powwow to head up a little singing! Let’s remember and honor our Tribe and Ancestors by bringing hymnody back to its rightful place within our Brothertown culture.