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).”
245 years ago today, March 13, 1773, our ancestors gathered in Mohegan for the first planning meeting for the community that would eventually become Brothertown. Happy Anniversary, Brothertown!
This 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 founding fathers. Not only is this a unique opportunity to gain insight and to speak with a knowledgeable researcher and author on Joseph Johnson, but it is also a great opportunity to connect with your Brothertown family no matter where you live. Don’t miss out!
This is a family-friendly event and is open to the public. See you there!
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.
Just as it is difficult to know with 100% certainty exactly how Occom and our ancestors pronounced and defined “Eeyawquittoowauconnuck”, so too, it is difficult to know exactly why they named their town “Brotherton” or precisely what that name reflected for them. However, by looking at the writings of our founders and viewing other communities and documents from the same area and time period, modern day scholars have made some well-educated guesses as to where the name Brothertown came from, what it may have meant to our Tribal Founders, and how it was used throughout our time in New York.
On Dartmouth’s Occom Circle site, it states, “They named the land Brothertown to both reflect their intention to live with fellow tribes as brothers and also to pay tribute to Brotherton, a Delaware Indian reservation in New Jersey that served as an inspiration for the Christian Indian Settlement (1).” That Occom knew about this community is likely. That the Brotherton Indians of New Jersey moved to Oneida lands in New York in the early 1800’s is unquestionable(2). However, any substantiation to the claim that Occom’s Brotherton was named in tribute to this community has proven elusive thus far. Many scholars have looked elsewhere for explanations on the origins of the name “Brothertown”.
Author Brad Jarvis sees the choice of the name “Brothertown” as a reflection of how our founders viewed their new community. “Symbolic of the proposed internal cohesion of the town’s new name, the residents, “concluded to live in peace, and in friendship and to go on in all [their] public concerns in harmony; both in religious and temporal concerns, and every one to bear his part of Public Charges in the Town (3).” Jarvis offers another glimpse of how the early Brothertown people saw their community, as well as the boundaries and racism they experienced outside of it, through a 1795 interview conducted by some Quaker ministers. An unidentified Brotherton man told them that he, “hoped the partition wall that divided nations would be broken down, bigotry and prejudice done away, and all mankind come to live more like brothers.” “Such language,” Jarvis comments, “reflected the founding principles of Brothertown-a community defined by Christian brotherhood, kinship, and mutual partnership (p 149) (4).”
In his book, Becoming Brothertown: Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World, Craig Cipolla describes Occom’s view of Brothertown as being “a community linked by shared religious views and approaches to the politics of colonial North America (p 53).” He points out that the name “Brothertown” accomplished two important things: 1) It was relatable both to Natives, where “brother” or “brethren” denoted Native kinship, and to Euro-Americans who saw it in terms of Christian brotherhood. 2) The name also gave our ancestors a commonality. They were no longer, “Narragansett, Mohegan, Montauk, etc, but were now “Brotherton”(p64ff). In this book, Cipolla also looks at usage of the term ‘Brothertown” in the 18th and 19th centuries and compares how it was viewed by Euro-Americans as opposed to the Brotherton themselves. In short, Euro-Americans tended to place more emphasis on Brothertown being a location or a “town” while the Brotherton people used the name to “mark shared ethnic and racial identities (p63)”.
While there may be differing theories as to where the idea for the name of Brothertown originated and what exactly it may have meant to our founders, there is little doubt of the hopes that this new community held for its people. As they themselves have said across multiple decades, Brothertown was meant to be a shining example of peace, friendship and harmony; a place where bigotry, prejudice and walls of division would no longer exist and where we all would live like brothers.
~to be continued.
(3)Jarvis, Brad. The Brothertown Nation of Indians, p 115.
(4) Ibid, p 119
Note: If you are interested in exploring how the name “Brothertown” has changed in usage and meaning over the years, please see Craig Cipolla’s book, Becoming Brothertown: Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World, chapter 4.
Daunted by its 22 letters and 7 syllables, some people simply refer to it as “the E-word”. However, Eeyawquittoowauconnuck is not just a word; it is a name. It is our name; one that holds meaning and value for us as a People. For those who are not already comfortable using it, it is well worth taking a few minutes to become more familiar with “Eeyawquittoowauconnuck”*.
For the sake of ease, let’s start by dividing Eeyawquittoowauconnuck into 7 manageable syllables. They look like this:
Now, lets pronounce them*. Try saying these out loud:
“Ee” (pronounced just like it looks…like the long sound of the letter “e” as in “me”)–Ee
“Yaw” (rhyme it with “paw”)–Yaw
Next, put those 2 together: “Ee”+“Yaw”= “Eeyaw”.
Say it out loud so your tongue and ears get used to it.
“quit”(pronounce it with a long “ee” sound in the middle so it rhymes with “tweet”)—quit
“too”(also like the English word too)—too
Now put them together and say them out loud. “quit”+”too”=“quittoo”.
Let’s go back and pick up the first part and pair it with this: “Eeyaw” + “quittoo”=“Eeyawquittoo”
Good job, we’re almost done!
The next 3 syllables are:
“wau” (rhyme it with “la”)—wau
“con” (like the English word con)—con
“nuck” (rhymes with truck)—nuck
Now, put those 3 together: “wau”+”con”+”nuck”=“wauconnuck”. Say it again, “wauconnuck”.
Finally, lets put the entire word back together: “Eeyawquittoo”+”wauconnuck”=”Eeyawquittoowauconnuck”.
Congratulations, you did it! Now keep using it. Try it out at the next Brothertown gathering, teach it to your kids, greet one another with it. Eeyawquittoowauconnuck is who we are. Say it often and say it proudly: Eeyawquittoowauconnuck!
*It should be noted that the above pronunciation of “Eeyawquittoowauconnuck” is based on the author’s personal estimation of Occom’s spelling of the word as found in his journal entry of November 7, 1785. Occom had a strong grasp of the phonetic sounds of English letters and wrote the name accordingly. The author acknowledges that there is, however, some room for variation. For example, the double o’s in the 4th syllable, “too,” suggest that Occom heard it as either the “oo” sound as in “too”(as presented here) or possibly, the “Uh” sound as in “book”. Mohegan linquist, Stephanie Fielding, suggests that Eeyawquittoowauconnuck, in Mohegan orthography today, might be spelled “Iyáhqituwôkanuk”(1). Using the Mohegan pronunciation guide(2), as found in Fielding’s work at http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/collections/MoheganDictionary.pdf, the pronunciation of this 4th syllable (“too”/”tu”), might change the sound into “uh” as in “pup”.
- Brooks, Joanna. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan. p25, Footnote 28.
- Fielding, Stephanie. A Modern Mohegan Dictionary, 2006, pp 9-10.