Happy Samson Occom Day!

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Brothertown has been significantly blessed throughout the centuries with industrious, well-educated, and noteworthy citizens who have spent their lives in service to our people and others. Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, William Fowler, Alonzo D. Dick, William H. Dick, and Thomas Commuck are a few of these names. Probably the most well-known, however, is the name of Samson Occom (Mohegan/Brothertown).

Occom’s notoriety goes well beyond Brothertown, Native America, or even the century in which he lived. He was instrumental in the founding of Dartmouth College, helped establish the community of Deansboro (“old Brothertown”) in New York and fathered the Brothertown Tribe; all of which continue to exist more than two centuries later. He wrote hymns that are still sung; was the first person to publish an interdenominational hymnal; wrote the first Native American autobiography; and penned letters, sermons, and journals that are read and studied in classroom settings across the nation. Occom was the second Native American to be published (about 6 months after son-in-law Joseph Johnson (Mohegan/Brothertown)), and the first to be published internationally when his A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul was printed and sold in England.

Occom died in New York on July 14, 1792. Although he was a Presbyterian minister, the Episcopal Church has set this date aside as an annual feast day in tribute to him. Let us mark our own calendars and join them each year on July 14th in remembering this truly remarkable Brothertown man.

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1854 Fourth of July Speech by wise Mahican John W. Quinney — White Raven Archives Project

“Oh! what a mockery!! to confound justice with law. Will you look steadily at the intrigues, bargains, corruption and log-rolling of your present Legislatures, and see any trace of the divinity of justice? And by what test shall be tried the acts of the old Colonial Courts and Councils?”

via 1854 Fourth of July Speech by wise Mahican John W. Quinney — White Raven Archives Project

Brothertown Elections: A 233-Year-Old Tradition

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary, Brothertown!

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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!

Joseph Johnson Presentation This Sunday

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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!

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.

This is a family-friendly event and is open to the public. See you there!

2018 Upcoming Brothertown Events

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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.

“What’s In a Name?” Final Installment: There’s a “Brother” in Brothertown

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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.

Thomas Commuck Singing Event This Saturday

On Saturday, February 3, 2018, a singing will take place in Yale University’s “Connecticut Hall.” Shape-note singers, Yale Associates, Brothertown Indians, and other Native Americans will gather to sing and record a significant number of tunes written and published (1845) by Brothertown Thomas Commuck in his Indian Melodies tune book. For those unfamiliar with the […]

via Thomas Commuck Shape-Note Singing Event this Saturday — Brothertown Forward

“What’s In A Name?” Part VI: Beyond New York

When the Brothertown Indians traveled from upstate New York to their new home in what would eventually become the state of Wisconsin, another chapter in their history began.  This new chapter, like their genesis in western New York, also necessitated the naming of their new town.   This name, as well as other writings, provide a clue into the self-envisioning of the Brothertown people during this period and offer insight as to what the name “Brothertown” meant to this Wisconsin Tribe in the mid-1800’s.

Thomas Dean, a Quaker agent paid to help the New York Indians, arranged a treaty in the 1820’s which resulted in the Brotherton purchasing 153,000 acres in Kaukauna in Wisconsin Territory .  Later, treaties were re-negotiated and the land reduced to 23,040 acres and moved to the east side of Lake Winnebago.   The first Brothertown families arrived here in 1831 with more following throughout the ‘30’s and ‘40’s.  The name first given to this settlement was “Deansburg”, in honor of Thomas Dean, and the 10+ years he spent helping them to obtain new lands.  According to the book, Thirty Years in the Itinerancy, it was in 1841 that “the town was changed to Brothertown, this name having taken the place of Deansburg in honor of the Brothertown Nation (page 16).“  It is interesting to note, as Craig Cipolla does in his book, Becoming Brothertown, that while the name “Brotherton” may have officially been the name of their town in New York, before the move to Wisconsin, it had also become synonymous with the name of the Tribe.

Thomas Commuck, one of the first to arrive in the Lake Winnebago area, and very active in Tribal affairs, wrote a letter to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1855.  In his letter, he spoke of the naming of “Brotherton” New York saying, “in consequence of the good wishes, and kind and brotherly feelings that actuated and bound them together, they unanimously concluded to call the new settlement by the name of Brothertown.”   One would suppose, this same sentiment is what guided the 1841 Tribe to once more name their town “Brothertown”.   To better understand the meaning of this name and the closeness amongst Tribal members which it represented, one need only check the local papers.

On December 13, 1894, a newspaper called The Oshkosh Northwestern, printed some remembrances of the Brotherton people in Wisconsin as written by a Mr. Wright who had stayed there in 1836.  Wright noted the Brotherton’s “nearly” daily practice of spending evenings together as a community.  “They were very socially inclined.  Neighborhood gatherings would take place nearly every evening in the week, at which they would engage innocent games or dancing, of which they were very fond (p1).”  Wright goes on to describe their communal “logging bees” and the foods and entertainment they enjoyed there.  He reminisced that they had 2 fiddle players and did some clogging and singing.  Wright concludes this section saying, “These logging bees were great features with the Brothertown people.  Everyone was willing to turn out and help his neighbor.”

Twice, the Brothertown people chose to name their town “Brothertown”.  This name was more than just the name of a town or a Tribe; it also described the intention of the people therein to live as “brothers”.  Despite their change of location and circumstances in the mid-1800’s, the heart of the Tribe continued to hold fast to its original intent of being a place where “kind and brotherly feelings…bound them together”.  In more modern times, while no Tribal members currently reside within the original lands in Brothertown, Wisconsin, this “brotherly” bond continues to be the strength and glue that binds the Brothertown Indian Nation together as a people.

~to be continued…

2018 Brothertown Indian Nation Elections

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.