STOCKBRIDGE — Descendants of the town's original Native American settlers plan further exploration of their tribal nation's 18th-century local history with two federal- and town-funded archaeological digs next year.
The Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation's project is designed to document and preserve the 1739 Meetinghouse site on Main Street and the site of a 1783 Ox Roast feast along the Housatonic River.
The survey is funded by a $40,000 Community Preservation act approved by annual town meeting voters in July and a grant of nearly $40,000 from the National Park Service program for Underrepresented Communities.
Political discussions and religious services were held at the Meetinghouse when Stockbridge, originally named Indiantown, was settled as a missionary community for the Mohicans and English settlers to coexist and co-govern, according to an announcement from the tribal nation now based in Wisconsin. The survey will add a listing to the Stockbridge Main Street Historic District National Register.
The tribe also plans to continue archaeological testing near the Ice Glen behind Laurel Hill at the site of the Ox Roast feast sponsored by George Washington, in gratitude for the Stockbridge Mohicans who fought on the side of the American Revolution. The location also was the homesite of Mohican "King" Solomon Uhhaunaunauwaunmut.
Surveying began in July 2019. During a visit to the site, a direct descendant of "King" Solomon was escorted by retired Police Chief Rick Wilcox, who has conducted extensive research on the town's early history.
"This was my first time being here," Odessa Arce told The Eagle. "I was really shocked and wasn't sure what to expect. I was surprised how much was left here, even after 300 years. I didn't realize this was here for us to come back to."
The upcoming project is expected to yield additional information to document and preserve the location, said Bonney Hartley, tribal historic preservation manager based in Troy, N.Y.
Both cultural heritage projects are on town-owned land.
"The town of Stockbridge is honored to partner with the Stockbridge Munsee Community," stated Selectman Patrick White. "Our citizens overwhelmingly supported the funding of the Ox Roast project at our annual town meeting in July. We are grateful that the National Park Service has recognized the historical importance of these efforts by funding the Meetinghouse project."
The Stockbridge-Munsee Community will pursue contracts with archaeological firms to begin the project next spring.
"Our time spent in Stockbridge was extremely significant," said Heather Bruegl, cultural affairs director for the tribal nation. "It is wonderful that we are able to keep that history alive and discover more. We are honored and humbled to receive these grants."
According to a signed document in the Stockbridge Library, Museum and Archives, just two months after the Ox Roast feast, the Mohican tribe's chiefs were forced to relocate the community to Oneida tribal lands in western New York, later settling at a reservation in Wisconsin, where they joined the recently established Munsee Nation by treaty in 1856.
About 750 members of the tribe live on or near the reservation in the towns of Red Springs and Bartelme in Shawano County, Wis. The tribal nation operates several businesses, including the Stockbridge-Munsee Health and Wellness Center, Mohican North Star Casino and Pine Hills Golf Course.
Clarence Fanto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.