Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians looking to reclaim ancient burial grounds
Clarence Fanto is reporting for The Berkshire Eagle descendants of the first settlers of Stockbridge, Mass. want to reclaim land on a quiet, forested nook overlooking the Stockbridge Golf Course. Dating back nearly 300 years, the location is a burial site for ancestors who lived in the community then known as “Indian Town.” The Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians is seeking reclamation of the Burial Ground site off Main Street. According to a tribal history, “it is highly likely that tribal members were buried here long before the colonial period, and that this burial ground was in fact a continuation.” In a letter to the Select Board, Bonney Hartley, the historic preservation manager for the tribe, cites the “official and sacred responsibility for our Nation to preserve our ancestral burial grounds and other cultural sites such as these in our Mohican homelands.” The town took possession of the land in 1809 as European colonialists forced remaining members of the tribe to escape westward, a migration that began in 1783. “It would be very meaningful and significant to, more than 200 years later, be able to restore this burial ground to our people,” Hartley wrote. She noted the land agreement between five Stockbridge-Munsee sachems [chiefs] and local resident Dr. Oliver Partridge sought to protect the burial grounds and prevent “the soil from being removed so that the bones [of] our Ancestors may there lie undisturbed.” A monument at the site includes a barely legible, weather-beaten inscription: “The ancient burial place of the Stockbridge Indians 1734, the friends of our fathers.” The Select Board will discuss the appeal on July 28, board Chairman Patrick White said. If the board okays the return of the burial site, the property transfer likely would be submitted to residents during a special town meeting in the fall. “These folks want their ancestors’ bones back, who can argue with that?” White said. “It’s a small parcel with a lot of history and meaning to everybody, especially since it’s an ancestral homeland. I think symbols matter, it’s important that we continue to recognize our shared history in this space. ...” Read the full story in The Berkshire Eagle.