Friday, December 13, 2013

The Beat Goes On
Town Committee Revises Draft 
Native American Burial Ground Ordinance

The efforts to permanently protect the Ancestors at White Ash Swamp continue as deliberations on a draft Native American Burial Ground Ordinance appear to be headed toward a possible vote by the Greenfield Town Council on January 15, 2014.  

Although the draft was originally passed at the November 4 meeting of the Appointments and Ordinance Committee, concerns raised and a change in committee leadership led to a revision in the draft ordinance.  According to Councilor Marian Kelner that revision is expected to be voted on and passed by the committee on its January 13 meeting, and taken up two days later by the entire town council.

Although passage seems likely at this point, there is no guarantee.  Nolumbeka Project asks for your continued support.  Each telephone call to a town official, each letter to the editor, each personal appearance at a town meeting makes a difference.  It is possible that decades of effort may come to fruition with the new year.  

The Tragic Tale of White Ash Swamp

In the Spring and Summer of 1964, amateur archeologist George Nelson was astonished.
Originally given permission by Peter Mackin to search for Native American artifacts in Mackin's sand and gravel pit in Greenfield MA, Nelson could not have imagined what he would discover.

During the course of several months, Nelson saw the unearthing of what appeared to be Native American burials during the daily excavations for sand and gravel.  He then witnessed human skulls and skeletal remains being bulldozed into the swampy ground of White Ash Swamp across the road.  In a gruesome tale cited in Nelson's affidavit below, Native American remains were being unceremoniously dumped daily in a swamp in the project to widen Highway 2.

This began decades of effort to protect and preserve the last remaining undeveloped piece of Wissatinnewag, the ancient Native American village that spanned both sides of the Connecticut River at the Great Falls. Through the leadership of Monique Fordham and Howard Clark and the hard work of many dedicated volunteers, Friends of Wissatinnewag, a non-profit founded to purchase the land, successfully acquired 61 acres of the Mackin Property in 2001.

But now, a dozen years later, the work continues.

With Wissatinnewag now under our stewardship, Nolumbeka Project is seeking to permanently protect the remains of the Ancestors at White Ash Swamp.  In October, 2013, Nolumbeka Project Senior Researcher/Archeologist Howard Clark approached the Town of Greenfield Appointments and Ordinance Committee.  His efforts led to the passing of a draft ordinance protecting Native American burials and re-burials by the committee on November 4 with the recommendation of its passage by the Town Council.  

But, at this point, there is no guarantee.  

Originally slated to be discussed and voted on in the November 20 town council meeting, public deliberations were postponed -- and the controversy continues.  (See Nolumbeka Now, November 15).  Nolumbeka Project has now incurred significant legal expense in our efforts.   We seek the support of those interested in this attempt to prevent further desecration of the re-burials at White Ash Swamp.

Read Nelson's chilling account in his own words in the affidavit  below:

George Nelson's Affidavit:

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Beaver Moon Gathers Spirited Supporters in Turners Falls

 "If you look into the eyes of a young child, you're going to see the ancestors of the last seven generations looking back at you.  Seeing that, you need to understand that we are here today because of the prayers and the mindfulness and the choices and actions of the past seven generations.  If you then look away and look quickly back, you'll see the eyes of the yet unborn.  Seeing that, you'll be reminded that we need to be mindful, respectful and accountable to the next seven generations, that our prayers need to go out to them."
--- Joe Graveline, from his opening remarks at the Beaver Moon Gathering

Graveline and HIggiins Open Gathering (Photo by Skye Wellington)
As a group of bright eyed children gathered around Loril Moondream, a storyteller with Apache roots who operates Medicine Mammals a wildlife rehabilitation program in Wendell, you could hear drumming through the door to the Great Hall of the Discovery Center in Turners Falls.  The smell of freshly baked traditional foods and pastries filled the air along with the hum of spirited conversation.

On Saturday, November 16,  200 people from across the region came together to enjoy an array of Native American music, educational activities, food and crafts at the Beaver Moon Gathering organized by the Nolumbeka Project.  Beginning with the opening words and music of Nolumbeka Project President, Joe Graveline and Native American flute virtuoso Barry Higgins, the program included performances by Strong Oak and the Visioning B.E.A.R. Drum Singers, and the Medicine Mammal Singers.  As well as the two children's craft activities presented by MoonDream, Neill Bovaird of Wolf Tree Program demonstrated  stone tool making and firemaking to interested children and adults during the course of the day.  A number of vendors and exhibitors including French/Iroquis artist Neil Dargis and Seneca potter David Pinkham displayed their arts and information.

As well as presenting an exhibit of Native American 3 Sisters Gardening and sharing some of his own jewelry as raffle gifts, Nolumbeka Project's Howard Clark made available binders of information he had collected on the history of the controversy surrounding White Ash Swamp, the ten ace parcel in Greenfield that NP is seeking to protect.  (This information is now available at the Greenfield Public Library.)

Strong Oak and Visioning B.E.A.R. (Photo by John Furbish)
A raffle drawing for a number of beautiful gifts including a frame drum crafted by Strong Oak, and hand-crafted Native American jewelry was held as the day came to a close and the spirit of celebration drifted into the November air. 

(You will find many more photos of the event, artwork, raffle items etc., and a list of raffle winners and gifts on our Facebook Page)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nolumbeka Project on the Air!

Nolumbeka Project President Joe Graveline met with host Paul Richmond on WMCB's "Imagine" at on Wednesday, November 20 to speak about our efforts to protect the ancestors at White Ash Swamp and the other work of the Nolumbeka Project!

If you missed it, this show will be rebroadcast: 
Tuesday, November 21 at 1 AM  WMCB on the Web!
Sunday, November 24 at 7 PM on WMCB 107.9 Greenfield and WMCB on the Web!
Monday, November 25 at 7 AM  WMCB on the Web

Joe will also be a guest on WMCB's "The Singing Wilderness with Beth Adams" this week. The show, which features Native American issues and music airs live on Thursday, November 21 at Noon on 107.9 FM Greenfield and WMCB on the Web!

You you miss it, this show will be rebroadcast:
Friday, November 22 at 12 Midnight WMCB on the Web
Sunday, November 24 at 10 PM WMCB 107.9 Greenfield and WMCB on the Web
Monday, November 25 at 10 AM WMCB on the Web

Please help us get the word out by telling your friends, posting on Facebook, etc.    

Monday, November 18, 2013

Native American Burial Ground Ordinance Discussion Delayed

Although passed by a majority of the Appointments and Ordinance Committee on November 4, the  Greenfield Town Council will not be discussing or voting on the Native American Burial Protection Ordinance on Wednesday, November 20 as had been previously announced. 

See the article below (Nolumbeka Project's Effort to Protect White Ash Swamp Intensifies, Nolumbeka Now!, November 15) for more. 

A binder of documents on the history of this controversy compiled by Nolumbeka Project Clerk and Senior Researcher/Anthropologist Howard Clark is available at the Greenfield Public Library.

Stay tuned here or the Nolumbeka Project Facebook Page for the latest developments in our effort to protect White Ash Swamp.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nolumbeka Project's Effort to Protect White Ash Swamp Intensifies

 “Lets lose the fear over this conversation and embrace 
a future where all are welcomed and respected.”
---Joe Graveline, President, Nolumbeka Project 

At the Greenfield Town Council meeting on November 20, Nolumbeka Project continues its effort to permanently protect the 10 acres of White Ash Swamp.  This site, where remains of Native American residents of the ancient village of Wissatinnewag were dumped in 1964, is currently suggested for a conservation restriction supervised by the Town of Greenfield, but this protection would not be adequate -- or permanent.

In October, hoping for improved protections, Nolumbeka Project's Clerk and Senior Researcher/Anthropologist Howard Clark approached Greenfield's Appointments and Ordinances Committee with documents tracing the history of the issue.

In what Clark characterized as "a good start", a majority of the Committee voted November 4 to recommend passage of a draft ordinance that asserts that such re-burial sites in Greenfield would receive all "treatments and protections" as accorded to Native American burial sites under state and federal law.  Clark hopes that Greenfield’s effort may even lead the way in strengthening relevant Massachusetts law.

Although Greenfield mayor William Martin has said that the ordinance could impede desired development and implied that it might be used to “stall or kill” the arrival of a big box store adjacent to the White Ash Swamp, Clark and Nolumbeka President Joe Graveline maintain otherwise.    

Graveline says, “I have worked on many very large projects over the years as a tribal field monitor during and beyond the archaeological phases of those projects, and I can report…that multi-million-dollar projects and respect for tribal cultural resources and spiritual beliefs can happen all at the same time.”  (See “My Turn” in Greenfield Recorder.)

Nolumbeka Project hopes to continue this important effort at the November 20 meeting of the Greenfield Town Council at 7 p.m. at GCTV, 393 Main Street, 3rd floor.  Your attendance and support will be appreciated.

For those interested in learning more, Howard Clark has assembled a wealth of information which is now available to the public at the Greenfield Public Library.  He also traced the recent history of the controversy surrounding the protection of the property in the Greenfield Recorder. (See My Turn: "Too Many Broken Promises", November 20)

Please contact Nolumbeka Project with any questions and comments.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beaver Moon Gathering, Saturday, November 16

New Raffle Item Photos on Facebook!
(Click to view FB page)

Schedule of Events:

Doors open at Discovery Center, Avenue A Turner’s Falls. at 11 a.m.

 11:15 a.m. - noon (approximately) – Opening words from the President of the Nolumbeka Project, Joe Graveline. Music: Barry Higgins, Native American flute, and Joe Graveline songwriter/guitarist.

11:45 a.m. - 12: 15 p.m.: Children’s crafts activity with Medicine Mammals: Corn husk dolls, $2 per child.

 12:15 - 12:45 p.m. (approximately) Strong Oak and the Visioning B.E A. R. drum singers

12:15-12:45 Stone tool making demonstration with Wolf Tree Programs.Learn how to make arrowheads, knives and stone axes.

12:45 - 1:15 p.m. Children's craft activity with Medicine Mammals: Deer antler necklaces, 
$2 per child.

1:15 - 1:45 p.m. (approximately): Medicine Mammal Singers

 1:15-1:45 Primitive fire making demonstration with Wolf Tree Programs. Learn how the Natives made fire with sticks.

2:00 to 2:30 p.m. (approximately): Raffle drawing

2:30 - 3 p.m. (approximately): Closing

 Vendors: Medicine Mammals: earrings, antler whistles, necklaces, beaded pouches. Neil Dargis tee-shirts with Native American designs; David Pinkham, indigenous pots.  Nolumbeka Project fundraising raffle, traditional native gardens exhibit and more!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nolumbeka Project at the Franklin County Pumpkin Fest!

Look for us at the Franklin County Pumpkin Fest on Avenue A in Turners Falls, 2-9 PM, Saturday, October 19.  

Come and find out about the work we're doing to preserve New England's Tribal Heritage.  
We'll be continuing the sale of tickets to the raffle to be held at our Beaver Moon Gathering in November and will have Three Sisters Heritage Seeds on hand!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Native American Presence at Turners Falls Block Party 2013

 (Look for us next to the Shea Theater!)

Setting their tents side by side, The Nolumbeka Project, Inc. and Medicine Mammals will bring a Native American presence to the Turners Falls Block Party and Heritage Festival on Saturday, August 10, from 2 – 8 p.m.

The Nolumbeka Project will be raffling a moose hide frame drum created especially for the raffle by Strong Oak, Circle Keeper of the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle, as well as four outstanding pieces of Native American jewelry, and several other items. Funds raised from the raffle will be used toward the purchase, protection and maintenance of Native American sacred sites, such as the Wissatinnewag site in Greenfield. Profits will also be used to offset legal expenses associated with acquiring and protecting such sites, and to give support to the ongoing archive digitization project. The raffle drawing will be in November. 

Photo courtesy of Chris Sawyer-Laucanno
Medicine Mammals is a Wildlife Rehabilitation facility in Wendell. Animals are brought there either injured or orphaned and cared for by Loril MoonDream and volunteers. They also offer a variety of programs on wildlife and Native American culture. Loril, who has Apache roots, will bring handmade items to sell and orphaned or injured turtles for people to see. They will have two half-hour sessions for children, at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., to make traditional hand-made cornhusk dolls and antler tip necklaces. The cost is $2. Her singing group comprised of herself, B’N’Ducco, and T’K’Lyn, both of Iroquois and Cherokee heritage, will perform at various times throughout the event. They will sing traditional Native American as well as contemporary music.  All proceeds will benefit Medicine Mammals. For more about the organization, go to

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Brief, Respectful Ceremony

Thanks to Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno and the Montague Reporter for their excellent coverage of the Nolumbeka Project's May 19 gathering--and for their permission to reprint this article in its entirety.  Reconciliation Elegy, a poem by Montague Selectwoman Patricia Pruitt (which we have published elsewhere on this site) was also part of that May 23 issue.

(All photos courtesy of Christoper Sawyer-Laucanno)

Healing Ceremony Held at Discovery Center for the Great Falls Massacre

     TURNERS FALLS---"The reason we are gathered here today is to continue the process of healing," said Joe Graveline, president of the Nolumbeka Project, as he welcomed a crowd of nearly 80 to the Great Falls Discovery Center on May 19.  The gathering to commemorate the 337th anniversary of the Great Falls Massacre, featured talks by Graveline, Barry Higgins (White Crow) master flute maker of Pennacook-Abenaki descent who also played one of his hand-made instruments, and an invocation for peace and healing led by Strong Oak, Circle Keeper of the Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle.
Joe Graveline, president of Nolumbeka Project
Graveline began his talk by thanking the 2004 Montague Selectboard for initiating the Reconciliation Ceremony held at Unity Park in Turners Falls on May 19, 2004.  This ceremony, which took place on the 328th anniversary of Captain William Turner's attack on the peaceful encampment of Native Americans at Peskeompskut (Great Falls), sought to "put the traumatic echoes of the past to rest." The ceremony last Sunday was an effort to continue and renew the spirit of cooperation and healing initiated in 2004.  Two members of the 2004 board, Patricia Allen and Patricia Pruitt, as well as town administrator, Frank Abbondonzio, were in attendance.  Allen Ross, the third member of the 2004 board, was unable to attend.

     Graveline noted that 20 generations had the opportunity to shift the sinister and negative energy to a positive and healing focus, but only in 2004 did this begin to happen.  He stressed that for over ten thousand years this site had been a place of peace, and that it should be again.  The Pocumtucks and their ancestors had long welcomed Native peoples from throughout the region, as the village was located on the confluence of two major Native American travel routes, the Mohawk Trail and the Connecticut River.  Diplomacy, marriage, trade and ceremonies had been held on the site for thousands of years.  In the spring, when the salmon and shad ran the river, Native people's from far and wide came to partake in the river's spectacular bounty.  It was precisely this traditional gathering that was attacked on May 19, 1676.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Nolumbeka Project Now Caretakers of Wissatinnewag!

This is the letter announcing the acquisition of the Wissatinnewag Property from the Friends of Wissatinnewag.                                                                                                                              

February 4, 2013
Dear Friends,

We, the Board of Directors of the Nolumbeka Project, Inc., are pleased to announce that we are now the caretakers of the forty-one acre Wissatinnewag property in Greenfield, MA. The Friends of Wissatinnewag blended into the Nolumbeka Project and the deed to the property was transferred from the Friends of Wissatinnewag, Inc. to the Nolumbeka Project, Inc.  We are eager to move forward on several short and long term projects and welcome your support.

The Nolumbeka Project, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, incorporated in 2009, dedicated to the preservation of the history of Native Americans/American Indians of New England through educational programs, art, history, music, heritage seed preservation and cultural events. We are actively building, maintaining and expanding an historical archive research library for use by the Tribes and Educators of the Northeast. This project has received funding from Credit Data Services, Inc. at Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Returning to Wissatinnewag

February 18, 2013

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we went to the Wissatinnewag property for the first time
since long before it was put under our stewardship in February. It
felt wonderful to return and feel the peace and promise. The land
needs our help in so many ways. Joe and Howard will assess the
priorities. Our goal is to have the property ready for a public event
in mid to late May. If you can offer assistance please contact us
at and give us your phone number.
Joe will then contact you.
Thank you.

The Board of Directors, Nolumbeka Project