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Native American/American History of Massachusetts:Mishalisk, Mother of the Valley

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Published on Mar 26, 2014

Native American/American History: Central Connecticut Valley brought to you by Oso:ah Foundation, "A Tree Planted in the Name of Peace."

A Geo-History as Ode to Place: This is a history of Central Connecticut Valley from the early 1600's to present day, Part 1, in poetic and photojournal form. This is the story of Mishalisk, last surviving clan mother of the town of Mattampash, Massachusetts, known today as Sunderland (there are 2 Sunderlands in MA). It is also the story of America, of migration, conflict, and resolution, of the land that has endured always, and the treasures she holds.

This is a story about finding roots in an uprooted era, about re-uniting what has been divided, rediscovering what has been hidden away. This is a healing spell, a medicine powwow,and you are invited.

Poetry: RG Cachat-Schilling, Photography: James Schilling-Cachat. Polycelis remota (Sunderland Spring Planarian), a critcally-endangered species, drawn by RG. Illustrations reproduced from "New England Indians," C. K. Wilbur, 1978, with thanks. Spear points circa 8,500 BCE: Ahksakw Site (Sugarloaf Site, S. Deerfield, MA. Photos taken on location on Kunckquatchu.

"O Mishalisk, resting aged but not exhausted at Kunckquatchu,
The hills and hollows of your face shade Connecticut's ashen,
Muddy banks, hide ravens and stealhy herons on Mattamacket
That spear from cobbles at fingerlings of shad and salmon.

"Your sorrows pour forth at Roaring Brook and Sankrohockoun,
Calling from the falls, drenching your locks, the ravines
Mantled in deep hemlock and pink lady's slippers,
Winding silent through wapato and flooded swamp maples.

"Your gown drapes richly diverse on a warp of oak and hickory,
The endless threads woven from twinflower and berried wintergreens,
Gaywing and mayflowers, wakerobin and bloodroot, old grapevines,
Towering into the canopy and sequined with viburnum and dogwood blooms.

"Your breasts flow with sweetwater springs, vernal pools, and swamps,
Writhing now with spotted salamanders on pilgrimage, emerged under
Blue shine of a waxing equinoctial moon, among fiddleheads and buds,
Self-heated speathes of skunkcabbage, to the ecstatic song of peepers.

"Your womb is guarded by Vulture Peak's ledges, among the old sugar maples,
Near Nepessoneag's headwater, refuge of the glacial flatworm named 'remota,'
Whose foggy eyes saw the passing of megafauna and the first huddled humans,
Arrived at enormous distance and searching with their close-kept clans.

"Your navel springs from a cusp of knolls, behind golden unkum-root daisies,
Coveys of bog violet and cresses, channelling through reefs and tills,
Where turns a little dance between the bright exotic oxidates of migrant ores
And by chance that relic microbe, swimming away millennia about the grains.

"Your bowels hold and archive of lost eons and precious relics, the last,
The only of ram's head and showy lady's slippers, putty root and boreal
Brittle fern, embraced by your lime, your singular arkose, by aggregates
Set with quartz, jasper, and garnet jewels, embedded in frail pummice.

"Your vulvic grotto beckons, Aphrodite's magic shell borne on lichen,
Chastely cached, cloaked under your oldest hemlocks and garlanded,
By ebony and maidenhair spleewort, red columbine and purple clematis,
Where bitten hunters forget their game and hermits count glory's hours.

"Your limbs give grace and depth to black-earth cotinakeesh riverside,
To the sisters squash, bean, and maize, to the waterlillies at Agassatik,
Pink, yellow, and white, to the gathered braid of streams at Aquipinnic,
And in the lee of Ahsakw's double monolith: shelter to a nestled village.

"O Mishalisk, did Giant Beaver still haunt the swamps at Noycoy and Norwottuck,
When the Grandfathers first lit fires and worked stone 'neath the great red rock,
When men followed fish runs up the long estuary , months at a time,
When they chased falls leaves and shaggy herds along melting ranges?

"Tell me, Old Woman of Lineage, does your storehouse of dreams and memory
Recall the ancient snailshell huts, the first wikwams, first earthen hearthpots,
The first canes of maize embraced by bean tendrils, the first tobacco dance,
The song of powwow's pure white roots in that language old and unknown?

"O Mishalisk, young among aunts and sisters, working porcupine quill,
Feather and quahog beads into finery, drying fish, squash, pemmican,
Berries with the seasons, your clans' villages crowded along the banks,
Trading fine tobacco and dried corn north, fish west, and skins east.

"Tell me Nipmuc daughter, were your brothers hunting the chestnut ridges,
Your aunts loading baskets in the cotinakeesh, your uncles working out layered
Webs of bartered fields, fishing shares, counting out the groves to be harvested;
Were your sons yet born when the strange boatmen appeared at Hockanum?"

End of Part 1. To be continued . . . .

Copyrights reserved: RG and JD Cachat-Schilling, Oso:ah Foundation, 2012.

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