‘Mohegan Experience’ looks at tradition
By Judy Henderson - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Wed., Nov. 23, 2011
When library manager Amy McCue learned that November was Native American History Month, she decided that Windsor’s small Wilson Library branch should have its own native American history experience. On Saturday, Nov. 19, it did just that, thanks to Sue Meehan, a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Uncasville. Meehan - who was given the name “Golden Wolf” by her tribal elders for blonde hair and blue eyes, as well as for her tendency to be surrounded by a small pack of children - has being keeping alive the rich history and culture of her ancestors as a member of the tribe’s Cultural and Community Programs Department since 2003.
Arriving in authentic native American attire, including a small headband embellished with a single eagle feather given to honor her contributions to the tribe’s cultural outreach, Meehan began unpacking a large basket of Mohegan artifacts, some of which were made by her tribe’s beloved medicine woman, Gladys Tantaquidgeon, who died in 2005 at the age of 106. She then took a few moments to greet several members of the audience who were fellow native Americans.
Alison Jones and her father, Clifford, whose tribal name is “Chief White Owl,” have family from the Narragansett tribe, while Kimberly Blocker, her son Mark, and her daughter Erica trace their lineage directly to Connecticut’s Eastern Pequots. Indeed, only after honoring Chief White Owl with a rope of sweet grass, as would be customary, did Meehan begin her formal presentation, entitled, “The Mohegan Experience.”
Recounting her tribe’s creation story, Meehan explained how profoundly nature factors into her tribe’s oral tradition. She then turned her attention to chronicling the history and customs of her tribe, using archival pieces to illustrate various aspects of the tribe’s everyday existence. Among those items were baskets woven from wood, grass, or birch bark; a sewing needle carved from a deer’s bone; musical instruments made from gourds and seeds; and tiny cornhusk dolls.
By the time Meehan had concluded her talk, everyone present had received a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Mohegan people, who continue to share a unique reverence for their creator, Mother Earth and her bounty, their proud ancestry, and each other.