Article published Mar 17, 2012
Preston, Mohegans go back in time
By Claire Bessette Day Staff Writer
Officials re-enact signing of deed that created town in 1687
Preston – Mohegan Tribal Chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum greeted students at the Preston Veterans Memorial School Friday afternoon wearing a deerskin vest and pants topped off by a beaded and feathered headdress.
About a dozen students quickly abandoned their lunches and surrounded Bozsum as he waved a fan of turkey feathers in their direction.
“Are you a real Indian?” one boy asked.
“Is he a real Indian?” another, who hadn’t heard, asked a schoolmate.
“What are you wearing?”
“Where did you get the feathers?”
The questions came faster than Bozsum could answer: He made the outfit himself, with feathers that he found or that were given to him by friends. Someone else made the soft, deerskin medicine pouch he wore.
“It holds all my medicines,” he said, showing bits of natural items in the pouch.
In addition to being tribal chairman, Bozsum is the Mohegan Tribe’s ceremonial pipe carrier, an important position in the social culture of the tribe.
Bozsum wasn’t the only visitor to the school for the celebration of the town’s 325th anniversary – one day early. Several town officials joined him on stage to re-enact the signing of the deed, when Mohegan Indian Owanaco – son of Uncas – turned over a 5-mile stretch of his land to the settlers who wanted to form the 36th town in the Connecticut Colony.
First Selectman Robert Congdon donned a long, black coat and tall, black Puritan hat to portray town founder Capt. James Fitch.
Selectman Timothy Bowles wore a wool vest with pants tucked into his high socks to play John Stanton.
Veterans Memorial School teacher Dan Rearick – who received the loudest ovation from the partisan crowd – wore a beret cap to represent founder Samuel Mason.
Former First Selectman Parke Spicer was the veteran actor of the bunch. He donned the white wig, spectacles and blue breaches he had worn 25 years ago to portray John Morgan.
“I had a jacket to go with this,” Spicer said. “It fit me 25 years ago, but not today.”
The Rev. David Cannon read a narration describing the founding of the town as the deed-signing participants surrounded a small desk, complete with feather pen and ink set for the signing.
“It was signed with the mark of Owanaco,” Cannon said, “which was the shape of a turkey. That is why the symbol of a turkey is so important to the people of Preston. This deed was signed on March 17, 1687.”
After the brief signing ceremony, Bozsum used the Mohegan language to address the students and the more than a dozen senior citizens who join the students once a month for a shared lunch.
“Greetings. Thank you all for coming today,” he translated. “The Mohegan people are proud to be friends with you. The Creator is good.”
Costumed participants then joined the audience as third-graders formed dance circles in front of the stage to perform the dance “Gathering Peas cods,” which dates back to the early 1600s. Fifth-graders followed with a localized rendition of a North Carolina dance game, “Sally Down the Alley.”
“Here comes Sally down the alley. Here comes Sally down the alley. Here comes Sally down the ally, down to Poqetanuck.”
Students took turns running between lines of classmates singing their names as they came “down the alley.”
Preston is hosting numerous events throughout the spring and summer to celebrate the town’s 325th anniversary. Students also are making town quilts that will be displayed and possibly sold later in the year.
“You’re going to be actually a part of history, as well as watching history,” Principal Kathy Walsh told the students at the start of Friday’s ceremony.
Article published Mar 17, 2012