Wigwam Festival Is On, Thankfully
By Brian Hallenbeck Published on 8/12/2009
Mohegan - An old Mohegan expression, it almost sounds like a contradiction in terms: The less there is to be thankful for, the more important it is to be thankful.
But, according to Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel, a Mohegan tribal historian and medicine woman, it's the inspiration for Saturday's Mohegan Wigwam Festival, a one-day cultural celebration that in more abundant times spanned at least two days.
”Everyone has cut back a little,” Zobel said Tuesday. “We thought it was the prudent thing to do this year. We didn't want to have to charge admission.”
IF YOU GO
What: Mohegan Wigwam Festival
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fort Shantok, Uncasville
Parking: No on-site parking. Shuttle buses will operate from the Mohegan Sun bus lobby and the Thamesview Garage starting at 10:30 a.m. The last shuttle will return to Mohegan Sun at 7 p.m.
More information: (800) MOHEGAN.
The Mashantucket Pequots also downsized their annual cultural event this year, indefinitely canceling Schemitzun, which had grown into the biggest American Indian gathering on the East Coast since its inception in 1992. The tribe will host a much smaller powwow Aug. 21-22.
Zobel said the Mohegans, who have reduced the size of their government and engaged in other belt-tightening this year, needed only look to the example of Fidelia Fielding, the 19th-century Mohegan matriarch and mentor to the late Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Zobel's great aunt and the tribe's longtime medicine woman. It was Fielding's mantra to be grateful for something every day, if only the sun's shining, Zobel said.
Fielding, considered the last fluent speaker of the Mohegan Pequot language, died in 1908, leaving behind diaries that have enabled her descendants to restore the language in which “wigwam” translates as “welcome.”
In years past, as many as 10,000 people a day have attended the Mohegan Wigwam Festival, which welcomes tribal members, members of other tribes and the public free of charge. “Everyone gets to be Mohegan for a day,” Zobel said.
The event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Fort Shantok, will feature a dance competition, vendors' displays of arts and crafts and American Indian food.
Not to be missed is the pageantry of the Grand Entry, a processional scheduled to begin at noon. Flag-bearing leaders of the Mohegan Tribe, veterans, elders and other members of the tribe will first enter the main tent erected for the festival, followed by members of other participating tribes. The procession, its members dancing, will form a circle that gradually tightens until everyone has entered the tent.
Fielding, a loner who tended to avoid festivals and other social gatherings, would still have to admire the spirit behind the Mohegan Wigwam Festival.
EDITORIAL FOOTNOTE: How come Emma T. Baker, also a Medicine Woman of the Mohegan Tribe was not mentioned?
How did going from two days to one day happen? Could it have been caused by the mismanagement of our (the Mohegan Tribe's) businesses? Is it the economy? Did this have to happen? Who is to blame?
Allegedly, attendance is down for Cultural Week. Is this true? If it is true, how come? Do you know?
There are no pets allowed at Fort Shantok.
No alcohol is allowed.
Please come and enjoy yourselves. Park at the Thames Garage at Mohegan Sun Casino,(the first garage on right coming off of Route 2-A). The Grand Entry is usually at 12'00 P.M. (noon).
Come and have fun. What do you think?