story & photos
by Jessica Warzeniak
Three hundred and fifty years later to the day, the Mohegan Tribe and descendents of the founders of Norwich met at the Royal Mohegan Burial Ground, corner of Washington and Sachem Streets, Norwich, to re-enact the June 6, 1659 deed signing. The deed gave the settlers nine square miles, now known as Norwich, for 70 pounds of silver or approximately $350. The re-enactment was the first public event for the City of Norwich’s 350th Anniversary Celebration.
The morning included a traditional Mohegan Tribal blessing by Medicine Woman and Tribal Historian Melissa Tantaquidgeon Gobel, pipe presentation by Chairman and Pipe Carrier Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum with the help of Chris “Painted Turtle” Harris and Patrick “Long Shadow” Mugford, and a flute presentation by Tribal Elder William “Dancing Shadow” Andrews with Brian “Snake Spirit” Quidgeon.
“The Mohegans continue its relationship with our neighbors,” said Bruce “Two Dogs.” “It is the tradition of the Mohegans to stay close with our neighbors and friends and celebrate our joint anniversary.”
Carleton “Occum” Eichelberg, descendent and re-enactor of Grand Sachem Uncas, was at the celebrations 50 years ago, that did not include a re-enactment, to celebrate the 300th anniversary. “It is a very great experience,” said Carleton. “Back then we were very small in numbers – there was no reservation. There were 12 of us from the Tribe that participated. We had a nice long parade and pageantry of the different ethnic groups.”
During the re-enactment Paige D’Allesandro, Amanda Sullivan, Jamie McArtle and Nicholas Smolenski from Norwich Free Academy, sang “Two Hundred Years Ago.” Paige also sang a solo called “The Anniversary Hymn.” More entertainment came from Tom Callinan, CT’s Official State Troubadour, who sang two original songs “Norwich Through the Centuries” and “Where Three Rivers Come Together” that he specifically wrote for the 350th anniversary.
The committee included organizers, Evelyn Bessette, Elaine Malchman, Kate Disch, Ron Ward, Melissa Tantaquidgeon Gobel, Sandi Penault, and Joe Smith. Volunteer coordinators were Gene Arters and the Women’s City Club of Norwich. Denison Gibbs narrated the event.
At noon, all of the church bells across Norwich tolled 350 times to mark the celebration.