story & photos
by Steve Winakor
They arrived by car, van, truck and any other means available to setup their wares and goods to offer for sale. Dancers dressed in regalia adorned themselves in preparation for the opening ceremony as visitors arrived to participate in the Mohegan Tribe’s 2010 Wigwam Festival. The two-day event, held August 21st and 22nd at Fort Shantok, Uncasville, began at 10 a.m. and ran until 7 p.m. and drew thousands from all over New England, as bus after bus arrived courtesy of Mohegan Sun Casino.
As the crowds browsed the vendors displaying handmade jewelry, clothing and toys, just to name a few, others setup tables to serve a variety of foods and beverages to accommodate anyone’s taste buds.
This year, the Festival is a celebration, not only of Native American culture rich in history in itself, but also in celebration of the Mohegan Tribe’s new Lifetime Chief, Lynn Malerba. Nominated the 17th Chief in the Mohegan Tribe’s long documented line of leaders, Lynn is the first female Chief in nearly 300 years.
Chief Lynn Malerba is not a stranger to leadership when it comes to the Tribe. Lynn is the first woman to serve as Chair of the Tribe and is the great-granddaughter of Chief Matahga /Burrill Fielding, Mohegan Chief 1937-1952. Also, Lynn’s mother, Tribal Elder Loretta Fielding Roberge, is a Tribal Nonner, an experienced woman of respect and admiration. It’s clear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Chief Lynn, known by the Mohegan name “Mutawi Mutahash” which translates as “Many Hearts,” has plans for the future. As leader, Lynn hopes to help maintain the Tribe’s growth and prosperity well into the next century. As the Tribe’s second female Chief, the first being Chief Anne Uncas in 1723, Lynn expects to maintain the connection between the Tribal Council and the Tribal Council of Elders, which together are the governing bodies of the Mohegan Tribe.
Married to Paul and with daughters Elizabeth and Angela at her side, Chief Lynn is proud not only to be Chief, but also as a caring wife and mother. When asked if she hopes her children will follow in her footsteps, Lynn said, “They have already started… the girls would care for the old burying ground when the Tribe was first applying for [Federal] Recognition.”
Chief Lynn hopes to fill the shoes of her predecessors, Chief G’tinemong /Ralph Sturges, who passed on in 2007, and Chief Harold Tantaquidgeon prior to that, by living up to their legacy and continuing to pursue the future of the Tribe through everyday matters.
Aside from her college education, work experience, and other leadership roles, Lynn has others to thank for propelling her forward into the role model she has become. Her mother Loretta, father Albert and six siblings, as well as, a strong family heritage, all contributed to her being the person she is – smart, strong, admirable – all the makings of a 21st century icon.
Saturday began with storytelling. Visitors gathered for a glimpse of flute playing, drums and dance. During the opening ceremony, dance participants followed Chief Lynn, Council members and Tribal Elders under the main tent where the Mohegan Veterans held a brief ceremony in remembrance of the Fallen. Later in the day, over 30 dance competitions were held while Chief Lynn, Councilors and Elders mingled with visitors.
On a scale of one to 10, it was a perfect day – the weather was beautiful. History was made as another annual Wigwam Festival came to a close, this time with Chief Lynn Malerba at the forefront.