Quinnipiac Tribal Council
This Quinnipiac Tribal Council Maweomi, or "central council fire", provides news, views, projects, and special ways our place of origins are being revitalized as we network with those businesses, universities, organizations, and townships who respect us as the Long Water Land People and honor our traditional responsibilities resulting from our sovereignty and autonomy as an indigenous nation. This section of ACQTC.org has two main sections: Legacy and Profiles.
Our Quinnipiac Heritage Legacy showcases how our cultural legacy, traditions, and lore is viewed from outside of our councils. This is a place where we can officially point out the errors, misconceptions, and inaccuracies; while also honoring the accurate information.
Our Quinnipiac Heritage Profiles showcases individuals, businesses, institutions, universities, townships, etc., who have honored our legacy, whether knowingly or unknowingly, by adopting our traditions as a template for responsible living in harmony with the ecosystems of the Long Water Land.
The Cultural Nature of the "Central Council Fire"
by Iron Thunderhorse, Quinnipiac Culture-Bearer
The tradition of gathering together the clans and bands at a central location for socio-political assembly is an ancient Algonquian tradition. ACQTC is a sovereign and autonomous Confederacy of Indigenous Peoples who are devoted to the ancient traditional principles of Self-Determination and not the dictates of modern concepts that conflict with these teachings. The Long Water Land People have lived in the Connecticut Valley since the Ice Age…about 12,000 years BP. So our Nationality is not as Native Americans (a misnomer that most traditionalists denounce) but as "Turtle Islanders". Our regionality is known as Wampanokke, "The Dawnland", otherwise known as the Northeastern Woodlands. In our traditionalist ethos we also have a Sachemdom which gives us a distinct third type of Self-Identity and this is Quiripi/Quinnipeokke/Quinnipiac or "The Long Water Land". This is our originality or place of origins, where our Culture was born and the original instructions from the Creator were given to us by our First Born Culture-Hero --- Hobbomock, The Stone Giant.
Our Algonquian creation lore indicates that when the world was created Pinessi (Thunderer) sent seven bolts of lightning to the Earth and these created a giant man from a vast mountain range. The last bolt of lightning struck a giant pine tree and was set afire. From this original fire Hobbomock was instructed in the traditional way of constructing a maweomi, or Central Council Fire. Four logs were placed towards the four sacred directions. In the center of this area Hobbomock was told to dig a hole and anchor a Cedar Tree which represents the World Cedar tree (Shittawoonghus in our language dialect). A burning branch from the Pine Tree that was struck by lightning and now ablaze was used to kindle the first sacred fire. Seven sparks flew out when Hobbomock blew a long breath on the fire and stood up as men (rennawawk), and a second breath produced seven more sparks who stood up as women (orquoyeawk). Together they were divided into pairs, each with an ancestral sign (oddodem/oag) and at its center was Pinessiwekit (Thunder Clan). Each lineage was responsible for a certain area and the Thunder Clan was responsible for the socio-political governance of the people based on the ancient traditions/teachings given to us as our original Instructions. For seven days Hobbomock instructed the original Ancestors, known to the Quinnipiac as Negonijek Oushwawog Rennawawk (Original Parents of Humankind).
Hobbomock then set out to walk and scout the four directions of Turtle Island. It was shaped as a Giant Turtle with head pointing west and at its center is where Hobbomock was Created and set up the original World cedar Tree. At the center of our creation is a place where all things begin and end. It is our Place of origins… our Wejammoke (Homeland). The original Seven Clans migrated to the south, west and east and north and each of the Seven Families chose their own “promised land” where certain signs were found and in this manner the Algonquian language and culture spread across one-third of North America (Turtle Island). This collective region we know and call Wampanokke, "The Dawnland".
The ancestral lifestyle and ethos of the Long Water Land people was situated in a way that our domain (Sachamauwunk) covered hundreds of square miles. There were townships known as Otan which were the aboriginal big cities (like New York, Los Angeles, etc.) and each of these was the seat of a sub-sachemship headed by a Clan or Long House Chief. Villages that owed tribute (allegiance) to these sub-sachemships were headed by Stump-Chiefs or leaders that swore an oath known as a Covenant with the Sachems. At the center of all this was the Kitchi Otan or Principal Town where the Grand Sachem of the Thunder Clan lived and conducted political and social events.
The maweomi was always set up as close to the center of the Sachemdoms East-West axis. Our lifestyle was to do this at a tidal estuary that fed into a vast coastal landscape. The Quinnipiac were one of the "River Indians" known collectively as Sequin, and we have been an estuarine maritime culture since the beginning. Each fall our people followed the Quinnipiac Trail and Quinnipiac River north into the region of Meriden/Cheshire/Waterbury where our Winter Camps were situated in the oak groves. Each spring our people returned south to the coastal fish-camps where great stores of scale and shell fish were harvested.
Winter was a time for telling stories and passing along the traditions to the younger generation and where group deer/moose/bear hunts kept the soapstone pots full. Summer was a time for group-fishing at stone and wood weirs (dams) and for trapping and planting the three sisters corn, beans and squash/pumpkins. It was also the time for the annual maweomi (central fire council meeting). Our New Year begins on the Spring Equinox in March, and at that time the new fire ceremony is conducted. The Quinnipiac still today light the new fire with a bow drill from cedar in the traditional way. Originally, prior to 1500 AD (when European epidemics decimated our populations by up to 85%) our maweomi was situated at Mattabesec (Middletown) because our Sachemdom originally covered most of what is now Connecticut (Quinnehtukqut, Long Water Estuary tidal river).
When our ancestors met in a maweomi the Clans and bands were called together. Giant Grandfather Rocks known as Paddaquahumsun (Thunder Stones) were rocked back and forth on a bed of rocks and it produced a rumbling sound similar to rolling thunder. Quinnipiac Council Rock is our Thunder Stone and is still found on Prospect Street in New Haven, CT. A long arc in a crescent shape like the moon was situated by placing flat rocks for seats in this pattern. At the central seat was the Thunder Clan Grand sachem. to his left and right three more flat stone seats, one for each of the other clans. Behind them sat the Stump-Chiefs who each cut the stump of a tree and sat behind the Sachemoag. The common people spoke first, then the elders, women, and chiefs. The Grand Sachem always had the last word and always made the final decision; but, he would do so only
when he was convinced every voice was heard, even unseen and unspoken voices of the animals, plants, rivers and spirits.
When several principal Sachemdoms join together and form an alliance, it is called a Confederacy. Our symbol for this is a bundle of arrows joined together at the middle with a skin of the rattler. This was sent to isolated towns and villages and meant "join us or stand alone." The Timber rattler was extremly territorial and the image became our symbol for a covenant or sacred oath. Each arrow represented a town or sub-sachemship. Standing alone each can be easily broken apart; but bound togther in one vast territory (A Sachemdom or Aboriginal Domain) an alliance was not easily broken apart. When this happened the combined Sachemdoms became a Confederacy. This added another level of socio-political governance at a Grand Council Fire which rotated and was held at varying regional places whenever the need arose.
When a new sachemdom was added or a confederacy formed this event was so sacred a wampum belt was commissioned to honor the event. A wampum belt was made from the quahog clam shell and conch shells where cylindrical beads were fashioned and strung together. Dark and light beads were positioned so that pictographic images told a story. The traditional covenant chain wampum belt showed a series of fires linked together. Our ancient Wampum Belt had a copper heart at its center to symbolize the Grand Council Fire. Whenever we met at a Grand Council each Sachem took the belt and saw that the copper heart still shined bright, a sure sign the confederacy was in good shape for the future. Gordon Fox-Running Brainerd, Curator of the Quinnipiac Dawnland Museum has one of these copper hearts in our collections. The western sub-sachemdom of Connecticut, known as Siwanoag (a corruption of Sweanoag) is known as Land of the Wampum-Makers. On Long Island (Paumanokke) the Unkechaug were the Wampum-Makers and still are making wampums today.
In the southeastern confederacies of Turtle Island the Creek and Cherokee Confederacies call their towns Talwa and Okla; but they too have the same concepts of tribute / allegiance and socio-political governance.
The original name of New Haven, CT was Quinnipiac, and the legacy of the Long Water Land and Quinnipiac is a statement of tribute and honor for us because no other tribal culture in the southern New England region was so heavily and thoroughly influenced by our ancestral traditions.
The main portion of ACQTC.org is devoted to our history, culture, traditions, and inner workings. How we have influenced the mainstream way of life outside of our confederacy is another matter. So, we have set up this special section to be our online MAWEOMI.