In the past 300 years, many things have changed. The, however, represents continuity in the East Haven community from the early days of the British settlement. Throughout the year, the church is holding events to celebrate its 300th anniversary, and on last Saturday, members of Old Stone and the Algonquin Confederacy of the Qunnipiac Tribal Council (ACQTC) participated in a ceremony that has not been performed in 300 years or more: the "Washing Away the Tears."
The ceremony was followed by a powwow, or a celebration through traditional drumming and dancing, presentations of stories and skills, and a feast.
In addition, church members participated in a signing of the Sacred Bond of the Covenant with the ACQTC, the descendants of the Quinnipiac people who lived in East Haven. Led in meditations by Thundering HawkSpirit, a shaman and the subchief of the Thunder and Bear clans of the ACQTC, and in prayer by divinity student and event organizer Kathy Mallory, more than 250 people attended.
As part of a recognition of the covenant between Old Stone and the ACQTC, gifts were exchanged. Mayor received a gift of traditional wampum on behalf of the East Haven government.
Following the ceremony, participants moved out into the church yard to listen and dance to the music of the Nimham Mountain Singers drum group from the Wappinger nation in Hudson Valley, N.Y. One dancer taught several women how to do a traditional women's dance, while Michelle Cheng, director of education at the New Haven Museum, offered participants a chance to touch reproductions of artifacts.
Gordon "Fox Running" Brainerd brought many items from the Quinnipiac Dawnland Museum in North Guilford; Ed "Wolf Walker" Conley shared a false face mask he had carved into the tree before removing it, in the traditional style. On the church's front lawn, the artists of Creative Obsession sold jewelry and the Rainbow Girls painted faces. Food was available for purchase by Unique Cuisine and a local ice cream truck.
The connection between the Quinnipiac people and the original members of the Old Stone Church goes back to the earliest days of British settlement. The Quinnipiac people offered their hospitality to the first settlers in the East Haven area, helping them through early growing seasons and winters, and sharing food and resources. Years later, members of the Old Stone Church provided refuge for Quinnipiac people during forced relocations from their homeland. Despite the later cultural clashes, this early sharing of resources and culture remains significant.
"Our idea of love is hospitality," Thundering HawkSpirit explained.
Mallory invited the ACQTC to jointly host the event. On Sept. 11, the church will host a Field of Flags ceremony to honor those who gave their lives in armed conflict, including the events of 9/11.
Other area powwows were also advertised at the event, including the fundraiser at Harkness State Park on July 30 and 31, and the Hammonasset Festival at Hammonasset State Park in Madison on Oct. 2 and 3.