The Marker

At the T, where Indian Marker Road meets River Road, is a Plaque that commemorates the site of Conestoga Indian Town, where the last of the Conestogas lived–the Conestogas, who were the last of the Susquehannocks, a large and prosperous people at the time of the European invasion, tall of stature, who fished and farmed and traded and hunted and built large settlement-towns along the Susquehanna River. By 1763, their numbers were so greatly reduced by war, illness, attacks by colonists, and forced repatriation, that only this small village remained.

Yesterday I visited the marker again, on the 259th year since the genocidal ride of the Paxtang Boys murdered six of the remaining inhabitants of the tiny town. Someone had been there before me. A bundle of dried sage hung from the marker on a red string, new feathers were tucked into the crevices, and fresh roses were laid at the base of the marker. I added my stone, and turned to the east, where Chief’s Hill rises into the winter-grey sky.

Sheehays
Wa-a-shen,
Tee-kau-ley
Ess-canesh
Tea-wonsha-i-ong
Kannenquas

Several years ago, I memorized their names, feeling the new combinations of vowel and consonant slide up my throat and across my tongue, clicking my throat closed at those interruptive hyphens, wondering how close I was getting to the sounds they used for themselves. Then, a year or more after I had memorized their names, I woke up one morning, aware that I had been chanting them in a dream.

Today, in a pouch I often wear around my neck, I carry the list of their names, and of the final fourteen who were murdered on December 27th of that year, when the Paxtang Boys rode again.

I have no doubt that people were shocked and aggrieved and outraged at the murderous acts of the Paxtang Boys. Still, none of them were brought to justice. The murders of the Conestogas, the final act of genocide, went unavenged. Though Benjamin Franklin himself called out for justice upon them, justice was never done.

And today? What does justice look like, for the Conestogas? For other First Nations people here?

And who are the Paxtang Boys of today? Are we stopping them? Are we putting ourselves between them and the vulnerable people they would destroy? Who will speak out and stand up for the ones who stand in the path of the riders?

For more detailed information about the Susquehannocks, their origins, and this story, please buy a copy of Ghost River, a graphic novel with extensive interpretive text. From the web page: “Written by Lee Francis 4 (Sixkiller, Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers), illustrated by the incomparable Weshoyot Alvitre (Deer Woman: An Anthology, Sixkiller) and edited by Will Fenton (The Library Company of Philadelphia), this new graphic novel from Red Planet Books and Comics chronicles the last days of the Conestoga People and brings their story to light; a story of despair and hope, loss and love, ancestors and the ghosts of history that are always with us.”


Gratitude List:
1. Snow Day! (Ice Day, actually) My school does not do Remote learning during snow days, so I am resting and writing and folding clothes and reading. . .
2. The people who work for justice, who truly care about restoration, who believe that people are more important than institutions and structures
3. Boundaries. Good, strong, solid, clear boundaries
4. That one scarlet leaf up there in that bush
5. Fairy ice along every twig of the tiny Japanese maple on the hill.
May we walk in Beauty and Justice!


“We are the nurturers, the encouragers of all the dreams, all the seeds deep in all the hearts where the future of a redeemed and rescued land now dwells. So we hold fast and see beneath the snow, always calling others to recognize their own magnificent possibilities, to see and plant and join our hope with theirs.” —Vincent Harding, Hope and History


“How does a woman know? She listens. She listens in. Like light on waves.” —Margaret Atwood


“Every moment is a gift of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“Only a fool knows everything.” —African proverb


“Note to self: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.” —Anne Lamott


“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.” —Brené Brown


“God made mud. God got lonesome. So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up. See all I’ve made….the hills, the sea, the blue sky, the stars.” And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around. Lucky me. Lucky mud.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“‪The fact that feathers are naturally occurring objects is beyond awe inspiring.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“‪The best poems are owls. A reflection of the landscape, but singular and strange. Smooth and effortless as smoke. A trick of the eye that scatters bones in the underbrush, hard and real.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

Never Again

conestoga
Their names were:
Kyunqueagoah and Koweenasee
Tenseedaagua and Kanianguas
Saquies-hat-tah and Chee-na-wan
Quaachow (Kyunqueagoah’s son)
Shae-e-kah (a boy)
Ex-undas (Young Sheehays, a boy)*
Tong-quas (a boy)
Hy-ye-naes (a boy)
Ko-qoa-e-un-quas (a girl)
Karen-do-uah (a little girl)
Canu-kie-sung (a girl)
* (Sheehays was the name of one of the six murdered on the 14th of December in the village of Conestoga. I cannot find record of whether they were related. It is possible. Likely?)

Six adults and eight children, living–for their own safety–in the Lancaster workhouse, when they were brutally massacred by an angry armed band of vigilantes in 1763. Except for an elderly couple who escaped the brutal massacre because they lived elsewhere, these are the last of the Susquehannocks.

Tonight, we gathered at the spot with candles and sage. We talked quietly and cradled our candles against the breeze. I saw friends I treasure, and made a new friend–a wise woman full of compassion and infectious hope. May our resolve and hope and community call us forth into a new year with a firm commitment to continue to create a world more in harmony with Spirit and each other, one that will not tolerate hate and meanness, but will celebrate every act of gentleness and open-heartedness as Spirit-given.

Gratitude List:
1. Old friends. New friends. Isn’t it wonderful to have friends who “get” you? Who can intuit what you’re really about?
2. The smell of sacred sage, how it hangs about in my clothes and hair, reminding me to let go, let go, let go. . .
3. Commemoration. Saying “Never Again” together, and together drawing on hope for new pathways and ways of being. Plotting the loving revolution.
4. Chocolate. Chocolate and coffee. And more chocolate.
5. Maggie Doyne and BlinkNow. I showed the boys a video of her this evening, and they were really curious about her and what it means to parent fifty children. All around the world, there are people doing the Work: Maggie Doyne. Malala. Some kind woman on a bus somewhere standing between a bully and a vulnerable person. The Water Protectors. You.

May we walk in Beauty!