Native American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic River Valley
The Native American Heritage Trail exists to provide accurate information about the Indigenous people of the region, and to enable visitors to explore the Housatonic River Valley while viewing it through a Native American prism.
A program in partnership with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Band of Mohican Indians.
We encourage you to visit and learn about the places, landscapes, and resources that are related to Native American culture and history. We believe that this Native American Heritage Trail is an important contribution to public awareness and education. The contemporary descendants of the Indigenous people of the Housatonic Valley understand that the processes of colonialism removed their ancestors from their homelands and nearly obliterated their culture. Continuity was almost broken. This Program may contribute to “mending the hoop” by improving public understanding and appreciation of Native American culture – past, present, and future.
The Upper Housatonic Valley Native American Heritage Trail introduces visitors to the deep and vibrant histories of the region’s indigenous communities. A network of tribal representatives, diverse historical organizations, other cultural institutions and the local heritage area, provides multi-perspective views of regional histories. Through authentic, interpretive experiences the initiative shares stories, promotes open discussion, and erases long-held stereotypes so that visitors understand the native communities as living people with thriving cultures as well as rich past.
Important Sites on the Native American Heritage Trail:
- Stockbridge Main Street District- A self-guided walking tour of Indiantown.
- Bidwell House and Grounds- A walking tour of the Native land and way of life
- Konkapot River- A cultural viewshed
- Umpacheenee Falls- A cultural viewshed
- Kampoosa Bog– archaeological site
- Monument Mountain– A sacred offering place
- Site of Captain Jacob….- scene of diplomatic engagement
- Skatekook- an early land agreement
Summer 2021 – Stockbridge Archaeology Project
The Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Band of Mohican Indians is using non-ground disturbing technology to locate and identify two important historical sites in the Upper Housatonic Valley. Bonney Hartley, Tribal Historic Preservation Manager, is working with a contractor who utilizes ground penetrating radar and magnetometer equipment to search for clues without digging.
The goal is to identify the exact location of two sites in Stockbridge, MA that are culturally important to the tribe. One site, the historic 1739 Meeting House, was culturally significant to the Stockbridge-Munsee Community as it was the center of politics and religion as the influence of colonial settlers grew.
The second site to be explored is that of the 1783 ox roast, provided for the Community by General George Washington. Mohican Nation citizens, now in Wisconsin, have historical records to indicate that George Washington provided this celebration for their ancestors to thank the Stockbridge-Munsee Community for their participation in the Revolutionary War.
The archaeological project is being funded by a $40,000 grant from the National Park Service program for Underrepresented Communities and a matching grant that was approved by the Town of Stockbridge voters at an annual town meeting.
It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, speaking and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican people, who are the indigenous peoples of this land. Despite tremendous hardship in being forced from here, today their community resides in Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We pay honor and respect to their ancestors past and present as we commit to building a more inclusive and equitable space for all.
Housatonic Heritage advocates for informed research and respectful interpretation of the Indigenous People that have historically inhabited the lands of the Upper Housatonic River region. We urge others to join us in learning about these important histories, to understand the culture and lifeways of the Mohican Indians, and to respect both their true history and their contemporary lives.
1 Stockbridge Main Street District – A self-guided walking tour of Indiantown
The Stockbridge Main Street Walking Tour provides An opportunity to view and understand Stockbridge as its town of origin -Indiantown. Learn about the original locations of Mohican peoples’ homes, and the role many of these property owners played in town government in the 1700s.For more learning about ‘The Stockbridge Experiment,’ one can visit the “Mission House” which presents the story of the first missionary and his role in attempting to form a town in which Mohicans and Colonists could co-existi.Further exploration is available at the Library Museum & Archives that contains many original documents and artifacts from the 18 century, providing greater insight into what the idea of Stockbridge was intended to be and what happened to dispossess the Mohican tribe of land within 50 years.
Footprints of Our Ancestors:
Mohican History Walking Tour of Main Street Stockbridge
The Stockbridge Indians are primarily Mohican people, who existed in the region since time immemorial. Mohican territory once encompassed the Hudson River / Muhheacannituck valley in New York and Housatonic River valley in Massachusetts, extending through to Westfield River. Stockbridge, then, was already within the traditional territory of the Mohican people before it became formed as a colonial town.
Mohican History Virtual Tour of Main Street Stockbridge:
The Stockbridge Indians are primarily Mohican people, who existed in the region since time immemorial. Mohican territory once encompassed the Hudson River IMuhheacannituck valley in New York and Housatonic River valley in Massachusetts, extending through to Westfield River. Stockbridge, then, was already within the traditional territory of the Mohican people before it became formed as a colonial town.
Stockbridge was first called “Indian Town:’ The stated purpose of Indian Town was to be a Christianized settlement, an experiment in assimilation to “help” the tribe, similar to the 14 other Puritan praying towns that had been established in New England (1651-1678) for other Algonquin-speaking tribes and which had mostly ended following King Philip’s War.
Indian Town was formed through a gathering of Mohican sachems (chiefs) in 1734 who grappled with deciding to approve accepting a missionary, John Sergeant. They took four days by council fire, debating if this was best mode of survival. Eventually, they exchanged a wampum belt and agreed that the Mohican Nation would now be centered in Indian Town rather than the principal homelands of the Hudson Valley.
On March 17th, 1735 the Massachusetts legislature granted a township, six miles square, to be laid out on the Housatonic River, immediately north of Monument Mountain. In 1737 a royal charter creating Indiantown gave 1/60th of the territory each to Reverend Sergeant, a Schoolmaster, and four English families for a total of2,304 of 23,040 acres. Mohican people were expected to “model” themselves after the English families. The initial Mohican population in Indian Town was about 125 people.
Today, the tribe continues as a federally-recognized Indian Nation called the Stockbridge- Munsee Community, now based on a reservation in northern Wisconsin. The reservation is about the same size as the original 23,000 acres of Indian Town/Stockbridge. There are roughly 1,500 enrolled members.
We have always returned.
The Stockbridge-Munsee Community places great significance in visiting, teaching and preserving our heritage in Stockbridge. We hope you enjoy this walking tour of Stockbridge Main Street and learn about our history as you walk in the footprints of our ancestors.
Prefer to visit Stockbridge, MA and take the Walking Tour?
Download the Mohican History Walking Tour of Main Street Stockbridge brochure (PDF)
Video segments from the Mohican History Walking Tour of Main Street Stockbridge:
Stop 1. Meeting House
Stop 2. Aaron Umpacheenee Home/Taggart House
Stop 3. Red Lion Inn
Stop 4. Stockbridge Library Museum & Archives
Stop 5. Town Offices
Stop 6. John Konkapot & son’s property
Stop 7. Captain Jacob Naunamphtaunk Home
Stop 8. Jonas Etowakaum Home/Austin Riggs Center
Stop 9. John Sergeant House Museum/ The Mission House
Stop 10. Town Cemetery Section One
Stop 11. Indian Burying Ground & Wnahktukook
Mohican History Walking Tour of Main Street Stockbridge: Full Length Video
- The Stockbridge Main Street Walking Tour provides An opportunity to view and understand Stockbridge as its town of origin -Indiantown. Learn about the original locations of Mohican peoples’ homes, and the role many of these property owners played in town government in the 1700s.For more learning about ‘The Stockbridge Experiment,’ one can visit the “Mission House” which presents the story of the first missionary and his role in attempting to form a town in which Mohicans and Colonists could co-existi.Further exploration is available at the Library Museum & Archives that contains many original documents and artifacts from the 18 century, providing greater insight into what the idea of Stockbridge was intended to be and what happened to dispossess the Mohican tribe of land within 50 years.
- 2 Bidwell House & Grounds – A walking tour of the Native Land and way of lifeThis site is part of both Native and Colonist history, a three hour walk from the large settlement of Indians at the center of Stockbridge at the time. The original path to Stockbridge, now abandoned, crosses the 190 acre property, marked on the trail map as the Boston-Albany Post Road.In 1737 Kunkapot, Skaunaup, Wenaumpe, Wequagun, Umpeatkhow, Naunowsquah, Ukwaumut, Neshawuk, Sauseekhoot, and Aunowwaumpummukgsett signed an agreement for their land to white Colonists from the east. Before then, Native families used these fields and forests for their seasonal cycle of subsistence.There is a self-guided woodland walk that illustrates Native practices around farming, hunting, and land management such as the periodic burning of underbrush that made forests passable and encouraged the growth of nut trees and berry bushes. Visitors can also explore a wigwam reconstruction on the grounds and roam a heritage vegetable and herb garden that contain plantings, such as the “Three Sisters,” illustrating one of many innovative, efficient Native cultivation methods.The Colonists came here from the east in the mid-1750s to create a small frontier settlement called Township No. 1 (now the towns of Tyringham and Monterey). Early on they built a house at the town center for the first minister, the Reverend Adonijah Bidwell, (that can be toured) and a place where Colonists could come together to worship (no longer standing).3 Konkapot River – A cultural viewshedThis 22-mile long watercourse (running through Monterey, New Marlborough, & Sheffield, Massachusetts and North Canaan Connecticut) was named after the Stockbridge Mohican sachem, Captain John Konkapot, who was an influential Tribal leader during the early and mid18th century. Konkapot was central to the founding of the Indiantown of Stockbridge.Direct descendants of Konkapot exist today in the Stockbridge Munsee Community, a federally recognized Tribal Nation in Wisconsin. One descendant family operates a hotel called Konkapot Lodge. The connection to and respect for Konkapot is still strong in the tribe today.Rivers like the Konkapot were vital food sources for Native peoples who used dugout canoes (made from tall, straight trees), nets, and fishing lines to harvest herring and trout. They also used rivers to access fresh water, to forage along the shore and to travel for trade that included bartering with food, tobacco and pelts.4 Umpacheenee Falls, New Marlborough – A cultural viewshedUmpachene River cascades over the falls before joining Konkapot River south of Mill River village.The name suggests Aaron Umpachene, a Mohican leader whose village was on Vosberg Hill in Gt. Barrington before its inhabitants merged with John Konkapot’s in Stockbridge.Today the fall is the site of a small park with a swimming hole and parking lot. There are trails to walk and rocks to sit on – to imagine how rich with life this place was in the early 1700s particularly in summer when it is likely that Umpaachene and others made summer camps in the meadows alongside the river to harvest all it’s various offerings.5 Kampoosa Bog – Archaeological siteThe bog is a large wetland and wildlife habitat area, covering more than 1300 acres. It came into existence in the wake of the melting glacial ice, which happened more than 12,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found evidence, around the edges of the bog, of Native American habitation for over more than seven thousand years, sometimes occurring many centuries apart.One site was apparently used for a large-scale skinning and butchering operation, which occurred between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. Another was a habitation site, dated to about 2,000 years ago. Evidence suggests that the Indians, ancestors of the Mohicans, started some of the wildfires that occurred around the bog, to improve the habitat for the animals they hunted.
When first found by Native Americans, the bog contained (more) areas of clear water; it was surrounded by thick forest and abundant varieties of plant and animal life. While here – most likely, in fall and winter – the Indians would have been gathering wild plant foods such as hickory nuts, and hunting for deer and other animals attracted to the bog.
The bog can be viewed best from Route 7 north of Stockbridge and from the edge of the parking lot on Eden Hill.
6 Monument Mountain – A sacred offering place
Monument Mountain is a famous landmark situated between the two towns that figure large in the Berkshire history of the Mohicans, Stockbridge and Great Barrington. The mountain runs alongside Route 7, originally a major Indian trail known as the Old Berkshire Path.
The site still retains remnants of Mohican pathways. The paths once connected Mohican communities to each other, to important natural resources, and to sacred sites. There is also an offering place or “wawanaquasick” as The Mohicans had a cultural practice of leaving stones to commemorate significant events.
Monument Mountain is part of a socio-spiritual Mohican landscape laden with symbolism that continues to hold meaning for tribal members today. Members of the Tribe still consider Monument Mountain to be a significant place in their culture and history. They continue to make pilgrimages to theta mountain after being forced to remove from their homelands.
Monument Mountain is open to the public as a 503-acre property of the Trustees of Reservations. Hiking trails lead to the summit where there are excellent views of the Upper Housatonic River Valley, the Berkshires, the Taconic Mountains, and the Catskill Mountains of New York; there you can think back thousands of years, to when Native peoples would climb to the exposed rocky peak and view the length and breadth of their extensive homeland.
7 Site of Captain Jacob’s Meeting with Lord Jeffrey Amherst – Scene of diplomatic engagement
In 1758, Great Barrington witnessed a meeting between Captain Jacob Nawnawapatcoonks of the Stockbridge Mohicans and the British General Jeffrey Amherst.
At the time of the meeting, Amherst was leading four regiments from Boston to a planned attack on Quebec City. Amherst and his forces encamped for two nights in a meadow near the Green River in Great Barrington, so that the military leader could meet with Stockbridge Mohicans, including Captain Jacob, an important British ally who previously had commanded a company of Stockbridge Mohicans with Robert Rogers’ famed Rangers. Captain Jacob sought to re-enlist, and Amherst did not discourage him.
Today, the expansive meadow where the meeting took place is a cornfield, located southeast of the Green River bridge on Route 23, on the road to Egremont.
8 Skatekook – An early land agreement
In 1724 Skatekook Reservation was established, as part of a land deed between Colonists and Native people for continued use by the tribe. It was a rectangular piece of land—about six miles long and approximately five-eighths of a mile wide—running from the confluence of the Green and Housatonic River (near present-day Route 7) westward through present-day South Egremont to the then-undefined New York.
Much of the Skatekook Reservation was given up in 1736 by the Stockbridge Indians in exchange for the establishment of Indiantown (Stockbridge). A large portion in Sheffield was sold to Arent Gardiner and Isaac Forsberry/Vosburgh. The present-day Egremont portion was later granted to the Karner family by Mohican John Van Guilder. During the 19th century, this lease was “forgotten” and the land sold off in parcels. Finally, in the mid-1800s, the lease was rediscovered and legally rectified in favor of the white landowners.
At Jug End Wildlife Refuge in South Egremont, one can hike or snow shoe on part of this land.