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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Pollia’

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hailsignHonoring the Mohawk Native Americans

Reaching out with Hope

When we attended a family wedding in the Berkshires this October, one of the things I was determined to do was visit the “Hail to the Sunrise” Statue on the Mohawk Trail. Luckily we were staying nearby, so it was quite possible. And we were not disappointed.

The Mohawk Trail is a 63-mile winding road stretching east from the Massachusetts/New York line, close to Williamstown, to Millers Falls on the Connecticut River, just beyond Greenfield in Massachusetts. It runs through part of the well-known Berkshires, and is especially beautiful to drive in fall when the fall colors are truly glorious.

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You can just see the Chief directly behind the circular pool

chiefRodThe Mohawk Trail began as a trade route for the Native Americans of the Five Nations and connected Atlantic tribes with tribes in Upstate New York, hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. They used it to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. It followed the Millers River, Deerfield River and crossed the Hoosac Range in the area that is now northwest Massachusetts.

Hail to the Sunrise” is a lovely monument just outside the town of Charlemont, Mass, about halfway along the Trail. The Monument consists of a prominent statue of a Mohawk Indian and a reflecting pool, and is the main feature of Mohawk Park, a roadside park on the Mohawk Trail. It was sponsored by The Improved Order of Redman, and Degree of Pocahontas.

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The monument honors the peoples of the five Mohawk Nations that inhabited western Massachusetts and New York State. The Mohawks who traveled this trail were said to be friendly to while settlers. Today the monument is a reminder of the area’s Native American heritage.

The bronze statue depicts a Native American man in traditional garb

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Note the arrowhead-shaped inscription stone

looking eastward across the Deerfield River with his arms uplifted in supplication. He faces the direction of the rising sun and is greeting the Great Spirit. The bronze statue, created by sculptor Joseph Pollia (1893-1954), rests on a 9-ton boulder. It was unveiled in October 1932, attended by more than 2000 people. The arrowhead-shaped tablet on the base of the statue reads: “Hail to the Sunrise—In Memory of the Mohawk Indian. The Mohawks of the Five Nations began to settle in New York State in 1590 and for 90 great suns they fought the New England tribes. The New York Mohawks that traveled this trail were friendly to the white settlers.”

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One of the inscription stones

The pool is lined with 100 inscribed stones from various tribes and councils from throughout the US. The grounds are open to the public and the park is a welcome stop along the scenic highway. It’s a great place to stop and contemplate Native American culture and history and how these peoples were so badly treated overall by the white settlers. For me, the man’s pose gives cause for hope, like he’s reaching out for a better future.

Charlemont is an old town, first settled in 1749. Every summer, the Mohawk Trail Concerts take place in the old, acoustically-perfect Charlemont Federated Church. They have been held here since 1970, founded by Arnold Black, a violinist.

 

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