Beginning around 1616 Wampanoag, Pequots, Narragansetts, Cherokees, Mohegans, Carib, Arowacks and Indians from Central and South America were sold in Bermuda.



In 2009 "Tall Oak" Weeden and a delegation of Wampanoag Indians and Mashantucket Pequots went in search of their people from the slavery era. They traveled to St. David’s Island in Bermuda


There they met a small clan claiming to be descended from New England Indian slaves shipped to the island centuries ago. Weeden's group was convinced it was true when they saw the faces, dances and ceremonies of the St. David's Indians.

"I was struck by how much they looked like us," said Michael J. Thomas, a Mashantucket tribal leader.

According to local legend, the wife and son of King Philip might have been among those on St. David's. After the king's death, his wife, Wootonekanuske, is said to have married an African. This kept alive the genealogical line with Indians in New England.

The Pequots plan to dig even further into slavery's hidden history, Thomas said.  "What's to be learned is a more accurate perception of Colonial-era history," he said. "It helps people to understand our insecurities of today."

 

 

The following is an article by Phoebe Farris the arts editor for Cultural Survival Quarterly


Indigenous Arts: Homecoming

For the Indians of Bermuda, home is where the art is.


What does it mean to retain cultural traditions for 350 years in a land far from one’s original homeland? How does it feel to reconnect with people from whom your ancestors were captured and sold into slavery? How does it feel to return to a country and people you only know through generations of family oral histories? For Indians on Bermuda’s St. David’s Island, these are deep and relevant questions.
 
Colonial records and ship documents confirm that some of the survivors of the May 26, 1673, European massacre of Pequots in southeastern Connecticut were sold into Bermudian slavery along with various factions from other New England tribes. Wampanoag warriors from the 1676 King Phillips War also were sold as slaves. Altogether several hundred Native Americans were sold into Bermuda slavery. These Indian slaves and their descendants remained isolated on St. David’s Island, an islet at the northern end of Bermuda.


That relative isolation lasted until the 1930s, when a bridge was constructed connecting St. David’s Island with the rest of Bermuda. Although there was intermarriage and cohabitation with African slaves, European colonists, and imported Carib Indians, these descendants of New England tribes passed on origin stories that connect five St. David’s families, stories about an Indian slave woman named Susannah who claimed to be the granddaughter of King Phillip and traditions of chanting and drumming at a hillside location called Dark Bottom. After the 1834 emancipation, most former slaves stayed on St. David’s and continued to intermarry with each other.
 

“Most of the St. David’s Islanders today are of mixed blood,” says St. Clair Tucker, or Brinky, as he prefers to be called, one of the founding members of the St. David’s Island Indian Committee. “The first Indian slave arrived on our shores in 1616, and for the next 200 years the English developed a very profitable slave trade with Africans and Native Americans. Documents prepared by the English indicate that Pequots, Wampanoags, Narragensetts, Cherokees, Mohegans, Carib, Arowacks and Indians from Central and South America were sold here. The only trading port was in St. George’s, about 150 yards from St. David’s.”
 
Brinky says that the Indians of St. David’s faced constant discrimination and rejection from the dominant society of Bermuda, and so were generally left to their own devices. “St. David’s Islanders are different in their appearance, speech, eating habits, and culture from the rest of Bermudians,” he says. “Before World War II, education was never a priority; the men fished and farmed to survive. Because of their difference, other Bermudians always teased and embarrassed them wherever they were. As a result, St. David’s Islanders did not discuss their heritage in public or among strangers, only around their kitchen table.”
 
One byproduct of that social rejection was that cultural traditions began to fall away along with cultural pride. “A lot of the culture was lost when elders failed to pass it on,” Brinky says, “or when young people began to be distracted by other cultures and when the United States was given permission by the government of the day to build an army base and airfield, thus moving St. David’s islanders off their land and paying them below the going rate. The most recent ceremonies that took place on St. David’s Island were during the late 1800s and very early 1900s, when our elders at night would dance around a fire in a secluded area and sing in a foreign language. I have spoken to people who witnessed this ceremony.”
 
Fortunately, some of the St. David’s Indians, including Brinky Tucker, decided that they could not see their heritage disappear, and they began to explore their past and rekindle old relationships. Through 30 years of both archival and oral history research as well as travels to the United States, many of the Bermudan Indians have now reconnected with their indigenous Mashuntucket Pequot and Mashpee Wampanoag roots and also formed relationships with people of Narragansett, Powhatan, and other native backgrounds. In 2002, a delegation of Pequots from Connecticut, Narragansetts from Rhode Island, and Wampanoags from Massachusetts visited Bermuda for an historic meeting, and that year featured the first Reconnection Indian Festival celebrated on St. David’s Island.  This year, anthropologists and photographers from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian met with the Bermudan participants at the Wampanoag powwow in Mashpee, Massahcusetts to include their stories in the NMAI’s traveling 2009 exhibit, “IndiVisible,” which chronicles Native American and African American interactions in the Americas. The pictures that accompany this article are from that powwow.


I first met Brinky Tucker at the 2007 Schemitzun (Green Corn Ceremony) and powwow sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequots in Connecticut. A founding member of the St. David’s Island Indian Committee, Brinky, along with his son Stephen, current committee chair and cousin Jean Foggo-Simon, James Smith, and other Bermudian Indians, had crafts-display tables and Bermudan tourism materials. Impressed with their warm hospitality, regalia and dancing, and sharing of historical background, I decided to follow up with this article focused on their traditional arts and crafts and the resurgence of their culture. “Since 2002” Brinky says, “our Native American pride has increased one thousands times over, learning our culture, spirituality, a sense of oneness and not being afraid to be proud of who we are. We have developed relationship with our cousins in New England that will last forever.


 

 

This article is from The Royal Gazette, Bermuda August 27, 2013 by Jessie Moniz


Brinky’s proud of his unique heritage


“When I die, bury me in St David’s.” Those were some of the last words that Isabelle Griffins Tucker told her son, St Clair Brinkworth “Brinky” Tucker before she died in 2002 at the age of 86.


When Mr Tucker, 70, was a child, his mother’s pride in her heritage, which included Native American roots, helped him to ride out the merciless teasing and jokes that was commonly heaped on St David’s Islanders by the rest of the community.


These days, the joke is on the rest of the community, because now, everyone wants to be a St David’s Islander. This is thanks, in part, to Mr Tucker’s tireless efforts to educate Bermuda about St David’s unique cultural heritage and connections with indigenous people in the United States and the Caribbean.


“People from all walks of life come up to me now and tell me their father or grandfather or mother was from St David’s,” said Mr Tucker.


Mr Tucker’s confession, however, is that he was actually raised in Pembroke. His mother was from St David’s, but his father, Brinkworth Tucker, was brought up in the United States, and later returned to the Island to work as a taxi driver.


Mr Tucker, now retired, was a police officer. He studied at Bishop Garth Police College, Devon and Cornwall Police College and the Airport Security Police College, and then joined the Bermuda Police Force in 1962. He worked his way up the ladder and became an inspector in 1978, and served as officer-in-charge of the Airport Police Station, St George Police Station and Hamilton Police Station. He was the first person of St David’s Island ancestry to be promoted as an officer, and the first born Bermudian put in charge of Police prosecutions. He later worked as Aide De Camp (ADC) for Sir John Swan when he was Premier of Bermuda.


Although, Mr Tucker was curious about his family heritage as a child, he really didn’t start looking into it in any great detail until he was an adult.


During his research, he learned that Native American captives were brought to Bermuda in the late 1600s and early 1700s to be sold as slaves. They were often captives from various wars fought between Europeans and Native Americans. They were sold in the square in St George. Mr Tucker said although many were purchased by residents of St George, people from all over Bermuda would also purchase them, so Bermudians don’t have to have roots in St David’s to have Native American ancestry.


Mr Tucker found during genealogy research that one of his great grandmothers born in the 1700s was listed as a ‘free coloured woman’ which meant Indian or partly Indian in census records from the 1700s. Mr Tucker does not know her tribe as this was not recorded. There were about nine different tribes enslaved in Bermuda.


“The traditional name used for St David’s Islanders was ‘Mohawks’,” said Mr Tucker. “Through research and talking with Mohawk elderly overseas, I have found that Mohawks were never enslaved here. They were not one of the nine tribes.”


Mr Tucker believed that St David’s Islanders became known as ‘Mohawks’ around the time of emancipation. According to Mr Tucker, newly freed black Bermudians celebrated emancipation by going to church to pray, whereas, St David’s Islanders drank and partied.


“They couldn’t hold their liquor too much and they got loud and rowdy and boisterous,” said Mr Tucker. “The English soldiers said the Indians were acting like ‘Mohawks’, savages and cannibals and the name stuck.”


However, when Mr Tucker was growing up there were many elderly St David’s Islanders who classified themselves as ‘Mohawks’, including his mother.


“My mother passed away in 2002 and some of her last words were ‘I was born a Mohawk and I will die a Mohawk’,” said Mr Tucker. “While she was quite sick I took a couple of Indians to see her. They were struck by her appearance and friendliness. After they left she asked what tribe they were from. I said one was a Navaho and the other was Wampanoag and she said ‘I have never heard of those tribes’. She said ‘when I die, bury me in St David’s’.”


Around this time, he and a group of others got together to research and acknowledge their ancestry. This group eventually became known as St David’s Island Reconnection Indian Committee. However, not everyone was happy about Mr Tucker delving into the past.


“Some elders were against it because they felt it would draw more attention to St David’s Islanders,” said Mr Tucker. The group established connections with Native American tribes and nations in the United States and the Caribbean, and arranged the first pow wow in Bermuda held in 2002. Mr Tucker said that powwow was a deeply emotional experience for many St David’s Islanders.


“Many St David’s Islanders cried, because their heritage had been brought from the kitchen table into the open,” he said. “I remember one sister of this particular family had left St David’s because she wanted to better herself. She almost distanced herself from the rest of the family. At the pow wow a reconnection took place and she came back and apologised to her family.”


Mr Tucker has found that indigenous captives weren’t just brought here from the United States, but also from the Caribbean. At a pow wow in the United States he befriended the chief of a group in the Caribbean called the Tainos. He learned that Tainos were part of the group brought to Bermuda to be sold as slaves. Taino Milly Kariara Gandia took part in a pow wow in Bermuda, and was impressed with Bermuda and the people she met. Bermuda is now part of the Taino Federation which encompasses Cuba, Dominica, Puerto Rico and a couple of other islands.


“They have had various functions and invited us to participate,” said Mr Tucker. “We have been in constant communication with them ever since. We feel quite honoured.”


In 2009, Mr Tucker wrote a book ‘St David’s Island, Bermuda Its People, History and Culture’, to further educate Bermudians about St David’s culture and traditions. Today, few people can talk about Bermuda’s links with Native American heritage without mentioning Mr Tucker in some way. He is still actively involved with the committee, as a trustee and former chairman. He has been honoured with eagle feathers and red hawk feathers by Native Americans for his contributions in the education of Native American slavery in Bermuda, a special accolade in the Native American community. He has also been recognised locally. In 2007, he was honoured by Bermuda’s Department of Community and Cultural Affairs as an Outstanding Tradition- Bearer of the Family and Community.


He is married to Lyn and they have two sons, Sean and Stephen, and three grandchildren.