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Springy Banks Pow Wow Grounds

Table of Contents
Introduction
History
Montaukett Family Gathering
Powwow Ceremony
Colonial Description

Introduction

The Springy Banks site has been described as a favorite summer camping grounds of the Montauk.

It receives its name from numerous delicious flowing springs of water that flow from the base of the cliffs here. Many an East Hampton and Three Mile Harbor residents speak with nostalgia of the sweet draughts of water that they enjoyed from Springy Banks when it was Town Property.

History

1944 – 45

Three Mile Harbor powwows held by Ashby West, (Carlos Westez-Red Thunder Cloud) and L.I. Council of the Federated Indian League.

Indians of different tribes attended, including Montaukett, Shinnecock, Matinecock, Schaghticok, Narragansett, Cherokee, and others.

A “Treaty of Peace” was signed by Chief Night Hawk (Philip H. Peckham) of the Narragansett, and Chief Buckskin (Charles Butler) of the Montauk at one of the powwows.1

The event proved so popular that it was repeated each year in late August or early September into the early 1950s. The tradition of a late summer Indian Powwow has been taken over by the Shinnecock tribe in Southampton, who participated in the Three Mile Harbor event for years.2

  1. David Martine, Shinnecock History Timeline pp. 11
  2. Management Plan Subcommittee of the Town’s Nature Preserve Committee, Soak Hides Nature Preserve: Management Plan 2011 pp. 3

Montaukett Family Gathering

 

springy-banks-portrait-822x1024 Springy Banks Pow Wow Grounds Jeremy Dennis On This Site

Susan Butler, left and her sister Ethel. Photo Patchogue Library

On occasion, the Montaukett families in Freetown and Eastville met by the water at a place called “Springy Banks” on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton, near Stephen Pharoah‘s birthplace. The Montauketts did not dress in Indian regalia on these occasions, but the meetings themselves were expressions of an existing extended family kinship system. These small gatherings are not well documented, but Olive Pharoah said that she remembered going there for many family reunions (personal communication, May 1996). A photograph showing members of the Butler and Pharoah families at a picnic at Springy Banks documents one such gathering in 1935 (Stony 193a, 397).

Some of the meetings at Springy Banks were larger and included guests from other tribes. On these occasions, most of the people who dressed in Indian regalia performed dances as part of the program. In 1940 the Montauketts hosted two powwows that were attended by representatives of the Narragansett, Shinnecock, Matinecock, and several other southern New England tribes (Westez 1993, 291-94). 1

 

springy-banks-portrait-5 Springy Banks Pow Wow Grounds Jeremy Dennis On This Site

A get-together in Springy Banks around 1935 with, from L to R, (Unknown), Red Thunder Cloud, (Unknown,) Susan Butler, Ethel Butler (holding son Robert), Samuel Pharoah (?); in front Harry Loretto. Photo courtesy RTC.

 

Powwow and Reenactment

A reenactment in Springs around 1944 of the signing of the Montauk – Narragansett/Nipmuc peace treaty.

 

  1.  Strong, J. A. (2001). The Montaukett Indians of Eastern Long Island. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. pp 155

Powwow Ceremony

The East Hampton Star wrote an article on August 31st, 1944 describing the event;

Peace Treaty Signing Feature of Indian Pow Wow

A colorful spectacle unfolded itself Saturday and Sunday at Turtle Back at Three Mile Harbor as 30 Indians from the Narragansett, Montauk, Catawba, Shinnecock, Schaghticoke, Cherokee and Matinecock Tribes celebrated the signing of a Peace Treaty between the Narragansett and Montauk Indians who have been foes since 1656.

 

Saturday a small group of spectators gathered around the dance grounds and the visiting Indians were led in dancing by Red Thunder Cloud, Catawba, who accompanied them on the tom tom. Solo dances Saturday were done by Chief Rising Sun, Cherokee; Chief Swimming Eel, Schaghitcoke; Poniute, Montauk; Red Thunder Cloud, Catwba, and Chiefs Roaring Bull, Night Hawk, Pine Tree, Eagle Eye and Owls Head of the Narragansetts.

 

At 2 o’clock Swimming Eel, the Medicine Sagamore of the Schaghticokes, started the ceremonies while Chief Rising Sun of the Cherokees acted as master of ceremonies. The making of the fire and the smoking to the four winds was completed and the preliminaries to the Treaty of Peace between the Montauks and Narragansetts commenced. Swimming Eel then directed the Narragansetts and the Montauks to cleanse the blood of centuries from their hands with clean grass. Chief Night Hawk led the Narragansetts with Chief Buckskin, the Montauks. The pipe of the Montauks was then smoked by the Narragansetts and the pipe of the Narragansetts was smoked by the Montauks, thus signifying that the peace was nearly completed. The war clubs of the two tribes were then buried in holes two feet deep and Chief Roaring Bull buried the Narragansett club while Chief Buckskin buried the War Club of the Montauks. The two treaties were then read to the gathering and were signed by Chiefs Roaring Bull, Night Hawk, Pine Tree, Eagle Eye and Owl’s Head of the Narragansetts, while Chief Buckskin, Poniute, Mrs. Eliza Beaman, Olive Pharoah and two older Indian women signed for the Montauks. A treaty was presented to both the Narragansett and Montauk Chiefs.

 

Chief Swimming Eel led the Indians in the Friendship Dance to completed the treaty. Chief Rising Sun introduced Sylvester Smith, a full-blooded Oneida Indian boy from Green Bay, Wisconsin, who is with the United States Navy at Montauk. Chief Roaring Bull, Narragansett, and Chief Swimming Eel, Schaghticoke, engaged in the Knife Dance, with Roaring Bull as the victor. Poniute, a 13-year-old Montauk Indian did the War Dance of the Montauks, and was the youngest dancer present.

 

Princess Chichi Thunder Bird, a Shinnecock, presented a graceful interpretation of the Bird Dance. All of the Indians then took part in the War Dance and the program ended. Prior to the program Mayor Banister was admitted to the Council ring bearing a Friendship Arrow that Red Thunder Cloud had presented to him last week as a symbol of friendship and admittance to the Circle. Mayor Banister spoke to the gathering in behalf of the American Indian and expressed the hope that the Indians would make the Pow Wow an annual affair and that it was the first time that East Hampton had ever had an Indian Pow Wow. He also joined in with the Indian in the War Dance.

 

The Long Island Council of the Federated Eastern Indian League held a council at which Red Thunder Cloud, who has been acting sachem of the Council, was elected as the Great Sachem of the Long Island Council. Chief Red Cloud, Iroquois, and the Great Sachem of the entire League was not present. The Narragansett delegation left after the ceremonies for their native state of Rhode Island, one group led by Chief Roaring Bull and the other by Chief Night Hawk. Women in the Narragansett group were Princess Picking Flower, Princess Pine Needles, Princess Teatta and Princess Dove – who presented a feat of Narragansett clam chowder for the Indians.

 

Colonial Description

Everett T Rattray writes about the Powwow that happened around 1871 in his book The South Fork, published 1979, pp 199;

There was a powwow one September back in those days at our old picnic place at Springy Banks on the west side of Three Mile Harbor, north of East Hampton. Mos t of the Indians on hand were from the West, whole carloads of redskins in old Buicks, Oldsmobiles, and Cadillacs bearing plates from states like Oklahoma and Wyoming, states where they, would not be able to vote or drink for another few decades. We watched as one lank old buck, visible penis wrapped mummy- style beneath his loose loincloth, danced alone.

 

Yi! Yi! Yi! Yi! he chanted, bare feet pounding against the packed sand, and feathers bouncing. Ooogha! Ooogha! Ooogha! Ooogha! responded a middle-aged black man, whom we then called a Negro, from high up in a nearby tree, pounding his chest in imitation of the gorilla in a Tarzan movie. He swung from a branch by one hand while scratching his armpit with the other, and his family watched in horror.

 

I knew him and knew that he, like a good many other members of “old” black families on the East End of Long Island, was probably as Indian as some of the dancers, as Indian as poor Spenny Quaw, on whom, my grandmother told me approvingly, the Irish servant girl had once turned the garden hose when he “got fresh.” The man in the tree, and his family, had chosen Negritude. They could have picked Indianhood, but never, in a nation which at that time and in some parts still considered an eighth part “Negro blood” as grounds for legal segregation, could have joined the white majority.

 

Springy Banks, where the Indians danced, is part of the Hampton Waters subdivision now, and the hollow tree trunks sunk in the springs at the foot of the bluff, supposedly by the Indians, as wells, have long since rotted away. I once tried to tell a woman who lived in a new house, built just where the Indians had danced, about the powwows, and the unmarked graves on the hill behind, and our childhood picnics on what we had naively assumed to be public land. My grandmother had camped there with her female friends in the early 1900s, I said; a group of women in their late twenties with children already entering their teens, smoking cigarettes and digging clams and singing around fires in an attempt to regain the girlhoods abruptly ended when they had married a decade or so earlier at sixteen and seventeen. The woman of the new house grew very angry and said we resented outsiders like her. I hadn’t meant it that way.

 

There are no more powwows at Springy Banks, but the tourists still flock each Labor Day weekend to the Shinnecock Indian Pow-Wow in Southampton, a benefit for the Reservation Church. Some of them titter when they realize that a good many of the Shinnecocks are of mixed black-white-red ancestry, in proportions as varied and pleasing, to the unbigoted, as in the population of some West Indian islands.

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