Nov. 1, 2021

The Stockbridge-Munsee Community & their Removal History

The Stockbridge-Munsee Community, the People of the Waters that Are Never Still, were forced to move many times after they first encountered Europeans.

In 1609, Dutch trader Henry Hudson sailed up the Mahicannituck, the River that Flows Both Ways, into Mohican land. By 1614 there was a Dutch trading post established on a nearby island to take advantage of the beaver and otter availability. The arrival of the Europeans changed the economic pattern of the Mohicans, and brought both disease and religion into their land.

The Mohican people, part of the Eastern Algonquian family of tribes, originally occupied large areas of land in what is now New England and the Hudson River Valley, including parts of what is now Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and were neighbors to the Lenape, to whom they are related. Over time, the Mohican people and the Munsees, who were also Lenape, and whose language and lifestyles were similar, affiliated with each other. 

After the arrival of the Europeans, the Mohicans were driven out of their land, into what would become Massachusetts and Connecticut, where they were introduced to Christianity and became known as the Stockbridge Moohicans. Then they were driven into New York, then to Indiana, then to Wisconsin and then further into Wisconsin.

By the late 19th century, the Stockbridge-Munsee, like nearly every Native nation within the United States, was assigned to a reservation. Theirs was largely pine forest that was difficult to farm. Reservation land was portioned and allotted to individuals and families. Much of the land was sold to lumber companies or lost when the taxes couldn’t be paid. By the 1920s the Stockbridge Munsee were virtually landless and living in poverty. When Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, Native communities were able to obtain funds from the federal government to reorganize their tribal governments and recover some of their land. By the end of 1937, the Stockbridge-Munsee had a new Constitution.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Community is still located on the reservation in Wisconsin, which currently includes a little over 17,000 acres of trust land and around 7,500 acres of non-trust land. Around half of the tribe’s population of 1500 people live on or near the reservation. In 1999, they established a Tribal Historic Preservation office to formalize the work of protecting burial sites and other cultural areas in its Eastern homelands.

I’m joined in this episode by Heather Bruegl, who is enrolled Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and first line descendant Stockbridge Munsee and who is the Director of Education at the Forge Project.

Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is “Papscanee Island Nature Preserve,” by Andy Arthur, May 12, 2013. (CC BY 2.0)

We ask that you consider supporting the efforts of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community's Historic Preservation program with a donation


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Kelly Therese Pollock  0:00  
This is Unsung History, the podcast where we discuss people and events in American history that haven't always received a lot of attention. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then talk to someone who knows a lot more than I do. Be sure to subscribe to Unsung History on your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. And please, tell your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, maybe even strangers to listen too.

Today's episode is about the Stockbridge Munsee community, who call themselves the "People of the Waters That Are Never Still." Mohican people, part of the Eastern Algonquin family of tribes, occupied large areas of land in what is now New England and the Hudson River Valley, including parts of what is now Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and were neighbors to the Lenape, to whom they're related. The Mohican people lived near rivers, to be close to food, water, and transportation. They lived in wigwams and long houses. The women generally tended the home and garden, and the men hunted and fished. In the spring, they would tap the maple trees and gather the sap for syrup in a ceremony welcoming spring. Over time, the Mohican people and the Munsees, who were also Lenape, and whose language and lifestyles were similar, affiliated with each other. In 1609, Dutch trader Henry Hudson sailed up the Mahicanituck the river that flows both ways into Mohican land. By 1614, there was a Dutch Trading Post established on a nearby island to take advantage of the beaver and otter availability. The arrival of Europeans changed Mohican economic pattern, as the Mohicans were driven out of their land, and found themselves dependent on the white people rather than on Mother Earth. Tensions between the Europeans and between the Mohicans and the Mohawks over the fur trade, erupted into the Beaver Wars in 1628 and drove the Mohicans west by the early 1700s into what would become Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Europeans also brought their diseases and their religion with them. Some Mohicans, seeing that the Europeans were more prosperous than they were, were willing to try Christianity. Missionary John Sergeant came to live with the Mohicans in their village of Wnahktukuk in 1734, teaching the Christian religion and baptizing some of the Mohicans. The European inhabitants renamed the village Stockbridge after a village in England. Other native people came to hear the missionaries' teachings, including the Wappingers, the Niantics, Brothertons, Tunxis, Pequot, Mohawk, Narragansett, and Oneida and the tribal group became known as the Stockbridge Indians. The Stockbridge Mohicans fought with the colonists in the Revolutionary War, and in the War of 1812. But when they returned home, they were no longer welcome in Stockbridge. The Oneida offered the Stockbridge Mohicans part of their land, near Oneida Lake in New Stockbridge where they flourished. But it was short lived. Land companies proposed that New York State remove all Indians. The Stockbridge Mohicans moved on again, this time to the White River area in what is now Indiana, where they could settle among their relatives, the Miami and the Lenape, also referred to as the Delaware. After traveling for a year to reach White River, they discovered that the Delaware had been coerced into selling their land. In 1822, a treaty was negotiated between agents from the state of New York, and commissioners for the War Department, with the Menominee and the Ho-Chunk for the New York Indians to relocate, to land in what is now Wisconsin. The Stockbridge Mohicans moved from Indiana to Wisconsin, and built a village on the Fox River, at Grand Cakalin, also called Statesburg. They were moved again to areas on the east shore of Lake Winnebago in 1834.

Fearing further removal west after President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, some of the Stockbridge Mohicans moved to what is now Kansas and Oklahoma, but many stayed in Wisconsin. A group of Lenni Lenape Munsees joined their Stockbridge Mohican relatives in Wisconsin, and the community became known as the Stockbridge Munsees. With the Treaty of 1856, the Stockbridge and Munsee moved to the townships of Red Springs and Bartelme in Shawano County. By the late 19th century, the Stockbridge Munsee, like nearly every Native nation within the United States, was assigned to a reservation. Theirs was largely pine forest that was difficult to farm. Reservation land was portioned and allotted to individuals and to families. Much of the land was sold to lumber companies or lost when the taxes couldn't be paid. By the 1920s, the Stockbridge Munsee were virtually landless, and living in poverty. When Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, Native communities were able to obtain funds from the federal government to reorganize their tribal governments and recover some of their land. By the end of 1937, the Stockbridge Munsee had a new constitution, with its first tribal president, Harry A. Chicks elected. The Stockbridge Munsee community is still located on the reservation in Wisconsin, which currently includes a little over 17,000 acres of trust land, and about 7500 acres of non trust land. Around half of the tribe's population of 1500 people live on or near the reservation. In 1999, they established a Tribal Historic Preservation Office to formalize the work of protecting burial sites, and other cultural areas in the eastern homelands. The major source of much of this introduction is the "Our History" section of the Stockbridge Munsee community website. To help us learn more about the Stockbridge Munsee, I'm joined now by Heather Bruegl, who is enrolled Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, and first line descendant, Stockbridge Munsee, and who is the Director of Education at the Forge Project. So Hi, Heather, thanks so much for joining me today.

Heather Bruegl  8:30  
Thank you, Kelly, for having me. Super excited to be here.

Kelly Therese Pollock  8:33  
Yeah. So my first question is often, how did you become interested in this history? I think perhaps in your case, this history is perhaps a little bit easier to understand, but you know what what got you interested in in studying history at all?

Heather Bruegl  8:48  
Right? Well, I was really lucky when I was growing up. The fact I had a family member, a dear uncle of mine, who has since passed, but he was very influential in my studying of history. He was a citizen of the Stockbridge Munsee community, also known as Mohican Nation, and I used to go visit him like every summer up on the res. He had this beautiful cabin, and he would tell me stories. Later on, as I got older, I realized he was telling me history stories, you know, about American, early colonial history, US history, things like that. And he went to school, he went to college to be a teacher. And then he did his student teaching and realized he didn't like it. And so he didn't like that structured classroom setting. So he went on to do some, some other really great things but definitely instilled that love of history in me. So when I went to college, I knew that was what I was going to study. And I actually first started out in early colonial history, which I still am completely obsessed with. But then as I got older and started to come into my identity, more of who I am and understanding my own history, that's when I really shifted my focus to indigenous history.

Kelly Therese Pollock  9:58  
Yeah. And so I I think this is interesting that you started with this idea of storytelling because I, I think a lot about and talk a lot about on this show, what are the sources of what we know or what we don't know what what the stories that get told and don't get told. So in in the history of the Stockbridge Munsee people, you know, what, what are the kinds of sources that you're looking at?  Is a lot of it oral history, you know, what do the written records look like? What what is that sort of whole universe of things to learn about this history?

Heather Bruegl  10:32  
Yeah, so I think when you're looking at indigenous history across the board, I think understanding those oral histories is super important, listening to your elders in the community, listening to your elders in in, in, in your family, but also looking into archives that the tribe might have. So I was lucky enough to be able to have studied and researched in but also worked in at one point, the archives that the Stockbridge Munsee community has that was, you know. I worked in the archives for two years, and to be able to be surrounded by that history is super exciting, and really cool. Because you while oral traditions play a huge role, having those histories written down is also really important, as well. And when you're talking about a group of people who are, you know, were also known as, we're the Mohicans, you know, Mohican history as well, you know, combating those myths, such as "Last of the Mohicans," and things like that. It's like we have this rich history to talk about, and we're still around, we're still here. So it's, it's very cool to be able to, like use our own voices to combat those narratives.

Kelly Therese Pollock  11:42  
Yeah. What are the kinds of things that are in those archives that you were working on?

Heather Bruegl  11:46  
Yeah, so we have things. We have written documentation of the language of the Mohican language. So when we were, we greeted Henry Hudson in 1609. So we were colonized very early on. And that also meant we were Christianized very early on. And so a lot of texts that we have relate to converting to Christianity. So there are catechisms and religious texts that were translated into the Mohican language, right. So we have, you know, some of those documentations down there. We have maps we have, oh, gosh, what else we have writing some tribal members that talk about stories. We have books, we have all sorts of things that it's just, it's we have, if you are ever in Northeast Wisconsin, and you go to the Stockbridge Munsee Reservation, and you go to the Tribal Museum and Archives, just know you're about to encounter the largest set of Mohican archives in the world. So and this is through community members, back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, even today, traveling back out east to the homelands, to be able to copy these records down by hand, and bring those histories back to the community. So it was all community based community run community gathered and community put together.

Kelly Therese Pollock  13:12  
Oh, I love that. So I think when I had previously thought of removal history, you know, it was very much like Trail of Tears. And in my mind, it was, there was an act, and then everyone was sent West. And it was tragic and terrible, but it was a one time thing and it just happened. And that is not at all the history of the Stockbridge Munsee. So can you talk a little bit about what, you know, it's not this sort of one and done thing? What is this, this long journey look like?

Heather Bruegl  13:40  
Yeah. So I think you're right. I think in terms of removal, when you hear Indian removal, you think Andrew Jackson, you think Trail of Tears. You think of the five civilized nations and things like that, and that was awful and tragic. But I think you have to start back earlier you have so again, I said, you know, a lot of tribes in the Northeast experienced colonization in the early 1600s. And that would have not just been Mohican Nation, but it would have been the Haudenosaunee, which is also the Iroquois Confederacy. So and I'm a citizen of Oneida Nation, as well. So it's, it's important to understand we would have had that contact early on, and would have things would have been shifting early on. So Indian removal wasn't signed till 1830, but tribes in the North East in the New England, part of the country were being moved very early on because we had the formation of the United States. Right. We declared independence in 1776. And you had tribes, you know, the the colonists that were coming in had to live somewhere. Right? So you've got, you know, the the eastern seaboard being populated with settlers coming in, and tribes being pushed outwards. So it didn't just happen in 1830 when everyone seems to think it happened. It happened early on from that. And if you want to narrow it down to Stockbridge Munsee Mohican Nation, it was, you know, we went from basically, the Hudson River Valley area, western part of Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, to moving to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, then to New Stockbridge, New York, then to White River, Indiana, and then to Stockbridge and then Kakauna, Wisconsin, and then finally where the seat of government remains now in Boulder, Wisconsin. And that was in 1856. So our last removal happened in 1856. So, but that was just for the that was the journey of an Eastern tribe. The removal then continues to happen, because it continues to, you've got this idea of Manifest Destiny and all of that. So with settler colonialism pushing westward, you then encounter the Plains tribes such as the Lakota, Cheyenne, the Arapaho, and all of those tribes being forced, while they really didn't have a place to send them. Then you have the inception of the reservation system.

Kelly Therese Pollock  16:08  
So you earlier you said homelands at one point and so with this sort of long history of moving, you know, what, what does the the Stockbridge Munsee tribe consider as sort of the the homelands?

Heather Bruegl  16:21  
Yeah, so the Stockbridge Munsee Mohican Nation was located in what is now called the Hudson River Valley area, so from like Albany, south, south and east, so parts of New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. So big vast area all out. Yeah, yes.

Kelly Therese Pollock  16:44  
Yeah. And I think the other thing, you know, when I'm thinking sort of Trail of Tears removal, you don't see any agency among the native people themselves, or at least, you know, that's not the story that is told. But in the history of the Stockbridge Munsee while obviously, this is not their choice to be moved, there is still agency in the sort of way they are moved, in the alliances they make along the way. Can you talk about that piece of it a little bit?

Heather Bruegl  17:12  
Yeah. So I think probably one of the best examples to use in, in gathering support from other tribes or other tribes supporting other tribes is you have the example of the Haudenosaunee which is also known as the Iroquois Confederacy Six Nations right. So that would have been the Oneida, the Seneca Onondaga, the Kira, the Tuscarora and I'm forgetting one, I always forget one. I don't know why. It'll come to me. And so you've got and that was a powerful Confederacy, right. And it's even been talked about in the formation of the government of the United States. But there were tribes the the Mohawk there it was, it was the Mohawk. I knew it was gonna come. But they relied on each other. And so there would have been other tribes in the area that would have relied on each other too, so we're known today as the Stockbridge Munsee Community. Munsee is also Lenape. So we had a strong alliance with the Lenape. We actually refer to the Lenape, who are also known as the Delaware as The Grandfathers. And so we had a group of Munsee Lenape who joined with us when we went into Wisconsin. And so that's how we became Stockbridge Munsee. Stockbridge comes from our settlement in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. And so it kind of just, like, eliminated the Mohican name, but we're very much Mohican Nation. And so having those alliances really is helpful. In fact, on our move to White River, Indiana, we were supposed to stay with a group of Lenape and Miami, and I think Shawnee, that were in the area but they had been coerced into selling the land that was there. So when once we got there, there was no place for us to stay. But those alliances are super important. And then you see later on in history, you know, with Tecumseh, who is Shawnee, who formed this alliance with the Shawnee and the Lenape, and these other tribes kind of in that Ohio River Valley area, to kind of not just rise up against settler colonialism, but stop the expansion and kind of create a space for indigenous people. And that's really important. So alliances are really good. But then we also, the Stockbridge Munsee Community Mohican Nation, we've also been known as diplomats. We've had a lot of diplomats in our in our community, in our leadership and things like that. So, for example, one of our leaders John Quinney, traveled to Washington, DC over 10 times to lobby on behalf of the Stockbridge Munsee people. And so all of our leaders have, you know, formed diplomatic relations, not with just other tribes but with politicians in Washington, DC as well.

Kelly Therese Pollock  20:03  
And I believe I read that the Stockbridge Munsee also, were able to become US citizens rather early compared to some other groups. But that it, maybe not everyone agreed that was a good idea. You know, can you talk some about that sort of dual role that, you know, the there are these settlers coming in trying to colonize, offering citizenship, which maybe has some benefits? But you know, on the other hand, these are the people forcing their way into your lands, you know, but what, what do those tensions look like?

Heather Bruegl  20:40  
Yeah, so the idea of citizenship for indigenous people is a very complex idea. So yes, there was a congressional act that was passed in 1843, that granted Stockbridge Munsee Community citizenship. On the surface that looks and sounds like a really good idea. But what it did is it, it stripped us of our tribal sovereignty. So prior to that we were operating as sovereign nations. And that was on precedent, when the United States did, the United States signed its first treaty with indigenous people. And it was with the Lenape people, and it was a treaty of alliance. But if you pay attention in history, class treaties are only signed between sovereign entities. So you have the Treaty of Paris, which was signed between the newly formed United States and Great Britain, acknowledging the independence of the United States. That treaty is something we still honor today, right? In 2021, we're still like Treaty of Paris. It was signed, it was ratified, it sets the precedent for the independence of the United States. Same concept when you apply treaty, the treaty signing between the United States and the Lenape. It sets that precedent that we are sovereign nations. So on surface, granting citizenship to the Stockbridge Munsee Community sounds good, but it strips you of that tribal sovereignty. So John Quinney, who was, like I said, one of our great leaders went to Washington, DC to lobby to have that overturned, and that ends up being overturned in the Congressional Act of 1848. Because we, it, we wanted that tribal sovereignty and as important to us, right, so it restores who we are as as a sovereign nation, and that cause those two acts cause a split in in the community. So you have the citizen party and the Indian party, literally. Yeah. And it's, it's, you know, and it happened so long ago, but if you bring it up, there's still some tension, right in the community. So it's because like, the citizen party was like, "Oh, you left. You sold your land, go out, you know, whatever." And then you've got the Indian party, who are like, "We are, we stayed and we powered through," and so it's very complicated. Turns out though, indigenous people were not then made citizens of the United States till 1924. So we were living under US empirical rule, until 1924, when we were then made citizens of the United States. So it's a really interesting concept to think about.

Kelly Therese Pollock  23:31  
Yeah, definitely. Another thing that I think about a lot, I think there's a lot of stories of when colonial settlers come in that that changes a lot about the economy and the culture for native tribes because of you know, various things that are introduced, you know, material goods, and all sorts of disease and all sorts of other things. So there's that piece of it, but then also this group is moving and so the the type of agriculture, hunting etc, that you might do in the northeast and then Indiana and then Wisconsin is all very different. So what what are sort of all the adaptations that have to happen along the way to keep surviving as a community?

Heather Bruegl  24:15  
I mean, you know, I, I tend to say a lot that with the inception of trade goods, economic way of life for indigenous people change drastically, right? So you go from making your traditional goods to now working with iron kettles and glass beads, contrary to popular belief, beading is not something we did all the time. So let's just let's just nip that in the bud. But you know, we we learned how to adapt right to that beading that was happening, the fur trade and you know, trading these items for now these goods that we then become dependent on in order to survive, because we're, you're almost giving up one way of life in order for another way of life, but it's not really giving it up. It's you're trying to adapt with the times and make sure that your people are fed and your, you know, your people are being taken care of and things like that. So as we're moving, you know, and tribes are, for the most part nomadic, right? We didn't just stay in the Hudson River Valley or we didn't just stay in the Berkshires, we didn't you know, we moved to different places during different times of the years. And that is true for a lot of indigenous tribes. But you kind of stayed in the same area. Now that you're being forced westward, things are different: climate's different, the soil is different. You know, the reason Oklahoma became Indian country, was because it was the crappiest land at that time, until we mechanized farming. And then we realized, "O wait, we can farm in this dry, arid, you know, dust bowl of a place." And so what happens then is you force the tribes onto reservations. But it's also important to point out too, that not every indigenous tribe was an agricultural tribe. They weren't all agrarian, agrarian societies. And so you're adapting. There are hunters, gatherers, some agriculture, but it was all different. And so now you're having to take these practices that you may have practiced in one area of the country and kind of adapt them to different areas. And like, because I can tell you, the climate in northeast Wisconsin is very different from the climate in New England. So. So yeah, you're having to learn and adapt as you're going along.

Kelly Therese Pollock  26:46  
Yeah. Earlier too, you mentioned the introduction of Christianity very early, because being coming into contact with Europeans early. I think at one point, I was, you know, Googling and various things to prepare for this, and I saw like the Christian Indians or something, you know, so what, what did that conversion experience look like? Did a lot of the Stockbridge Munsee people convert? Are they still Christian? You know, what does that look like?

Heather Bruegl  27:19  
A lot of people converted. And when I you know, so Massachusetts had these places, a lot of not just Massachusetts, but places in New England had these towns called praying towns. And it was, they were usually missions that were set up where the various tribal nations would go and convert. So like, for example, Stockbridge would have been Mohican Nation and Lenape, and Oneida, and Brotherton, and Narragansett and Mohawk, and all these different tribes that have come into the area to learn about what Christianity is and, and try and say like, "Oh, maybe we need to be doing this or whatever." And so I think a lot of it, when I look at those early conversions, I think I look at them more out of conversion of necessity out of survival, right? Because you're seeing what the prosperity that the settlers are having, and you're seeing the prosperity that you are not having. So you are like, maybe there's something to this Christian God, right. And so with that, a lot of people convert and that's carried with them. There are a plethora of indigenous people today that identify as Christians and practice various religions. I think you'll see a lot of Catholics and a lot of Lutherans because that seems to be like the two that also ran boarding schools. So when we're looking at non government run boarding schools, you're looking at religiously run boarding schools, and the Catholics and the Lutherans were like, right up there with with that, and so of course, religion played a very big role. But you're also seeing to younger generations coming up, not necessarily rejecting that Christian religion, but looking back to the traditional ways, and, and practicing traditional religion, traditional ceremony and things like that. And I, you know, definitely had a deconversion process in my early 20s. I was I was raised Catholic, but I'm no longer a practicing Catholic. And, but I don't necessarily practice traditional religions as well. I kind of, I'm like, I don't know, I'm not like, I have my beliefs, but it's, you know, for me, it's just taking a firm stand on not practicing colonized, what I see as colonized religions. And this is not to dog on anyone who practices whatever religion. I'm very much a big "To each their own. You do you." But I think, you know, when I think of Christianity and conversion and religions, I think of, I think more so of the harm that was done, as opposed to the quote, good that may have come out of it. Yes. Was there good? Absolutely. But to me, there was more harm done than good when it comes to to the conversion of Christianity. And a lot of tribes in the east, Mohican Nation included, Oneida included, a lot of those early traditions and things were lost because we were Christianized and colonized so early on.

Yeah. Yeah. So I think there have been more recent efforts. There have, of course, been sort of land back efforts all over the country with different tribes. But the Stockbridge Munsee had been working on getting land, I believe in New York State. Can you talk a little bit about that, and what that looks like?

Yeah, so the Stockbridge Munsee Community and this was, this was probably the last thing I assisted with before I left my position there, at Stockbridge Munsee Community, was the returning of Papscanee Island, which is an island that's located in the Mahicanituck, you know it as the Hudson River. And this island is significant because it's named after Papsickene, who was a leader of ours in the 1600s. And he lived on this island, and this island had been under threat since like, the 1980s, 1990s for possible development. And so Open Space Institute came in and and and scooped the island up and stewarded it, tried to help protect it from development, because they are a land conservation organization, great organization. And so, you know, over the pandemic, they approached the community about, "Hey, you know, this isn't, this isn't our land, we we have no problems being stewards of it to protect it, but it really should go back to its rightful owners". And so the prior to that the island was listed as a nominee for National Registry for Historic Places, but it was still coming under threat of development. And so the side of this island that is the nature preserve is virtually untouched. And so it very much would look like what it looked like in the 1600s, like if Papsickene himself were to come alive today, he would be on the island, and he would see that it didn't really change much from when he was when he was alive. And so through an agreement, the the land was donated back to the community, Stockbridge Munsee Community. So Stockbridge Munsee Community is the owners of the land, again, working in partnership with the Rensselaer County to help maintain, like the walking trails that are already on there, because it is a nature preserve, and people do walk through it. And we don't want to stop that. Right. We don't want to stop that. But I think it's more in terms of talking about ownership of it is it's tribally owned. And that was so that was just finalized early this year. But I think in terms of like, land back, because, you know, you had that case in Supreme Court case in Oklahoma, McGirt versus Oklahoma, where the Supreme Court ruled that, rightfully so the eastern part of Oklahoma is still Indian country. And people are like, "Oh, well, all these things are going to change." Nothing is really going to change. What changes is the ownership of the land. So it's not like we're gonna kick indigenous people out and be like, you can't be here anymore. And, and people are so worried about that. And we're like, no, that's not what's gonna happen. It's just like, it's it's the rightful return of the land. I was, over the summer, I did a talk at in South Dakota at the Crazy Horse Memorial, where I, you know, talked about how the Black Hills were stolen and the fight to get them back. And it was weird that I was doing this in a facility, a museum that people come to, and it's a great museum I serve. I support the museum that's out there. I think they're wonderful. But I was basically saying this museum shouldn't exist, and you shouldn't be here. And this is why so I was very worried about that. And I had a you know, somebody asked me, it went over very well, because somebody did ask me a question. They're like, "What happens?" And I'm like, "Nothing really happens. The developments and the people who live here, still live here. I'm like, But what changes is the stolen land is returned to who it belongs to."  And I think at the core, that is what needs to happen across the across the country. You need to have land back, unequivocally, no strings attached.

Kelly Therese Pollock  35:00  
Yeah. So tell me about your current work at the Forge Project, which looks so fascinating.

Heather Bruegl  35:06  
Yes, yes. Okay, so I'm super stoked. As we're recording this podcast I am, by the time your viewers hear, I will be fully in upstate New York, I'm currently right in between the move. But yeah, Forge Project is, it's so exciting. And I'm so I'm so happy to talk about it. Forge Project is an initiative that's set up in the Hudson River Valley to support those displaced by settler colonialism, ie: indigenous people. So we have, and we're doing that through a plethora of different ways. I serve as the Director of Education for the Forge Project, and that encompasses setting up programming, you know, whether it is at Forge itself or virtual programming, because we're moving into winter, so I'm not going to make people drive around upstate New York in the winter. So we'll do virtual programming, and stuff like that. But we'll also have small in person gatherings as well, where we're bringing in indigenous scholars, authors, educators, artists, those who are, you know, really doing great things in the indigenous community for people to learn from. And then we also have a fellowship, where we are awarding those in Indian country who are working in land justice, climate justice, cultural awareness, who are really doing things in their community to bring back some sort of awareness. And so we understand that that work can be very taxing. And sometimes, you know, it's hard for you to do that work if you have to do a nine to five job. And so we created a fellowship, that allows you a few weeks out of the year to come to Forge to do that work uninterrupted, and you're awarded a sum of money that gives you like, you don't have to stress about it, right? You know, your mortgage is still being paid, your rent is being paid, you can still get groceries, but you can do this work that we understand is so important. The other thing that we want to do, that we're doing with Forge is raising the awareness of Indigenous artists. Indigenous artists don't get the same, they don't get the same coverage as non Indigenous artists. And there are some great Indigenous artists out there, you know, in the world. And so we have started to buy art by contemporary indigenous artists, that is then also used as a lending collection, to facilities across the country, where that can be also used to showcase this art, but also be used as a teaching collection. So you're not just looking at this great piece of art, you're also learning about, I don't know, whatever tribe that the art of the artist comes from. So you know, you're learning about the Ho-Chunk, or the Oneida, or, you know, whoever. And it's, it's, you know, it's not a private collection, it is a teaching and lending collection, which is so awesome. And then we are also working with a farm in the Hudson River Valley area Sky High Farm. And they, you know, are, they have a farm of their own and they're also farming on the property at Forge. And they're really great, because all the food they grow, goes to shelters and food banks in the area , for free, they keep nothing. And so I think that's huge. So that's also incorporating work that we're doing on the indigenous side of things of food sovereignty and seed saving and, and stuff like that. So there's just a lot at Forge that we're doing all of the time, and I'm so excited to be part of it.

Kelly Therese Pollock  38:50  
Yeah, no, that's really exciting. And I love the passion in your voice while you're talking about it. It's wonderful. So I'll be sure to put in the show notes for this link to Forge Project so people can can check out. 

Heather Bruegl  39:03  
Yes, yes, website, Instagram.

Kelly Therese Pollock  39:07  
So is there anything else you wanted to make sure we talked about today?

Heather Bruegl  39:11  
I think overall, what I would like people to know, is, you know, Native Americans exist, indigenous people exist more than just in the month of November. And I think, you know, we need to incorporate those histories into our everyday vernacular, and, and in conversation and talking about things. You know, I, as a historian, have said, for a very long time, you can't understand the history of the United States, if you don't understand first the indigenous history of the United States. And I think that's very important. And I think understanding that is key to being able to understand how we got to where we are in this year 2021. There's a lot happening. There's been a lot happening since 2016 and beyond, but the events that happened in 2016, and then some, did not just come out of the blue, right? So understanding that history that we have, and there's going to be a process of unlearning that has to happen, and you're going to get mad and you're going to you're going to it's going to be painful, because you were taught things for, you know, 50 some odd years, that that's how when, and you're learning now, that's just not true. And that is, okay. So I think understanding that is key to moving forward and to healing. And I think, you know, acknowledging that indigenous history first is a key step, and understanding that we do exist outside of the month of November, but also stopping to think that while we have November as Native American History Month, Thanksgiving falls into that. And, and understanding the pain and the trauma behind Thanksgiving is, is interesting as well, you know. I think from Indigenous Peoples Day through like December 1, is always a very painful time for, for indigenous peoples. And, you know, understanding that, you know, we're still here, we've still got a lot to do. There are some reckonings that are coming, especially with this boarding school investigation initiative put forth by Secretary Deb Haaland, who is Laguna Pueblo, Secretary of the Interior. And so it's it's important to understand that people are going to be learning a lot, I hope in the next months, years, and be open to it. I just want people to be open to learning and understanding what is going on, and read and educate yourself. Use Google every now and then. And don't rely solely on an indigenous person to tell you our history. It's exhausting after a little while, so do a little research before you, you approach us. We want to help you. But I'm also an educator. So it's like, read your stuff first. Then come to me.

Kelly Therese Pollock  42:12  
Excellent. Well, Heather, thank you so much for being so generous with your time today. This has been really great. I am so glad to have learned so much about the Stockbridge Munsee, specifically, but you know about the the larger, really the whole story of settler colonialism and all sorts of other stuff. That yes, there's been I was a child of the 80s. And so I've been doing a lot of unlearning over the past couple years. And I know I have to do it. Yeah. Yeah. So so thank you. And I'll put links and things in the show notes so people can can find you on Twitter and can find more about the Forge Project.

Heather Bruegl  42:55  
Yeah, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Excellent. Awesome.

Teddy  43:02  
Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode at To the best of our knowledge, all audio and images used by Unsung History are in the public domain or are used with permission. You can find us on Twitter, or Instagram @Unsung__History, or on Facebook at Unsung History Podcast. To contact us with questions or episode suggestions, please email If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review and tell your friends.


Heather Bruegl

Heather Bruegl is enrolled Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and first line descendant Stockbridge Munsee and is the Director of Education at the Forge Project.