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A second Mason statue to be moved to less prominent site

Another statue of Maj. John Mason stands to be plucked from a lofty perch, a move applauded Thursday by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and others.

The legislature’s approval late Wednesday of the state’s 2021-22 budget includes up to $15,000 for the removal of a Mason statue from the façade of the state Capitol, which many have long believed to be an inappropriate tribute to the man who led English forces against the Pequot tribe in the 1637 “Massacre at Mystic,” the Pequot War’s pivotal battle.

“John Mason’s historical significance to the Pequot Massacre is a defining moment in American history and an early example of the hostile and shameful treatment of tribes nationwide that has marred the history of the United States,” the Mashantuckets said in a statement. “Mason’s attack on and burning of the Pequot village at Mystic and its immediate aftermath forever transformed the balance of power and justice on this continent — social, racial, economic, and environmental."

“... Mason’s statue is a constant reminder of that bloody morning on May 26, 1637 — 384 years ago, when Pequot men, women, children, and the elderly were attacked and murdered while they slept; an attack meant to annihilate our people.”

The Mohegan Tribe also responded to the news that the Mason statue would be removed from the Capitol.

“It is important to recognize that these gruesome events and Mason’s dark legacy are part of our history because we must learn from, not celebrate, them,” Mohegan tribal leadership said. “We stand with our Pequot cousins in supporting the removal of the statue.”

State Sen. Cathy Osten, the Sprague Democrat who had authored a bill seeking the statue’s removal, said the state Office of Legislative Management would be responsible for relocating the statue to the Old State House in Hartford. Her bill would have required that it be placed in the Museum of Connecticut History in Hartford.

“It required direction, not legislation,” she said of the statue’s removal. “You don’t get rid of something because of its historical context. It just doesn’t have to be in a place of honor.”

During the legislative session, which ended at midnight Wednesday, Osten also authored a bill calling for the state’s public schools to include Native American studies in their curriculums. Connecticut’s five state-recognized tribes supported the measure, which eventually was included as part of a broader bill on the development of a model curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade.

Osten said the model curriculum could yet be adopted as part of an “implementer” bill that would specify how the approved budget is put into effect. She said such a bill could be adopted in a special legislative session that could be held as soon as next week.

Last year, amid the nation's reconsideration of historical tributes in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, residents in Windsor called for a Mason statue to be removed from a prominent position on a green in that northcentral Connecticut town. The statue was relocated there in 1995 from its original home at Pequot Avenue and Clift Street in Mystic, where it was erected in 1889.

The state-owned Windsor statue will be moved to a less visible location outside the nearby Windsor Historical Society.

“We hope to be moving it later this summer,” said Will Healey, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is negotiating an agreement with the historical society.

Douglas Shipman, executive director of the historical society, said the Windsor statue will be moved 206 feet from the town green to an enclosed courtyard outside the society’s building. The 9-foot-tall Mason figure, now standing on a granite pedestal that boosts the statue’s overall height to more than 18 feet, would not fit inside the museum.

The Windsor Town Council has voted to provide up to $15,000 to cover “site costs,” while the historical society will assume responsibility for the statue’s maintenance, Shipman said. In addition, Connecticut Humanities has awarded the society a $4,999 grant for the development of explanatory panels that will be placed with the statue, offering “a more balanced and inclusive interpretation of John Mason’s legacy, the events of the Pequot War, its effect on Connecticut’s Native peoples and the statue’s evolving symbolism.”

“Connecticut’s story is incomplete and I’m certain that, while Mason has a place in the history of our state, it is not his legacy we want to emulate in the future,” Jason Mancini, Connecticut Humanities’ executive director and former executive director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, wrote in an email. “We have a lot to learn about our state’s history, and of all the people who call Connecticut home. To that end, Connecticut Humanities supports initiatives in our state that serve to bring us together as neighbors, despite our differences.”

Members of the Mashantucket and Eastern Pequot tribes have agreed to join historians involved in developing the explanatory panels that will accompany the Windsor statue in its new location.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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