Native American veteran properly honored for service
Lyme ― As the rain trickled down off leaves Sunday in a small opening along Cedar Lake, an Indigenous person was acknowledged for his service in the Revolutionary War.
Adam Sobuck, a member of the Nehantic Tribe, was killed in action while serving in the Connecticut regiment at the age of 19. His final resting place was lost in the thicket of Lyme, until Beth Avery and her husband, David, moved into their home seven years ago.
While surveying their new property at 224-1 Beaver Brook Road, Avery noticed a gravestone that was nearly flat on the ground. She started researching whose resting place it may be and worked with the town’s cemetery committee to dig out the stone and fix it.
She said the town had marked it as a native person’s grave, but nothing beyond that. That’s when she was introduced to anthropologist John Pfeiffer, the historian and genealogist for the Nehantic Tribe in the state. With his work with the tribe and his understanding of its history, he was able to help identify whom the burial site belonged to.
From there, Pfeiffer, who is not of native descent, was able to connect Avery to Chief Ray Tatten of the Nehantics, tribal council member Marc Strickland and Stephen Taylor, the president of the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR).
Once they all connected, Avery was able to put together a ceremony to honor Sobuck’s contribution to our nation’s freedom, a process that lasted nearly three years.
“We’re lucky that we’re still here,” Pfeiffer said, who has spent nearly 50 years studying the tribe.
Pfeiffer explained that there is proof of Nehantics serving in every American-fought war, dating back to 1637, with the exception of the Mexican War. He said the tribe had been declared extinct by the country in the 1870s, in part because of their 50% mortality rate during wars, but this was further proof that, “we’re really here.”
“This is really good, not just for Adam Sobuck, but for all the Nehantic ancestors and native Americans in general that served that their story is finally being told,” Strickland said.
The Averys hosted the ceremony Sunday afternoon by Sobuck’s burial site, roughly 100 yards in the woods behind their home. They had worked to clear an opening for the ceremony, where a small fire could burn and hay bales could be placed for seating.
Avery addressed the crowd of 40 or so first, and thanked all for coming. Tribal council member David Brule followed by leading the group in a prayer.
“We give thanks for this beautiful day,” Brule said, “but for the service of Adam Sobuck and the other native soldiers who have sacrificed in many ways for this homeland.”
Students from the Hartt School of Music played “Occom's Tune: Modal Rhapsody for Brass Quintet.” The Rev. Samson Occom was a friend of William Sobuck, who is believed to be the father or uncle of Adam Sobuck. William Sobuck’s son, also named William, served alongside Adam in the war, but survived and made it to Valley Forge.
Taylor also spoke before Pfeiffer educated the crowd on the tribe’s history, their connection to music and song, and how their way of life clashed with the Europeans, but noted each culture respected its ancestors.
“People knew. People honored. People respected,” Pfeiffer said. “Those are words that we try to utilize today. We fumble around with it. It was at the center of who Indigenous peoples are, today and certainly before.”
“We became the beacon around the world that you can stand up to tyranny,” Taylor said of Sobuck and his contribution to the revolution. The SAR currently has 37,000 members across the nation and nearly 100 in the state.
Pfeiffer explained later that Sobuck was one of 23 Connecticut Nehantics to serve in the Revolution. Pfeiffer and Taylor believed this was the first grave marking ceremony done by the SAR to honor and Indigenous person.
Chief Tatten placed flags by the grave before Thomas Badamo, a member of the Nansemond Indian Patriots and the president of the Nansemond Indian chapter Sons of the American Revolution, the only native American chapter of the SAR placed a wreath next to Sobuck.
He implored the Nehantics to create their own SAR chapter to continue honoring those ancestors who served as we approach the 250th birthday of the nation.
“Do your research and don’t let your patriots be forgotten,” he said.
Chief Tatten was the last person to address the crowd, after a proper musket salute.
“I’m glad that friends of the Nehantic people are here today and that the tribe is alive and well,” Tatten said. “The more we have events like this, the more people will realize that the Nehantics haven’t gone away.”