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    Friday, December 02, 2022

    Reminder of the violence that founded a nation

    I'd like to add a few additions to your article on the John Mason statue − "In Windsor, a former Mystic fixture could be removed from pedestal again," July 11 − which is accurate on the whole.

    In 1992, Columbus was celebrated for his voyage in 1492. Our local peace group, the Southeastern Connecticut Coalition for Peace and Justice, viewed his voyage as an invasion, not discovery – which view has been finally recognized nationally with the removal in New London and around the United States of Columbus statues.

    When we learned through meeting with "Wolf" Jackson and other local Pequots about the 1637 massacre, and the statue of John Mason standing on the site of that massacre, our focus changed to the removal of that statue, and in the process educating the local community about the Pequot War. Almost two years of hard work culminated when the Groton Town Council voted to remove the statue.

    As you mentioned in the article, people living in that neighborhood now have little knowledge about the horrible massacre which took place in their neighborhood. The "peace tree" and plaque which replaced the statue have not been well-maintained. However, the Pequot tribal members are aware of the apology implicit in the removal of the statue, and are, I believe, relieved that it is not on the site.

    Edith Fairgrieve, Dave Silk, Melinda Cole-Plurde, Cal Robertson and I, Rick Gaumer, were the activists involved with Wolf and various Pequots in the struggle to recognize the wrong our ancestors committed in Mystic. We appreciated the willingness of the Groton Town Council to learn from history. Once removed, our group did not express an opinion on the disposition of the statue.

    In some ways, the move to a small green in Windsor, surrounded by Colonial-era buildings, corrects the image of the colonists given by various museums – Old Sturbridge Village, Old Deerfield, Plimoth Plantation – with an obviously war-like violent statue. We all need to know this aspect of our history in this land.

    By the way, the day after the Groton Town Council voted to remove the statue, I found out that an ancestor of mine, Nicolas Olmsted, a son of a founder of Hartford, took part in the massacre. In fact, Mason, in his account of the battle, when the battle was in doubt, ordered Nicolas to run through the village with a torch, setting fire to the homes. Many died in the fire or were killed fleeing the flames.

    I had never seen the statue until the day before its removal. The horror I felt on that site continues to haunt me to this day.

    Finally, concerning the recent commentary by Marcus Mason Maronn, his characterization of Uncas and Sassacus as genocidal butchers, equal to Mason, is wrong. It was Mason who led the killing of up to 700 men, women, children and elders. Both the Narragansetts and the Mohegans, allies of the colonists, were appalled by the slaughter of innocents. The historical record is clear.

    Maronn repeatedly refers to the controversy about the statue as pushing some form of political correctness. No, the controversy is a response by those who came to understand Mason's and the colonists' actions, which amounted to attempted genocide.

    Rick Gaumer lives in Norwich.

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