Elizabeth Pendleton gives a demonstration on Native American history at the Wood Memorial Library and Museum during the 12th Annual Connecticut Open House Day, June 11, 2016.

Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com


Contrary to common misconceptions that European settlers encroached on Native American land, in Connecticut some settlers were invited. The Podunk Indians – part of the Algonquian family tribes – were an indigenous people living in the Connecticut River Valley when in 1631 a tribal sachem named Wahginscut, traveled to the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies to extend an invitation to settlers there to move into Connecticut, according to the Quinnechtukqut Nipmuc News.


“They had a friendly relationship,” Jessica Vogelgesang, marketing director for South Windsor, Connecticut’s Wood Memorial Library and Museum, said during an interview Saturday, June 11.


On Saturday, the 12th annual Connecticut Open House Day was held. Sites across the state opened their doors offering tours, demonstrations and exhibits free-of-charge to visitors. At the Wood library, the history of the Podunk was brought to life.


Deer hide.

Deer hide.


Rain curtailed an outdoor wigwam event put on early in the day but indoors docent Elizabeth Pendleton, who is of Native American descent, provided a demonstration depicting how Native Americans in South Windsor cooked corn cakes and stew – which had been prepared outside on hot rocks by a fire. As well, she showed what she called “tools of nature” such as sharp rocks used to scrape deer hide and talked about how the Podunk lived and survived.021


Quinnechtukgut Nipmuc News states that Dutch settlers who arrived to the New World in the 1600s, had the first interactions with the Podunk. Dutch navigator Adriaen Block sailed up the Connecticut River in 1614, landing just north of Hartford – hence what is now known as Adriaen’s Landing.


During winter months the Podunk lived near where the Mill on the River Restaurant is presently located. Come spring and summer they relocated nearer the Connecticut River closer to the abundant animals and plants, members utilized to sustain the tribe, it was noted.


“Everyone, all ages, had a job,” explained Pendleton, who has been giving such demonstrations at the Wood for some twenty years.


Learning about Native American history.

Learning about Native American history.


Probably best known for its annual Gingerbread House Exhibit, Connecticut Open House Day was a marvelous opportunity to raise awareness about what else the Wood has to offer said Vogelgesang – from another exhibit featuring the role South Windsor played in the formation of the Connecticut Audubon Society to a 5,000 piece artifact collection. Thanks to a $75,000 “Good to Great” grant from the state Department of Economic Development, a permanent expanded living history display of the Podunk, with a trading post, is planned for Wood library.


Wood Memorial Library & Museum, 783 Main Street, South Windsor, CT 890-289-1783 http://www.woodmemoriallibrary.org