Long Island Sound, the rivers, the estuaries, the open waters of the
Atlantic. Connecticut’s maritime geography helped establish the state and
define its early culture.
SMITH (Larned Prof. of History, Yale University) the whole economic
development and the whole history of ¾
of the colony and then the state is tied up with the sea and this is true to
CRONKITE: No part of Connecticut is more than two hours from the Sound.
Yet for many state residents there is no real connection to the sea.
For others, the maritime life
largely defines who they are.
CALABRETTA (Assoc. Curator, Mystic Seaport) our experiences and history in
relationship with the sea has entered our culture in ways that we don’t
always even realize
CRONKITE: Next – Connecticut & the Sea.
CRONKITE: The history of
Connecticut has been powerfully shaped by the sea.
hundreds of years, Connecticut has looked to the open waters of the
Atlantic, Long Island Sound, the coastal estuaries and inland rivers -- for
both inspiration and livelihood.
people have always aggressively found new ways and
new industries to exploit
the sea's bounty, pursue adventure on and under its surface, and enjoy its
is a steadily unfolding story of boundless possibilities met by
extraordinary ingenuity. Through new ideas and technologies, fishery development, naval defense, and exploration -- Connecticut’s continuing connection to the sea helped not only to build the state,
but also played a large part in America's maritime story.
the sea was once the economic mainstay of Connecticut and a dominant
part of its culture, many state residents today have little sense of
its exceptional role in state history.
Connecticut’s seafaring ways and its coastal connections continue to
spur imagination and stimulate the economy.
are the sea stories that make Connecticut history, and that continue
to influence Connecticut today. These are the stories of Connecticut
and the sea …
AMERICANS & THE SEA
CRONKITE: Native people in Connecticut from the earliest days looked
to the sea for sustenance, transportation and culture.
FAWCETT (Dir., Mohegan Tribal Museum Authority): In the beginning, we
believe that the earth came out of the sea upon the back of
grandfather turtle, Guganous Tuapas, great sea turtle. Since that time
we’ve looked upon the turtle and the sea as the birth and origin of
our beginnings and the grandfather turtle as the most sacred of all
ancient times one of the reasons that the Mohegans chose to live in
this area were rumors of the great fishing, particularly the shellfish
beds that were supposedly in this area.
is extremely important to the Mohegan people in ancient times right up
to the present. On all our traditional tribal lands you’ll find huge
heaps of what we call middens or oyster piles. Oyster piles were used
not only for food garbage dumps but also in the wintertime when people
couldn’t be buried beneath the Earth you’ll find that Indian
people were buried in these huge heaps.
(Dir. Research, Mashantucket Pequot Museum):
The earliest year ‘round settlements that we identify in New
England are always in coastal settings.
provided the mechanism and the opportunity to settle year ‘round,
establish permanent villages and sort of really establish a very
complex lifeways very closely tied to the sea. 50 percent of the
subsistence base of these native people were tied, directly tied to
FAWCETT (Dir., Mohegan Tribal Museum Authority): Wampum was one of the
most sacred commodities that the Mohegan people drew from the sea.
belts are created in ancient times, they were traded but they were also used as
a medium of preventing spiritual infection.
It’s a token of honor. A token of esteem.
(Dir. Research, Mashantucket Pequot Museum):
When Europeans arrived they noticed the importance of this shell
to native people and they would exchange European trade goods to native people for furs and they
would take these furs, ship them back to Europe that they made into
Natives in the
interior not only desired European trade goods in exchange for their
furs but more importantly they began to demand wampum which was a specific type of bead made from these shells.
Purple bead was made from Quahog and a white bead was made from
and the only
suppliers of this material was the coastal peoples of Long Island
Sound and very quickly these beads became such an important commodity
in the fur trade that unless you had access to these beads you
couldn’t compete very well in the fur trade.
first place that Europeans chose to settle tended to be those areas
along the coast and along the rivers because of access for transportation
and communications for their ships and they slowly pushed native people
into the interior. So the history of native people in this region is
directly tied to the – to the coast, both prior to European contact
and after European contact.