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CONECTICUT & THE SEA

Produced, Written & Directed by Kenneth A. Simon

Narrated by Walter Cronkite

Broadcast Premiere: May 2000, CPTV

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT

Printer-Friendly Version     My Time with Walter Cronkite

TEASE

WALTER CRONKITE (Narrator): 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.  

GADDIS 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 this day. 

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.

FRED 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. 

OPEN

CRONKITE:  The history of Connecticut has been powerfully shaped by the sea.

For 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. 

Connecticut's 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 vast beauty.

It 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.

Although 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.

But Connecticut’s seafaring ways and its coastal connections continue to spur imagination and stimulate the economy.

These are the sea stories that make Connecticut history, and that continue to influence Connecticut today. These are the stories of Connecticut and the sea …

NATIVE AMERICANS & THE SEA

CRONKITE: Native people in Connecticut from the earliest days looked to the sea for sustenance, transportation and culture. 

MELISSA 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 beings.

In 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.

Oystering 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. 

KEVIN MCBRIDE (Dir. Research, Mashantucket Pequot Museum): The earliest year ‘round settlements that we identify in New England are always in coastal settings. 

These areas 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 the ocean.

MELISSA FAWCETT (Dir., Mohegan Tribal Museum Authority): Wampum was one of the most sacred commodities that the Mohegan people drew from the sea. 

When 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.

KEVIN MCBRIDE (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 felt.

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 the whelp.

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.

The 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.

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