I was invited recently to speak to four freshman classes at Quinnipiac as part of their course: Quinnipiac and the Community. It was a wonderful experience, sharing with these young folks, many not from the area, my love of the Giant and the inspiration he provides.
We speak of “him” and mention our walks as being to the Chin, up the Head, or along his Left Leg; for many of us, he is more than a random geological feature, he is a presence. As Professor Rosenblum said to her class, “When I see the Giant on the horizon, I know I’m home.”
This sense of belonging is not a new phenomenon. It begins with those who lived here before the arrival of Euroamericans, flourished over the years since, and inspires us today. The attached pictographic insignia from The Algonquian Confederacy of the Quinnipiac Tribal Council - acqtc.org) is indicative of this sense of community. The emblem is a sacred hoop with a cross at the four sacred directions. At the top of the hoop is the Great Thunderbird, the Grandfather with a "compassionate heart". The Dawn Star symbolizes the eastern shore and is centered under him and above the hoop.
Within the sacred hoop,
- In the upper left corner is a bundle of arrows, tied together and with sacred lightning issuing forth. A single arrow represents an independent band. A single arrow, all alone, can be easily broken. A group of arrows [or people] bound together, inspired by similar interests are not so easily broken.
- In the upper right corner are two horn rattles which represent the traditions of the powwows, that all the domain lands inside the hoop are sacred.
- In the lower right corner is a man rowing a canoe signifying how dependent the Quinnipiac were on the ocean and rivers for survival.
- In the lower left corner is a traditional weejo — home — symbolic of mother earth, and a mother's nurturing care, as well as the family traditions passed on from generation to generation by the women.
The Quinnipiac, this first community, the namesake of many local attractions, lived in harmony with nature. They were mobile communities who summered along the shore, and moved inland as far as Middletown, using the river for food and transportation. Their trail traversed the Giant, and here they hunted, fished, and gathered the essentials of life. Here they acknowledged a sacred space and the fact of ‘divine intervention’, and the promise of continued protection.
The tale is well known; how the Giant, Hobomock, creator and provider of peace and harmony among all creature, subsequently evil destroyer, inflicted pain and suffering upon the Quinnipiac, and how his fellow giant, a benevolent spirit, Keitan, put him to sleep with a sleeping potion mixed in with his favorite food, oysters. Keitan could not undo the damage wrought by Hobomock, but he could insure that no further damage was done.
This is the charge to the Sleeping Giant community today: to keep the land safe to insure that it continues to sustain us, perhaps not materially, but spiritually, as a place of solitude for quiet reflection, a terrain of physical challenge, and natural place for us to gather with family and friends for camaraderie and community.
I’m thankful the Giant is on my horizon and wish all A Happy Thanksgiving.
Note: For a wonderful re-telling of the legend look for The Legend of Hobomock: The Sleeping Giant by Jason Marchi at your local library or bookstore.