A Tribute to Monique Fordham
by Howard Clark
On behalf of the Nolumbeka Project and myself, I would like to give thanks and recognition to my friend and co-founder of Friends of Wissatinnewag, Monique Fordham. Not swayed by the threats of construction workers and police, she put herself in front of heavy equipment to stop the destruction of Native burials in her tireless devotion to the protection of that which is sacred to the American Indian tribes.
Through her hard work at fundraising, including using $10,000 of her own limited cash resources, Monique raised over $800,000 in the successful effort to acquire and protect the Wissatinnewag site and its burial ground. This site was part of a unique sacred village below the Turners Falls (Great Falls) that was continuously inhabited for 12,000 years. A fishing village and gathering place for the tribes of the Northeast and beyond to come together in peace, Wissatinnewag was a place to acquire the fish needed for existence, to trade goods and exchange technology (agriculture, pottery, use of the bow and arrow, etc.), and, perhaps, to find a life partner. It was here that members of many tribes gathered to celebrate life in all its forms and to honor those who had made it their final resting place.
This sacred place is now protected because of Monique’s leadership and great effort. Her years of dedicated service have now carried her to Washington, D.C. to continue her much needed work in the recognition and preservation of the history and heritage of the tribes as the National Tribal Liaison for the Office of Tribal Relations of the United States Geological Survey.
Monique we honor you and your great spirit for your hard work. Without you, Wissatinnewag would have been carried away as landfill. Now it remains, respected as sacred, for generations to come.