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Native American who helped Bermudians uncover their ancestry dies aged 85

Everett (Tall Oak) Weeden (File photograph)

Bermudians with Native American ancestors yesterday paid tribute to a researcher and guide from the United States who helped them to uncover their history.

Everett “Tall Oak“ Weeden, who visited Bermuda in 2002 to educate the island’s descendants of Native Americans about their roots, died on February 11, aged 85.

He said during his first visit: “We have more than 350 years to make up for. This is just the beginning.”

Mr Weeden, a regular visitor to the island, researched the journey of Native Americans who were enslaved and shipped to Bermuda.

He shared ancestry with many Bermudians, particularly in St David’s, as a descendant of the Mashantucket Pequot, Narragansett and Wampanoag tribes

Mr Everett was a key figure in the organisation of the Reconnection Festival in St David’s, launched in 2002.

Terlena Murphy, the chairwoman of the St David Islanders and Native Committee, said the group planned to hold a special tribute for Mr Everett this year.

She said: “We are deeply saddened by his transition, but he has provided us with immense knowledge — not just of ourselves, but our families overseas.

“He had a big heart and he gave a lot of love that has connected us for ever. Without him, we would not know ourselves.

“He touched not just our lives but many Bermudian lives. He loved Bermuda.”

Ms Murphy said Mr Everett first came to the island at the invitation of her cousin Dora Hollis-Minors and her mother, Christina Millett-Lugo.

Her mother, along with her cousin Stuart Hollis, travelled to Connecticut to explore their Native American past — and ended up walking on the roadside searching for the Foxwoods Casino, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Nation.

Mr Everett’s son David drove by and offered them a lift and a connection with the family began.

St David’s islanders were traditionally called “Mohawks” because of the Native American links to the area.

But Ms Murphy said Mr Everett and his research became “the cornerstone of our community’s existence” by providing them with their real tribal connections.

Members of various tribes have travelled to Bermuda to take part in meetings over the past 20 years.

Ms Murphy said that “everyone felt like it was a family reunion” when the first Reconnection Festival was held in 2002.

She added: “People looked like each other. There were many familiar features and mannerisms.”

Mr Everett, an activist for indigenous people in the US, helped to found the National Day of Mourning, held at Plymouth Rock on Thanksgiving Day, 1970.

Plymouth Rock is said to be where the first British people to settle in America landed.

Mr Everett was an educational consultant affiliated with the Boston Children’s Museum, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and Brown University.

He also sat on the advisory board of the American Indian Friends Coalition and was a charter member of Mashantucket Pequot Research Centre.

St Clair “Brinky” Tucker said Mr Everett’s first forum at St David’s Cricket Club attracted hundreds of people and was an emotional evening of discovery.

He added: “When Tall Oak first came, he stayed at my house.

“He was very enthused about his Native American ancestry, a fantastic historian and excellent speaker who was always willing to share his information.

“He also spent a lot of time at the Archives in Bermuda doing research. I would take him there in the morning and pick him up at 5pm.

“We held our first powwow in Bermuda through his intervention and assistance and 35 Pequot came. It was an overwhelming success.

“The interest is still very much there, and a lot of Bermudians have travelled to powwows as a result of Tall Oak.”

Mr Everett’s funeral was held yesterday at the Old Indian Meeting House in Mashpee, Massachusetts.

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Published February 19, 2022 at 7:49 am (Updated February 19, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Native American who helped Bermudians uncover their ancestry dies aged 85

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