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Native American ceremony for St David’s legend

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A memorial ceremony this weekend for Bernard Fox, a St David's islander who celebrated his Pequot Indian heritage, marked history for Bermudians descended from Native Americans.

Mr Fox, who died last month aged 86, was given a traditional sendoff at the waterside of Red Hole in St David's.

The ceremony, at sunset on Sunday, honoured his roots in the Mashantucket Pequot tribe.

The American Indians, based in Connecticut, were sent to Bermuda as slaves in the 17th century and many Bermudians count them as their ancestors.

Ronnie Chameau, Mr Fox's sister, said that Mashantucket Pequot memorials, such as one she attended last year in Cape Cod, feature an urn of the dead person's ashes being put out to sea.

Ms Chameau said she crafted an urn for her brother from coconut and palmetto and included feathers and beads from his hat.

The urn was placed on the ground, with attendees holding hands around it, while tobacco, cedar and sage was burnt in ceremonial shells around the four corners of the urn.

The memorial for Mr Fox, who was known as Chief Running Water, started at 6.45pm with Richard Pitcher beating the water drum sound of heart beat.

At 7pm, Doreen James blew a conch shell, which Ms Chameau said was a St David's tradition as well as a Native American practice.

A native prayer was delivered by the Reverend Michael Barclay and St Clair “Brinky” Tucker, followed by family tributes.

Ms Chameau then placed a basket of cedar and flowers on the water.

She said: “That's what we do with our traditional powwow when we honour our ancestors.”

Ms Chameau said it was the first time the ceremony was used in Bermuda to mark someone's death.

Members of the Pequot community in Cape Cod and Rhode Island also marked the occasion with prayers. Ms Chameau said: “Bernard was so strong in his native belief and with his regalia. You wait, I bet others will start.”

Ancestral link: an urn for the ashes of Bernard Fox, a Bermudian who celebrated his Massachusetts Pequot Indian heritage, was used in a ceremony on Sunday night to mark his passing (Photograph supplied)
Reconnecting: members of Bernard Fox's family, Michael Chameau, brother-in-law, left, with Graham Smith, brother, and sisters Shirley Paynter, Rosemarie Boone, Ronnie Chameau and Madge Hunt honour him at a Native American service (Photograph supplied)
Off to the ancestors: some of the items in the memorial to Bernard Fox (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 05, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 05, 2018 at 8:32 am)

Native American ceremony for St David’s legend

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