Native History of Silver Lake

Before this land was a summer camp, before the Europeans arrived on Turtle Island, this land was stewarded by Mahican tribe, an Eastern Woodland Algonquin-speaking tribe.  

Mahican means “River” - they called themselves the River Indians, and inhabited land between the Hudson river (which they called Mahekanneock, meaning “continually flowing waters”) and Housatonic River (which they called Howsatunnuck, meaning “river of the mountain place”) in present-day NY, CT, MA and southern VT.  

Mahicans lived in longhouses of 20-30 people and in wigwam villages, and they hunted and fished all around Mudge Pond – in fact, there is still evidence of wigwam platforms on “Indian Mountain” across the pond from the Silver Lake waterfront. What we know as the Town of Sharon was the Wequadnack village. 

The Mahicans still exist – the remaining tribal members that were not killed by disease or genocide during the early colonial years were forcibly moved west to the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation in Wisconsin.  

In the late 1600s, a new tribe was formed from the remaining members of several eastern coast tribes, including the Pequot, the Wampanoag, Mahican and others.  The new tribe called themselves “Schaghticoke” meaning the “mingling of the waters,” signifying the amalgamation of the various tribes into one.  

The Schaghticoke settled first in an area of land in what is now Dover, NY about 20 miles from Silver Lake, on the other side of the CT/NY border.  

The Schaghticoke were the first Native American nation to have a reservation in the new United States, which originally consisted of tens of thousands of acres. Of the land deeded through treaties to the Schaghticoke people, nearly all of it was stolen, leaving a reservation of about 400 acres just south of Kent, CT. As a result, the Clan members have been become diasporic; displaced from their unifying traditions, communities and ceremonies.  

Today, the Schaghticoke live in places like nearby Kent, CT and Millbrook, NY;  Bridgeport, CT and up in Maine and northern Vermont, as well.  

The hereditary leader of Schaghticoke First Nations is Sachem Hawkstorm. He has plans to buy back some of the land that was stolen from his people, and restore biodiversity and also create a cultural center to offer a place for his people to be in community, to do ceremony, learn about natural history and traditional indigenous ways, and heal from the intergenerational trauma, get off the streets / off drugs and alcohol. The Schaghticoke Cultural and Conservation Center will be a place to share traditional knowledge and way of life with their community, and to reclaim a central location from which they can organize around the issues plaguing their community. 

It’s important to acknowledge the history of a place, because it connects us more deeply with the land, and an understanding that we are stewards of this land, that it’s our responsibility to care for it for those who come after us. It also gives us a moment to honor the Native Americans who still exist, and whose ancestors were here for thousands of years before European colonialism, living closely with the land and honoring its sacredness. 

Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center

Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center is a ministry of the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Click here to read our Mission Statement.

223 Low Road | Sharon, CT 06069 | 860.364.5526 | Fax: 860.364.1000 |