Here we are…Hear our story! Brothertown Indian Heritage, through acoustic research and technology

seth wenger –

Settler Scholar and Public Historian with Brothertown Indian Nation, Ridgewood, NY, 11385, United States

Jessica Ryan – Vice Chair of the Brothertown Tribal Council

Popular version of 3pAA6 – Case study of a Brothertown Indian Nation cultural heritage site–toward a framework for acoustics heritage research in simulation, analysis, and auralization
Presented at the 184 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at

The Brothertown Indian Nation has a centuries old heritage of group singing. Although this singing is an intangible heritage, these aural practices have left a tangible record through published music, as well as extensive personal correspondence and journal entries about the importance of singing in the political formation of the Tribe. One specific tangible artifact of Brothertown ancestral aural heritage–and focus of the acoustic research in this case study–is a house built in the 18th century by Andrew Curricomp, a Tunxis Indian.

Figure 1: Images courtesy of authors

In step with the construction of the house at Tunxis Sepus, Brothertown political formation also solidified in the 18th century between members of seven parent Tribes: various Native communities of Southern New England including Mohegan, Montauk, Narragansett, Niantic, Stonington (Pequot), Groton/Mashantucket (Pequot) and Farmington (Tunxis). Settler colonial pressure along the Northern Atlantic coast forced Brothertown Indian ancestors to leave various Indigenous towns and settlements to form into a body politic named Brotherton (Eeyamquittoowauconnuck). Nearly a century later, after multiple forced relocations, the Tribe–including many of Andrew Curricomp’s grand, and great grandchildren–were displaced again to the Midwest. Today, after nearly two more centuries, the Brothertown Indian Nation Community Center and museum are located in Fond du Lac, WI, just south of their original Midwestern settlement.

During contemporary trips back to visit parent tribes, members of the Brothertown Indian Nation have visited the Curricomp House at Tunxis Sepus.

Figure 2: Image courtesy of authors

However, by then it was known as the William Day Museum of Indian Artifacts. After the many relocations of Brothertown and their parent Tribes, the Curricomp house was purchased by a local landowner of European descent. The man’s groundskeeper, Bill Day, had a hobby of collecting stone lithic artifacts he would find during his gardening around the property. The land owner decided that having the Curricomp house would be a perfect home for his groundskeeper’s musings, as it was locally told that the house belonged to the last living Indian in the town. He had the Curricomp House moved to his property and named it for his gardener, the William Day Museum of Indian Artifacts.

The myth of the vanishing Indian is a commonly held trope in popular Western Culture. This colonial, or “last living Indian” history that dominates the archive, includes no real information about what Native communities actually used the space for, or where the descendants of Tunxis are now living. This acoustics case study intends for the living descendants of Tunxis Sepus to have sovereignty over the digital content created, as the house serves as a tangible cultural signifier of their intangible aural heritage.

Architectural acoustic heritage throughout Brothertown’s history of displacement is of value to their vibrant contemporary culture. Many of these tangible heritage sites have been made intangible to the Brothertown Community, as they are settler owned, demolished, or geographically inaccessible to the Brothertown diaspora–requiring creative solutions to make this heritage available. Both in-situ and web-based immersive interfaces are being designed to interact with the acoustic properties of the Curricomp house.

Figure 3: Image courtesy of authors

These interfaces use various music and speech source media that feature Brothertown aural Heritage. The acoustic simulations and auralizations created during this case study of the Curricomp House are tools: a means by which living descendants might hear one another in the difficult to access acoustic environments of their ancestors.