Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Last of the Bird People

                                                                                      By John Hanson Mitchell

The Last of the Bird People is a peculiar, but intriguing story of a group of hunter gatherers who were found living in Massachusetts in 1928. There was a public works project at that time, construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, in the Swift River Valley.

The story began with the disappearance of an anthropologist who had found what he believed to be signs of such a group in the area where the reservoir was to be created. Preparation had already begun, towns had been abandoned, cemeteries had been respectfully moved. The young man, by the name of Minor Randall had become convinced that a group of people had managed to find a way to survive outside of the so called civilized world. He went to Harvard University, and asked them for support in locating and learning about these people. Apparently, the administration there had some serious doubts about his story, and no love lost for Randall. His persistence in his quest for support ended up with is losing his position at Harvard. 

Because this had become more than just an intriguing mystery to Randall, but something of a quest, he assembled some food and necessary items for an extending stay in the area where he believed this group to be living. He set up camp and watched and waited. His vigilance paid off in the end, when he was captured by the descendants of Jenna Crow, or the Bird People. 

What happened thereafter is what makes up this story. It is a transcript of the deposition of John Barking-Fox, as told to the authorities who took him into custody after finding him near Everglades City in July of 1929. He claimed to be the only survivor of the group who left their home in Massachusetts, led by the man they called Tracker, otherwise known as Minor Randall. 

The story is somewhat difficult to follow at first, as it is written in the vernacular in which it was told. This was a mixture of Algonquin, English, French, Portugese and other words never before encountered. Persistence pays off, however as with continued reading, the story flows along more comfortably. It is well worth the effort to learn what Jon Fox has to say and to learn the fate of the Bird People. At least, their fate according to John Fox. (  )
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