LOWELL/TEWKSBURY—Their dream was to see the Pow Wow Oak, a tall, magnificent ancient tree that sits on Clark Road, preserved.
Last Saturday, the Pow Wow Oak Protectors, founded by George Koumantzelis, got to see the fruits of their labor. The Crier has followed the efforts of the group over the last few years as the land, and the tree, were part of the original town of Tewksbury and played a role in Native American and revolutionary history. The land was ceded to the City of Lowell during the American Industrial Revolution
A ceremony was held at the site in order to unveil the new plaque that commemorates the Wamesit Indians, showcase the updated sign, and to offer thanks to everyone who was involved.
Many of the addresses focused on the importance of the local community and the necessity of preservation. The effort to preserve the tree was also part of a greater project: keeping various Native American traditions alive.
Chief Onkwe Tase argued that people must now make sure that the tree remains protected.
Tom Eagle Rising Libby agreed.
“It’s amazing to see that this wonderful tree is going to be here for a long time,” he said.
Libby is the Chief of the Greater Lowell Indian Cultural Association.
In a later conversation with the Crier, he called the act of preservation “impressive.”
“Hopefully, it stays on the national spotlight,” he said.
Added Libby: “It’s up to everybody to make sure stuff like this thrives.”
The tree is preserved by American Forests. In a letter to the Pow Wow Oak Protectors, Scott Steen, the CEO of American Forests, wrote: “On behalf of American Forests, we congratulate you on being able to preserve and share the history of the Pow-Wow Oak with Lowell, the commonwealth of Massachusetts and the rest of the country. We wish you well on your mission to preserve one of nature’s greatest gifts to our environment and hope the tree will bear witness to many more years of Lowell’s history.”
City Councilor Rita Mercier, another attendee, said that she was “honored” to be there, and she thanked the efforts of Koumantzelis and his group.
Tewksbury Selectman Doug Sears gave the opening prayer. After the ceremony had ended, he told the Crier that the afternoon was “refreshing.”
“With all the problems and complexities we have today, it’s nice that people can come together to celebrate this tree,” he said.
He said that it is important for us to honor our history and tradition.
He, too, thanked the Pow Wow Oak Protectors.
“George has done a wonderful job pulling this all together,” said Sears.
It was not easy to get to this point, however. The group was engaged in a dispute with the Tewksbury Historical Society earlier this year.
As previously reported in the Crier, the dispute began when Pow Wow Oak Protectors approached the Tewksbury Historical Society and asked them to be their fiscal conduit so they could raise money but not have to establish a separate non-profit organization – a structure allowed under the law. However Koumantzelis said that his group’s funds were co-mingled with the Historical Society’s. He also said that the Historical Society too often tried to take over his project.
The two sides eventually wound up in Lowell District Court.
It was resolved in June, when Magistrate Roberta Kettlewell, who oversaw the proceedings, ruled in favor of the Pow Wow Oak Protectors. The Historical Society, according to the judgment, must pay the Pow Wow Oak Protectors $429.29, plus post-judgment interest.
The site marking and surveying could then be completed.
When asked how it felt to see everything finally finished, Koumantezlis said it was “wonderful.”
The oak is over three hundred years old. It was reportedly a site for Native American pow-wows, which is how it acquired its name.