On Saturday, June 15th, Todd Kelley, native naturalist and founder of kelleytrailblazers.com, led a walk at the Town of Orleans’ Paw Wah Point Conservation Area. Todd led the nearly-35 participants through the 12 acre preserve, describing the legend and legacy of Paw Wah (“Medicine Man”) Pompmo and the historical significance of Portanimicut Road.
Starting at the trail head, located at 163 Namequoit Road in South Orleans, Todd set the stage for his lecture by introducing a book entitled “The World We Used to Live In: Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men,” written by Vine Deloria, Jr. In this book Deloria takes the reader into the realm of the spiritual and reveals through eyewitness accounts the immense power of medicine men. He shows the reader how ancient powers fit into our modern understanding of science and the cosmos, and how future generations may draw strength from the old ways.
This introduction to medicine men was a nice segue into Todd’s description of Paw Wah (“Medicine Man”) Pompmo, who once lived on what is now Portanimucit Road, quit possibly on the land where the walk took place. What surprised many was that Paw Wah was not his name, but rather the Native American’s term for “medicine man”. Pompmo was his recorded name.
Todd described how Pompmo’s father first came to present-day Portanimicut Road in 1623 when it was an area that was still unsettled and wild. As Pompmo grew up he started to look after people and had a knack for healing. This was when his legend started to grow. As a young man Pompmo fell in love with a young beautiful girl, whom happened to be the daughter of Chief Quanset. The road named directly south of Portanimicut Road is named after Chief Quanset.
As part of the custom at that time, Pompmo offered Chief Quanset a tribute with the hopes of marrying his daughter. Chief Quanset did not accept Pompmo’s offering so Pompmo decided he would snatch his daughter away. When he went to abduct her, she was gone. At that very moment Chief Quanset and his tribe jumped Pompmo, but he was able to get away before being killed.
Pompmo decided after that to hide out at the end of what is Portanimicut Road, on what is today Paw Wah Pond. It was the winter so Pompmo set up a small lodge on the ice to go fishing. However, Pompmo forgot to appease the Water Being (or god), so the ice collapsed and Pompmo and his dog both fell into the icy water and died. To this day, local fishermen believe that if you go to Paw Wah Pond and offer Pompmo tobacco, he will ensure good fishing in return.
Todd wrapped up his talk by reiterating how important it is for us to continue to preserve land on Cape Cod. Todd stated, “If we don’t have the land to enjoy and learn from, how will we ever expect stories like Pompmo to carry forward?”
Join us for our next walk on Thursday, July 11, at 3:00pm, at the Christian Property off Portanimicut Road in South Orleans.
Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, follow MA Route 28 towards Chatham for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto Quanset Road and veer left at the Y to stay on Portanimicut Road. Follow Portanimicut Road to the trail head entrance on left (0.6 miles). Entrance is a small dirt driveway.