Pow-Wow protectors help save historic Lowell oak 

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By Jennifer Myers

It was a crusade that began three years ago.

George Koumantzelis and a small group of “Pow-Wow Oak Protectors” made it their mission to save a 320-year-old oak tree on Clark Road in the city’s Belvidere neighborhood.

This is no ordinary tree. 

It is said to have been the spot where, cloaked in its protective shade, the Wamesit Indians made decisions, engaged in diplomacy, war, trade and discussions of their spiritual direction.

The Minutemen, on their way to Concord to spark a revolution on April 19, 1775, marched by
its mighty limbs.

Koumantzelis, who grew up in Belvidere and returned a few years ago to care for his mother, and
his group were successful in proving the tree sits on city-owned land. 

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Pow-Wow Protectors unveil granite marker commemorating historic oak.

The City Council voted to protect the tree in perpetuity, allowing the parcel to be marked and
placing restrictions on its use.

The PowWow 
Oak Protectors raised money to have a monument erected on the site, engaging in a
public — and at times ugly — battle with the Tewksbury Historical Society, which originally served as the group’s fiscal agent. 

That relationship was severed by a judge and the Protectors soldiered on. 

Their efforts were ultimately rewarded during a September ceremony at the old oak, where a granite marker was unveiled to celebrate the tree and educate passersby on its historical significance.
 
City Councilor Rita Mercier as well as Brian Martin and Amy Greenwood from U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’ office turned out for the ceremony. 
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Chief Onkwe Tase

Also in attendance were members of the local Native American community, including Chief 
Onkwe Tase, an Iroquois Elder of the Mohawk Turtle Clan.
 
Other special guests included: Rev. Doug Sears, a founding member of the Tewksbury Historical 
Society and an attorney who stood by the Pow-Wow Oak Protectors in their crusade;
David O’ Heir, grandson of Albert O’Heir, who saved the tree in 1909; historian Eugene Winter; 
local arborist John Coppinger, who assessed the health of the tree and provided suggestions for
its continued care; Dave Desmarais, a local surveyor who assisted the group in delineating the
boundaries of the property; Edward O’Keefe, a Native American and member of the Pow-Wow
Oak Protectors; and Steve Hattan and Bill Mrozowski from the Belvidere Neighborhood Group.
 
Koumantzelis, dapper in a white suit, said there were too many people to thank to list everyone
who had assisted in protecting the tree.
 
“It was a group effort and a community service saving this tree,” he told city officials.
 
He presented the city with a letter from American Forests, who have registered the Pow-Wow Oak as a “National Historic Tree.”
 
Koumantzelis left officials with a passage from historian/writer T.H. Watkins’ Redrock Chronicles: Saving Wild Utah.
 
“Love is a powerful tool, and maybe, just maybe, before the last little town is corrupted and the
last of the unroaded and undeveloped wildness is given over to dreams of profit, maybe it will
be love, finally, love for the land for its own sake and for what it holds of beauty and joy and 
spiritual redemption that will make wilderness not a battlefield but a revelation.”

Jennifer Myers Jennifer Myers has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. A former reporter at The Sun for more than a decade, she now works as an aide to Mayor Patrick Murphy. A history buff, Jennifer can often be found combing through old newspaper clippings and documents at the Pollard Library or rummaging through the attic of City Hall to uncover pieces of Lowell’s past. You can read more of Jennifer’s Mill City musings on her popular blog Room 50.  

 

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