Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
In the garden of Southwark Cathedral, there is a sculpture, an unusual memorial for a burial that took place in the 18th century. It commemorates the burial of Mahomet Weyonomon, a chief, or Sachem, of the Mohegan tribe in Connecticut who had come to London to seek justice for his people, but died from smallpox before he was able to achieve this.
His great grandfather Oweneco had travelled to London before him. British settlers had taken lands belonging to the Mohegans and Oweneco had come to London to petition Queen Anne for their restoration. A commission ordered by Queen Anne found the settlers had taken the lands illegally and ordered their return. But the three thousand miles separating London from Connecticut made it easy for the settlers to ignore the order and appropriated still more until the Mohegans did not have enough land to subsist on.
So, like his great grandfather, Mahomet Weyonomon came to London in 1735 to petition King George II for the restoration of tribal lands, accompanied by two settlers who supported his cause. They lodged in the City of London but before having the opportunity to present the petition to the King, the whole party died of smallpox. As a foreigner, Mahomet was forbidden burial within the City although they were happy to bury the Europeans within his party. Arrangements were made to bury Mahomet in the burial grounds of St Mary Overie, now known as Southwark Cathedral.
In November 2006, the memorial sculpture, commissioned by Southwark Cathedral and the Mohegan Tribe, was unveiled by HM The Queen, symbolically granting the audience Mahomet never received. A Mohegan ritual was performed by tribal chairman Bruce “Two Dogs” Bozsum that included burning sweetgrass and sage to bring good spirits and the singing of an Honor Song. The memorial was carved by Peter Randall Page from a pink granite boulder brought over from Connecticut and incorporates Mohegan symbols.