Event Highlights Bermuda’s Native Connection

February 11, 2015

A Bermuda-born woman whose ancestral past boasts deep roots on the island recently offered a special presentation on her family’s history at Eckerd College in Saint Petersburg, Florida, detailing a story that includes the history of Pequot Indians being taken to Saint David’s Island as slaves in the 1600s.

Jean Foggo Simon spoke on Monday, February 2, 2015, teaming up with Raymond Hinst III and Mary Johnson, who shared similar experiences of African Americans in the city of Saint Petersburg in the southern United States, and Eugenia Poporad Vanek, who shared contrasting recollections of individuals living in the northern town of Oberlin, Ohio, known as “the town that started the Civil War.”

Their lectures and the group discussions that followed highlighted the poignant and personal stories of the isolation of minorities and examined how biases toward nationalities and races have affected many lives.

The one-day program, dubbed ‘Hidden Voices,’ was sponsored by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Eckerd College.

Jean Foggo Simon


The course description said, “Recollections of individuals growing up in the conservative south will be compared with those living in a liberal northern town. Social injustices were not unique to the United States. Indentured servitude and slavery in the colonial settling of Bermuda left scars on this tropical paradise well into the 20th century.”

The seminar opened with Raymond Hinst presenting a short historical perspective of the neighborhood surrounding Haslam’s bookstore, a personal focus of his. Speaker Mary Johnson, an African American, then went on to describe her life growing up in that neighborhood.

Following a question and answer session, Geni Vanek shared recollections of women who grew up in the 1900s in a town that had its roots in abolitionism, in a segment dubbed ‘Racial Justice in “The Town That Started the Civil War.”

Hoop dancing at Bermuda Pow Wow, June 22, 2013:

Ms. Simon spoke in the afternoon in a segment called ‘The Colonial Experience,’ exploring the hidden history of Saint David’s Island, settled by the British with indentured servants and Native American slaves, and the social injustices created by the mixture of races and nationalities.

The course program [PDF here] says of the speakers, “Raymond Hinst III has had an eclectic career for one so young. He studied at the College of Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts at Florida State University and even worked behind the scenes on the film, Ulee’s Gold, before joining his father at Haslam’s Bookstore.

“ASPEC member Mary Johnson is a life-long St. Petersburg resident. She shares first hand experiences growing up on Saint Petersburg’s south side at a time when African Americans faced discrimination. Mary’s account will highlight how she overcame obstacles to go to college on her road to becoming a nurse, educator and administrator.

“OLLI Member Eugenia Poporad Vanek spent more than thirty years as a teacher, administrator, and researcher in the northern Ohio area before moving to Saint Petersburg. Her examination of the oral histories of Oberlin women led to publication of Bonnets to Boardrooms: Women’s Stories from a Historic College Town.”

Slideshow showing the Pow Wows Bermuda has hosted over the past few years:


“Ms. Vanek will present vignettes from the book, called a “treasure trove of strong voices” by author Tracy Chevalier and recognized for a History Outreach Award winner from the Ohio Local History Alliance.

“Jean Foggo Simon grew up on Saint David’s Island in Bermuda before moving to Ohio. Doing genealogical research for her family, she discovered that she descended from Irish and Scottish ancestors, Black immigrants from the West Indies, and captive Pequot Indian slaves from the United States.

“Her research and passion for telling her story has brought national attention to the “hidden history” of Saint David’s Island and organization of a native Reconnection ceremony, the first of its kind in almost four hundred years of Bermudian history.”

Read More About

Category: All, History, News

Comments (5)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jean Foggo Simon says:

    Thank you Bernews.com for sharing this story. I am thankful for your publication, not only the story, but especially the beautiful photos.

  2. Bermy to the Bone says:

    WOW…Your insight into this article, let’s us know where all the initial research came from in connecting with the Pequot tribe.

    Hopefully soon we can see you publish a book for an even more in depth look into this important aspect of our history.

  3. Terry says:

    And thank you Jean for reminding us all about the first inhabitants and settles in Bermuda.

  4. Great to see what you have put together in the years since
    we met, and that you work is serving an important educational
    purpose. Keep on keeping on! Bill

  5. jean foggo simon says:

    Thank you Bill Katz. Havng met you and having a conversation about my research was inspiring. Your book “Black Indians” helped even more What an honor it is to see a comment from you. Much sppreciated. Your donation of 2 of your books “Black Indians” was delivered to the Bermuda Library in your honour. I encourage our Bermudian familues to check them out. My book is almost completed. Hoping for publication 2015.