Still Here After 12,000 Years: Honoring the Sites and Cultures of Indigenous New England

Peabody Museum canoe modelsPatricia Harris and David Lyon in the Boston Globe, November 3, 2017

In November, most of us turn our thoughts to big turkey dinners and first-wave English settlers in long stockings and buckle hats. Conventional Thanksgiving lore does give props to Massasoit and Plymouth-area Wampanoag for bringing most of the food to dinner. But the Pilgrims are only one part of the story. The Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation depicts Native life vividly, but here are a half dozen museums that focus exclusively on the indigenous side of New England’s heritage. By the way, they are all closed on Thanksgiving, and some will soon close for the winter.

Abbe Museum, Bar Harbor, ME

In May 2016, the Abbe Museum unveiled “People of the First Light.” The new core exhibit takes its name from the term that many indigenous people of the Northeast — including the five nations of the Wabanaki Confederacy — use to describe themselves. They are the people of the sunrise, and the exhibit likewise marks a new day for the Abbe. Originally a small museum in Acadia National Park, the Abbe opened in 1928 to interpret Native artifacts found around Frenchman Bay. The modern downtown facility now tells a more comprehensive story of 12,000 years of indigenous culture in the Wabanaki homeland, and it does so from a Native perspective.

Tribal historians, artists, and educators advised in exhibit development. Gina Brooks, a Maliseet artist from New Brunswick, created dramatic illustrations of legends and tales from the oral tradition that inform many exhibits. The Abbe’s science and ethnography remain as rigorous as ever, but learning about the continuity of indigenous culture in the voices of the people themselves brings an immediacy to the experience. 26 Mt. Desert St., Bar Harbor, Maine. 207-288-3519, abbemuseum.org. Open through April Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., closed January. Free until Dec. 22. Otherwise, adults $8, seniors $7, ages 11-17 $4, ages 10 and under free.

Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

Founded by Charles and Nancy Thompson, the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum represents a singular vision of a master collector. Inspired by a school visit from Pequot sachem Silverstar when he was in the second grade, “Bud” Thompson amassed a major collection of artifacts and artwork representing tribes across North America. The museum sits in the homeland of the Abenaki (one of the five peoples of the Wabanaki Confederacy) and about a quarter of the collection represents peoples of the Northeast. Many works chronicle the growth of basketry and beadwork as Native economic mainstays in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The contemporary art gallery features two exhibits each year guest-curated by members of the Native community. 18 Highlawn Road, Warner, N.H. 603-456-2600, indianmuseum.org. Open through Nov. Sat.-Sun. noon-5 p.m. Adults $9, seniors and students $8, ages 6-12 $7, family $26.

Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Museum, Mashpee, MA

Created in 1970, more than three centuries after the establishment of Mashpee as a “praying village,” this compact museum and cultural center occupies a circa-1793 half-Cape home in the historic heart of the Mashpee Wampanoag homeland. (Eighty-five percent of tribal members live within 20 miles.) It sits next to the historic Herring Run, where some Wampanoag still harvest fish in the early spring.

This year the museum has seen a swell of visitors eager to learn more about the Wampanoag. One of the first things they learn is that Wampanoag culture finds many opportunities for thanksgiving throughout the year. The museum focuses principally on the post-1620 era, and on the contributions and achievements of Wampanoag people. A small but fascinating exhibit on Native American whaling is up this fall, but may be coming down next year. Although the museum closes for the winter on Dec. 1, off-season visitors can see a traditional round, bark-covered Wampanoag house on the grounds. 414 Main St., Mashpee. 508-477-9339, MashpeeWampanoagTribe-nsn.gov/museum. Open through Nov. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Adults $5, ages 6-18 $2, seniors and educators $4, family $10.

Tomaquag Museum, Exeter, RI

You’ll meet a lot of indigenous people in the exhibits at this museum in the heart of Narragansett country. One display features two-time Boston Marathon winner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown. Another sketches the achievements of tribal historian Mary Glasko. Known as Princess Red Wing, she served as a delegate to the United Nations and co-founded the museum in 1958. The last living Narragansett sub-chief, 96-year-old Kenneth “Strong Horse” Smith, donated his turkey feather headdress and other ceremonial clothing for another exhibit. Connections span the generations. A beautiful circa-1850 Narragansett bark canoe hanging from the rafters comes from the family of executive director Lorén Spears.

Continuity is omnipresent. Next to historic Narragansett baskets with now-faded stamped vegetable dye designs is a case showing how a contemporary basketmaker constructs a traditional basket. Everything in the museum seems to have a story, often including the name of the person who made it, wore it, used it, or passed it down. Each quarter, the museum showcases a different contemporary Native artist, many of whom sell their work in the museum’s gift shop. 390 Summit Road, Exeter, R.I. 401-491-9063, tomaquagmuseum.org. Open all year Wed. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sat 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Adults $6, seniors and students $5, children $3.

Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Mashantucket, CT

Filling an airy modern building in the woods near Foxwoods Casino, this museum pulls out all the stops to relate the history and flesh out the cultural nuances of what it means to be Pequot. An archaeological dig on the Mashantucket reservation places the earliest settlement as 9,500 years ago, just as the glaciers receded. But the exhibits quickly move on to more recent eras.

When European colonists arrived, the Pequot were a prosperous nation that held sway over large parts of what is now Connecticut. Moving exhibits detail their near-extinction in the 17th century and their dwindling numbers and influence thereafter. This institution shines at teasing out the palpable resilience of people who clung to their identity through all forms of adversity. The exhibits are so thorough and compelling that it is easy to spend half a day here — a small investment of time to become acquainted with a people. 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, Conn. 800-411-9671, pequotmuseum.org. Open through Nov. Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults $20, seniors and college students $15, ages 6-17 $12.

Nearby, the Mohegan Tribe operates a small museum with a diverse collection of objects from many Northeastern, Plains, and Southwestern tribes. Call the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum (1819 Norwich-New London Turnpike, Uncasville, Conn., 860-848-3985, mohegan.nsn.us) ahead as opening hours can vary.

Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT

Located on a wooded 15-acre campus in the Litchfield Hills, this museum has carried out more than 500 archaeological excavations in Connecticut since it was founded in 1975. The outdoor replica of an Algonkian Village is an especially evocative large-scale display of woodland life in the period 350-1000 years ago. The museum also works with all five state-recognized tribes (the Mashantucket Pequot, the Eastern Pequot, the Mohegan, the Schaghticoke, and the Paugussett) for contemporary programs. 38 Curtis Road, Washington, Conn. 860-868-0518, iaismuseum.org. Open all year Weds.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Adults $10, seniors $8, ages 3-12 $6.

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Town of Wendell, Tribes Join Forces to ID Ceremonial Sites

A group of collaborating Native American tribes has offered to work with Massachusetts towns to identify landscapes of ceremonial or religious significance to their heritage, and Wendell is taking them up on that.

The history of indigenous ceremonial stone landscapes and the importance of maintaining their integrity and tranquility was explained to the Selectboard by Doug Harris, deputy tribal historic preservation officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office in Charlestown, R.I.

Harris said these sites probably exist in every town in the state, and Wendell is no exception.

Read the full story by Dominic Poli in the Greenfield Recorder here.

Doug Harris in Northampton Aug. 5th: Let the Landscape Speak

A fundraiser to support the Indigenous Tribes of the Northeast in protecting Ceremonial Stone Landscape Features in Sandisfield, Massachusetts.

Presenter: Doug Harris
Preservationist for Ceremonial Landscapes
& A Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO)

Doug Harris will present a history of Ceremonial Stone Landscape Features in the Northeast region and the struggle to preserve them. The hills and valleys of New England are dotted with living prayers of stone (Ceremonial Stone Landscapes) created by the Indigenous peoples of this region. These stone structures were built to create and restore harmony between human beings and Mother Earth. The prayers that they embody continue to live as long as the stones are kept intact.

As has happened before in other places, our government, more specifically, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been complicit in the destruction of these sacred stone landscapes. Over 1/3 of the 73 features identified in Sandisfield have been desecrated by the construction of a new gas pipeline. This occurred because FERC approved the project before the stone features were identified, and then failed to consult with the tribes in a meaningful manner to resolve the adverse impacts. While harm has been done, this is also an opportunity to support the Indigenous peoples of our region so they can challenge FERC’s behavior in the courts. If successful, ceremonial stone landscapes will be preserved, not destroyed, a result that would have national implications.

Saturday, August 5, 2017
3:00-5:00 pm
First Churches, 129 Main Street
Northampton, MA
The church is handicap accessible and on a bus line
Please enter on the Center Street side of the building
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You can make a tax deductible contribution in one of two ways

1) Write a check to Creative Thought and Action (memo: CSL), and mail it to Climate Action Now’s treasurer: Rene Theberge, 250 Shutesbury Road, Amherst, MA, 01002.

2) Donate online by going to https://tinyurl.com/protectsacredstones

Please share far and wide with friends and family.

For more info and/or to help with this campaign contact Susan Theberge
Please include CSL in the subject line.

Indigenous Ceremonial Stone Landscape Protection: Donate at YouCaring

ceremonial stone groupings

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Narragansetts are a federally-recognized Indian Tribe whose Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Doug Harris, is leading the legal battle against the destruction of ceremonial stone features by the Sandisfield, MA Kinder Morgan pipeline, which was illegally-permitted by FERC. Please visit this link for more information about this potentially precedent-setting legal effort to be brought to the US circuit court of appeals:

https://www.youcaring.com/indigenousceremonialstonelandscapeprotection

Please share this link with your network to help us raise awareness and funds. Climate Action Now, a project of the 501c3 Creative Thought and Action, is fundraising for this effort in direct cooperation with Mr. Harris’ legal team.

Many thanks,
Lis McLoughlin

Day of Remembrance at Peskeompskut with Nolumbeka

day of remembrance peskeompskut nolumbeka

Organized by the Nolumbeka Project: Saturday, May 20, 2017 at the Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, MA.

• Doors open at 10 a.m. We are offering ample time during the day and between presentations for conversations, personal reflections and individual touring of this historically significant district of Great Falls and the 341st anniversary of the battle that changed the course of King Philip’s War
• 10:30 a.m. – Presentation by Nolumbeka Project Board members David Brule and Nur Tiven.
• 1 p.m – Ceremony officiated by Tom Beck, Medicine Man and Ceremonial Leader
of the Nulhegan – Coosuk Band of the Abenaki Nation.
• Special guests during the day include Loril Moondream of Medicine Mammals and Strong Oak of Visioning B.E.A.R. Circle Intertribal Coalition.

2nd Annual All Species Day in Great Barrington, MA

turtle island universe

Standing Rock Water Protectors and Friends & Supporters in the Berkshires,

We, Northeast Region Standing Rock RISING! NEXT STEPS Solidarity Committee are producing the 2nd annual ALL SPECIES day in Great Barrington, MA at the Fairgrounds on Rt. 7 from 12 noon to 6pm.

We are calling on all environmental, social and inter-faith communities, groups and organizations to come and stand in SOLIDARITY with Standing Rock and OPPOSE all pipelines across the country going under or near rivers, lakes, springs and ponds, especially in Sandisfield, MA where the Tennessee Gas / Kinder Morgan pipeline is proposing to desecrate and/or destroy over 20 Native American burial sites and sacred ceremonial sites as well, as they build this project that also impacts CT and NY.

100% of all donations on day of event will be directly made available to the Native Graves Ancestral Lands Legal Defense Fund (Doug Harris).

All Species day will include LIVE MUSIC, SPEAKERS, Cultural Dance groups and an inter-faith prayer vigil. Free information booth spaces will be made available at no cost to environmental and social justice groups, youth and church groups, community orgs and animal rights groups.

Performers committed to perform are Wicked Hanging Chads, a Reggae & Ska band (returning from last year) Sambaland Band, Brazilian Carnival Music, Otha Day, and the Aztec Dancers  (from Rock, Rattle and Drum American Indian Pow Wow, where they have performed for the last 11 years).

Speakers include Michael Johnson, Pathways to Peace, Karenna Gore, Center for Earth Ethics, Doug Harris, Historic Preservation Officer for Narrangansett Nation in Rhode Island, Joe Graveline of Nolumbeka Project and Rosemary Wessel of No Fracked Gas in Mass.    

More speakers to be invited and announced.

ALL SPECIES DAY SCHEDULE – April 23rd Sunday

12 noon – Inter-faith Invocation for the Earth and All Species to include a Native American tribal elder/spiritual leader, Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi, Buddhist Monk or nun, etc.

12:15 pm – Aztec Dancers perform earth invocation and dances
12:45 – Speaker- Doug Harris
1:00 – Native American Drum and Dance for the Earth-TBA
1:30 – Taino Invocation for the Earth & All Species with Taino Song & Dance
2:00 – Speaker – Rosemary Wessel, No Fracked Gas in Mass
2:15 – ALL SPECIES House Band – Michael and Chris
2:45 – Speaker – Joe Graveline, Nolumbeka Project
3:00 – Wicked Hanging Chads – Reggae & Ska
4:00 – Speaker – Michael Johnson, Pathways to Peace
4:15 – Sambaland Band, Brazilian Carnival Music
5:45 – Otha Day – African American Drummer facilitates Drumming Circle
6:00 – Inter-Faith Prayer and Moment of Silence, facilitated by Michael
Johnson
See the original posting here.

Phone Seminar with Doug Harris on Ceremonial Stone Landscapes

mass forest rescue doug harris CSL seminar

A phone seminar with Doug Harris, Deputy Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Narragansett Tribe. Sponsored by Mass Forest Rescue. Doug is one of the most active Native educators and activists in New England, advocating tirelessly for these oft-threatened traditional cultural properties. The reality is that there is still great disrespect, ignorance, and arrogance surrounding these sacred features within the landscape.

Sunday, March 26, 7 pm. Registration deadline: 3 p.m. March 26.