The Powers that Be

Folks are wondering what’s going on with this Nipmuk Unity thing. Well, some think that’s it’s a sinister plot to overthrow the current band governments and form something new. Certain Nipmuc Nation tribal council members even stated that the new “tribe” or band would be based within the Hassanamisco Indian Museum (’cause that’s how all indigenous tribes are formed – within museums). Others are fearful that people are trying to change the spelling of Nipmuc/Nipmuck to Nipmuk which is something that they just wont tolerate. Is this all paranoia? Or reasonable restraint?

The Nipmuk Unity movement seeks cooperation between the bands, it desires interaction between enrolled and unenrolled Nipmuks, but mostly it cultivates the survival of our culture, language, stories, traditions, ceremonies, and people.

Drawing by Zara CiscoeBrough

This is not a bad thing but there are those whose minds cannot contemplate peace. There are those who are afraid that if more Nipmuks participate in tribal affairs then they will lose the power they now possess. There are those who still believe that the check is in the mail and they don’t intend to share it. There are those who believe they can control the rest of us.

I feel sorrow for those Nipmuks that criticize the efforts of others to work together. I feel sorrow for those that belittle the efforts of our children to learn what they can of our traditions. But they can’t stop us.

We are free, strong and able to withstand the negative energy heaped upon us these past 400 years. After all, We Are Nipmuk.

Strategic Planning

The Museum has a proposed Strategic Plan that I hope will be adopted by the Museum Committee. It’s posted below the break. First, here is the Museum’s mission:

Mission Statement: To perpetuate the arts, crafts, and way of life of New England’s Indigenous Peoples; preserve the culture and history of indigenous people, particularly that of the Nipmuc Indian; and preserve and protect the unique character of the historic structure known as the Homestead and the artifacts housed within.

And Vision Statement:

Vision Statement: To serve as a focal point and gathering place for Nipmucs and their families to learn of our culture and history and to practice integrating our traditional values, technologies and wisdom into our contemporary lives.

Hassanamisco Indian Museum – Strategic Plan

To achieve its mission, attain its vision, and align with the Nipmuc Nation long-term goals, the Museum identified as its primary goal –

Preserve and perpetuate the culture and history of the Nipmuc tribe through a solid programmatic and physical foundation.

Strategy One: Renovation of the Homestead and the Museum’s organizational structure.

The Homestead will reopen with modern facilities, climate-controlled display, exhibit, and storage areas, office space, and a gathering space for tribal classes, workshops and functions. Concurrently, the Museum will build the capacity of the Museum’s board, staff and volunteers to achieve Museum’s goals

  • Complete the planning, restoration of historic portion of building, and the renovation of the modern-day addition.
  • Reorganize and strengthen the Museum’s organizational structure.
  • Achieve fiscal sustainability through sound fiscal planning and aggressive fund-raising.

Strategy Two: Preserve and conserve the Museum’s collections.

The Museum will institute formal policies to conserve the Museum’s collection. The Nipmuc Community will develop a sense of ownership and stewardship in the Museum and its collections.

  • Conserve, inventory and catalog the Museum’s collections.
  • Store and exhibit collections appropriately.

Strategy Three: Develop, promote, and implement programming for the Nipmuc community and the public.

Through the teachings of Elders and tradition-keepers, the Museum will work with the Nipmuc tribe to ensure the transference of traditional knowledge to the next generation. The Museum will continue to improve existing school, scout, and camp programs for the public.

  • Develop Tribal-based educational programs and workshops.
  • Re-invest in the Nipmuc Homelands.
  • Strengthen relationships between Museum and Nipmuc people.
  • Expand and Improve website capabilities.
  • Design and implement a comprehensive marketing program.

What do you think?

Aquene!

***Please note that the image above is from traditional Nipmuc and/or Mohegan woodsplint baskets, Credit for the image goes to “Key into the Language of Woodsplint Baskets” by Ann McMullen, Russell G. Handsman, and Joan A. Lester. Published in 1987 by American Indian Archaeological Institute.

List of Scheduled Events in Nipmuc Country, 2012-2013

May 5th

Planting Moon/New Year Ceremony, Hassanamesit, 1 pm to 4 pm

May 5th & 6th

Nipmuc Spiritual Gathering, Hassanamesit, 4 pm to 4pm

June 16th

Strawberry Moon, Hassanamesit, 1 pm to 4 pm, Quarterly Tribal Meeting at noon

July 29th

Hassanamisco Indian Fair, Hassanamesit, 10 am to 4 pm

Sept 16th

Nipmuc Nation Annual Meeting/Election, Hassanamesit, Noon to 4 pm

Nov 24 & 25

Nipmuc Spiritual Gathering, Hassanamesit, 4 pm to 4 pm

Dec 15th

Nikkomo, Tribal Office, 1 pm to 4 pm, Quarterly meeting at noon

Mar 16th

Quarterly meeting, Tribal Office, 12 pm to 4 pm

Working Together in Nipmuc Country in 2011

Before I start this post, let me say straight out. There is no nefarious plot to combine the bands, change the spelling of Nipmuc Nation, or overthrow the current administration. OK?

That being said, we accomplished alot in the working together column.

  • In April, the Natick Nipmuc Band presented at the Nipmuc Nation tribal office “‎2010 Deer Island Memorial Sacred Run & Paddle: Nipmuc Perspectives on the Sacred Journey.”
  • The Second Annual Joint Strawberry Moon between Nipmuc Nation and Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuck Indians was held at the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Office in June.
  • Chaubunagungamaug Band members assisted during the 58th Hassanamisco Indian Fair in July on the Reservation.
  • Members of the Natick Nipmuc Band and the Chaubunagungamaug Band as well as many other Nipmuks were in attendance at the Fair.
  • The first Nipmuk meeting was held in August at Westville Lake in Sturbridge. The Nipmuk meetings are intended to promote cooperation between band members and those Nipmuks not enrolled in a band in the hope of building our futures together.
  • Members of the Nipmuc Nation assisted at the Chaubunagungamaug Band’s September Pau Wau at Holland Pond.
  • The September Pau Wau was well attended by Natick Nipmucs, Hassanamiscos and other Nipmuks. Honestly, one of the best pau waus I’ve ever attended.
  • Natick Nipmuc Youth leader actively led Hassanamisco youth on paddles, to conferences, summer camp and other activities.
  • The three Nipmuk bands joined forces on a state-government issue.
  • Natick Nipmucs and Hassanamisco Nipmucs jointly attended the first Youth Paddle at Lake Quiusigamond.
  • Nipmuks from everywhere attended or assisted at the Natick Nipmuc 2011 Deer Island Memorial.
  • The first (in many years) Nipmuc Spiritual Gathering was held on the reservation over two days in November. Nipmuks from everywhere actively participated.
  • Members of Natick Nipmuc and Nipmuc Nation jointly presented Nipmuk history in Littleton, MA.
  • All Nipmuks freely attended the various socials hosted by Hassanamisco and Chaubunagungamaug including Strawberry Moon, Nikkomo, and Harvest Moon.

So this is a beginning.

Hassanamisco Reservation on the National Register of Historic Places!

On September 6, 2011, the National Register of Historic Places added the Hassanamisco Reservation to its list of national treasures. Known as Hassanamesit, the under 4 acre reservation serves as the cultural and spiritual center of the Nipmuc Nation, a state-recognized tribe in Massachusetts. Located on the reservation is the Cisco Homestead, which for two centuries served as home to Nipmuc tribal leaders and now houses the Hassanamisco Indian Museum.

Nipmucs occupied Hassanamesit since before recorded time. In the mid 1600s, missionary John Eliot established a “Praying Plantation or Town” in Hassanamesit in an effort to “Christianize” the native population. Metacom’s Rebellion (June 1675 – August 1676) brought an end to the praying town era, and in 1728, English settlers divided Hassanamesit into lots reserving some parcels for the Nipmuc families still living there.

Hassanamesit Allotments - 1728

 The current reservation is all that remains of the Moses Printer allotment. A wood frame house was built in 1801 for Moses’ great-granddaughter, Lucy Gimby. Lucy’s granddaughter, Sarah Arnold Cisco, became the Nipmuc tribal leader in the mid 1850s and the house became known as the Cisco Homestead. In 1962, it became the Hassanamisco Indian Museum although the family still occupied the addition in the back of the building. The last member of the Cisco family to occupy the Homestead was Shelleigh Wilcox who moved from the reservation in 2006.

Cisco Homestead

Dr. D. Rae Gould, the Nipmuc Nation’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), led the effort to place the reservation on the list. “This good news will increase funding opportunities for our efforts to raise approximately $300,000 for the preservation of the Homestead.” The reservation is designated as a Traditional Cultural Property “associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our (Nation’s) history.” Funding to aid in the nomination process was provided by Preservation Massachusetts.

Hassanamesit has meaning for all Nipmucs as it is the only land in Massachusetts that has never been occupied by non-Natives. And the Homestead is the oldest structure in southern New England to be continuously occupied by Native people. Natick Nipmuc Sachem, Mary Anne Hendricks commented “The Hassanamisco Reservation is not only a sacred place to Nipmuks but has been finally recognized as a place in history for all to appreciate.”

Thanks to all who assisted and supported this journey, in particular Chief Natachaman of the Nipmuc Nation and the Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians.

Many thanks and an abundance of gratitude to our ancestors who kept this land intact for our generations and those to come.

Celebrate Columbus? Nah! Let’s Celebrate “Indigenous Survival Day”!

Ok so every second Monday in October the same thing occurs. Columbus Day. Named for that intrepid sailor who refused to believe that the Americas were not Asia until his THIRD trip here. Every year there are parades and every year Native people and others (btw, “Thanks, Others!”) protest the celebration of a man who dedicated years of his life to the exploitation, torture and murder of the inhabitants of the islands just south of our border.

It should truly be named “Italian-American Day” because it was the Italian Knights of Columbus that got FDR in 1937 to make the day official. And I think that would have been swell. I’d gladly parade through the streets with the promise of pasta at the end to celebrate my fellow Americans. It’s probably too late for that though.

I can’t celebrate Columbus. Honestly, he was lost, he was greedy, he was deadly and he was afraid of Ferdinand and Isabella. Plus he didn’t actually discover America – we already lived here! He wasn’t even the first European to hang out on our coasts (remember the Vikings?). The only thing good that I can say about that entire episode is “Thank the Creator he didn’t land in Plymouth.”

“Indigenous Survival Day”. That just sorta rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And a holiday like that would recognize the enduring strength of the Americas’ First Peoples. After all, we survived Columbus, the Puritans, Andrew Jackson, Vikings, smallpox-infected blankets, Manifest Destiny, allotments, the reservation system, and the Wild, Wild West.

We Are Still Here! Let’s celebrate that!