Award-winning Canadian Author Claims that Dartmouth Indians are Really Nipmuc?

A hot topic among First Nations Peoples in Canada this month is the claim of a well-known Canadian writer that he is Indigenous and therefore eligible to represent Indigenous People and even to accept award money on behalf of his ‘Nativeness.’ Specifically, the author claims that he has “Nipmuc roots from Dartmouth, Massachusetts on my father’s side and Ojibwe roots … on my mother’s side.” While I cannot comment on his Ojibwe roots, I can explore his claim to Nipmuc, the tribe I belong to, and that Nipmuc equals Dartmouth. It seems that the novelist is referring to the 1861 Earle Report in which a family with his father’s surname in listed under “Dartmouth Indians.” But are Dartmouth Indians Nipmuc?

The 1861 Earle report was written by John Milton Earle who was the Massachusetts Indian Commissioner at that time. He was charged with investigating the “condition” of the state’s Indigenous population and to make a recommendation on whether the Indigenous people of the commonwealth should cease to be wards of the state and be allowed citizenship. The Nipmuc tribe, historically and today, consists of several autonomous bands. The Nipmuc bands included in the Earle Report were the Hassanamisco, Natick, and Dudley. The Dartmouth Indians were also included in the report. This is Earle’s description of the Dartmouth Indians.


As you can plainly see above, Earle is stating that the Dartmouth Indians were Wampanoag. Other evidence of this includes the location of the Dartmouth’s homelands as compared to Nipmuc homelands. Dartmouth, Westport, and New Bedford are coastal southeastern Massachusetts locations. Nipmucs still occupy the same central Massachusetts, NW Rhode Island, and NE Connecticut areas that our ancestors have for thousands of years.

The Dartmouth Indian Map –


The Nipmuc Map –


Two completely different and separate areas for two different tribes. Below is a popular rendition of southern New England traditional homelands.


As you can see, the area that includes Dartmouth and the other coastal areas are labeled Wampanoag.

But perhaps some may think that in 1861, there were Nipmucs living in Dartmouth, MA as in they just happened to move there. The Earle Report lists families and individuals that are part of a tribe under their tribal heading regardless of where they live. But, for the sake of research, let’s check the Dartmouth Indian listings because Earle also included tribal affiliations for each person listed.


Though not indicated on this page, the column headings for the 4th and 6th columns are “Tribe or Race” and “Residence”. As you can see, Dartmouth is indicated as the Tribe for all of the individuals listed save Jerusha Ann Coles. Listed residences for these Dartmouth Indians are confined to Westport, Dartmouth and Providence (RI).

Whether the author is Nipmuc or not, I cannot really say since I only casually glanced at his genealogy. He has not to my knowledge made any attempt to engage my People. However, I hope this article has demonstrated that Dartmouth Indians are not the same People as Nipmuc so there is some confusion in his claim to be Nipmuc from Dartmouth, MA.






My Headpiece

I beadstitched a headpiece to match my new regalia. While I have used lazy stitch in the past to bead (barrettes mainly), I’ve never used that stitch for something this big. I had a bit of trouble along the way – not enough beads in the colors I started with for one. Two – I didn’t have the technique down pat,  And, three, it took forever (in my mind).

A couple of years ago, I bought some beautiful cream and chocolate beads from a bead store in Salem, MA. I didn’t have a project in mind when I purchased them but they were so pretty and perfectly matched to each other that I had to have them. And of course, I had to use them for this project.

One of my favorite patterns is the vase pattern from my ancestors’ Nipmuc wood splint baskets.

photoI decided to use this design in my headpiece (also called a crown but I don’t really like that name.) I chose the colors of my regalia from a bead soup mix at Bead Fiesta in Sterling, MA. The bead soup combined turquoise, chocolate brown, cream, and copper. The combination called my name so I naturally bought cloth to match.

crown beginningI started with the cream and chocolate beads but quickly ran out of the cream.  I called the bead store in Salem but they didn’t sell those beads anymore. I really wanted to fill in the circle around the vase with those luscious cream beads. I tried every store -bead and craft- but no one had the exact bead. So I substituted with a close color.


Then, I ran out of the turquoise beads and ended up sending my daughter to Natick for the correct beads. The night before the pauwau, I edged the headpiece with the chocolate and prayed that no one would notice how uneven my beading was. I definitely need more practice with this type of beading. Here is the finished headpiece –

photo (2) and a side view –


So lessons learned?

1. Always make sure you have enough beads to complete a project.

2. Make sure you practiced a technique enough times to make a quality object. I was very disappointed in the way my headpiece turned out.  I felt sure that people would point out the flaws at the pauwau. Of course, no one did!!

Anyway, I think it will be awhile before I tackle another headpiece like this. Meanwhile I’ll keep practicing on barrettes and medallions.

Until next time–



Busy Beader

I was a busy little beader gearing up for pauwau season. I made a headband for a dear friend from size 8 delicas. My loom has interchangeable spring coils to accommodate different size/type  beads. This was the first time I’ve loomed with beads that large and I was happy to see how fast it went. Here are some pictures but I neglected to photograph the completed project. Duh!!!!

1787_10200154693449975_1800712087_nThe headband tells the story of our different Nipmuc communities coming together as one using ceremony as the uniting force – specifically the pipe ceremony.

photo (1) You can see the pipe in this picture. I alternated men and women for both sexes are equally important in our community. I also used two different color people, white and green, to symbolize different bands of Nipmucs.

The headband was gifted to our pipe carrier. The bowl of the pipe he carries was made from cumberlandite – a very special stone that exists in only one place on this earth, Cumberland, Rhode Island. Cumberland is within Nipmuc traditional territory. Imagine a stone that only exists here in Nipmuc country!! I wanted to add the stone in some way to the headband. Keep in mind that the pictures you are seeing are of my final design. I tried a few different designs before I settled on this one.

photoWe used my Dremel to cut, shape and polish the stone and set it at the center of our ‘community’. I’ve never told a story in beads before and I’m not quite sure if the headband’s recipient actually understands the message I tried to convey….but he is a good sport and wore the headband at the Hassanamisco pauwau.

I think I will continue to tell stories through my beadwork – well, at least I’ll try.




The Chief of the Nipmuc Nation and Hassanamisco Band of Nipmuc Indians recently retired. Per our constutution (and historic precedence), the retiring chief submitted the names of three individuals whom he felt could be his successor.  The Elders of the Nipmuc Nation choose our next chief from among those names.

Guess who?


At first I was resistant (please see my post from October 2012 here). But then, I thought about how disrespectful it would be to say “no.” Our Elders and Chief believe that I am the right person to lead our Nation. I also thought about the state our small Indian Nation is in and could I really desert my people at this time?

But I believe that to lead an entire people is an incredible responsibility. How can I possibly be capable of such a thing???

While I’ve had an incredible amount of support, I also have my detractors. Mainly those who wanted to be chief or have family members who they feel should be chief. And, of course, the tribal council has not been happy with the Elders’ outcome. Our last Strawberry Moon celebration was clouded by the negativity between the Elders and the council.

The official ceremony is on July 28th at the reservation. An old enemy of the Hassanamisco Band has already stated that he’s coming to claim “his” reservation at the pauwau, plus who knows what else will happen.

My hope is that we all vow to move forward together, that cooperation and communication will be our top priorities.  I ask that anyone reading this to pray for my people and their leadership.



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.

My Soul Knows You

My Heart stings, thinking of You

The pain is deep and soon forgettable

Buried beneath work and family

Time to move forward

Pushing through Rejection.


Thoughts drift toward you and

Are quickly brushed away

Like snow on my windshield

As I drive through the day.


At night it’s more difficult

As dreams turn to you

As I awake I push

Them aside and move

Forward away from You.


How Hard is Hard?

Everything in my life is hard now. Dealing with my daughters and grandsons is hard now. Dealing with fear-filled council members is hard now. Getting money for the Museum is hard now. Dealing with a loco “friend” is hard now. My blood pressure is out of control and I really need to chill out but I am surrounded. So what can I change? Absolutely nothing except myself. I really need to walk away from all tribal stuff. The council is failing, completely failing and taking the tribe with them. I have tried unsuccessfully to move things forward but….

Time for me to walk away. I love the Museum and all it could be. But my dream of it becoming the center of learning for my People will never be. At least not as long as those in charge continue to live in fear. Fear of what they never had being taken away. Fear of the empty blue chairs they preach to now becoming more empty. Even the Unity movement has become a race to get “stuff” before the Nipmuc Nation does. It’s all a competition and I no longer wish to compete.

Shelve the Haters

last week, someone told me to put a particularly troublesome person on a shelf and to not give any of my energy to that person again. and I fully intend to do that – after I write this.

there are those who think that being a council member gives you the right to be not only respected but worshipped by the people. that’s not true. respect is earned, a true leader doesn’t sit around expecting people to admire them. a true leader works their ass off for the people without any expectation of a reward. a true leader puts the needs of the people first, not their own arrogant egos.

there is a council member that I do not get along with. and I mean that we do not agree on anything. however, I cannot deny that he is a leader to our people. he gives of his own time and money to keep our office open and usable. when a request is made of him, he grants it. the things he does are not always to my liking but then he doesn’t exist to please me. would I go to lunch with him? no- not likely. but I cant deny that he has the best interests of our people at heart.

regarding a different council member, should respect be given to council members who do not contribute positively to the people? who listen to and support those who would do the people harm? who brag about what they’ve have done elsewhere but can’t assist their own? who tear down what others do simply because they don’t like who is doing it?

for those who serve, such behavior is tiresome to say the least. but I doubt it will stop those who truly care from moving forward or from continuing to assist whenever possible.

that council member that I don’t get along with? part of our problem is that we don’t trust each other and because of that we will never see the other’s path. and in general, people don’t support what they can’t see. so I wont support what he does and he wont support me. and the people lose out.

so now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I will put the energy-sucking council member on the shelf and maybe think about asking the other council member to coffee (well – I already said lunch was out!)

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