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.