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.

dartmouth

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 –

wamp-map

The Nipmuc Map –

nipmuc

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

tribal_territories_southern_new_england

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.

pages-from-earle-report

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.

Aquene,

Cher

 

 

 

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.

Hmmm…What shall I write about?

There is so much going on in Nipmuc country right now. I can’t decide what to write about. Things are moving forward with the Museum restoration, the Museum has a new Strategic Plan that hopefully the committee will vote to accept, we are starting a new Language Class at the tribal office, ….plus some other stuff. And I am only thinking of what’s happening within the Hassanamisco Band. I have no idea what’s happening with the other Bands.

Ha! I do have a topic. Transparency. I am all for transparency within a group. I think its important for all members of a group to share and understand information so that all of us can make informed decisions. Especially when those decisions affect all members of the group.

I also believe that confidentiality is important. And in small, close-knit groups like a Band or clan, confidentiality is essential whether its family information or political discussion.

When in an effort to be “transparent”, a person betrays (yes, I feel that strongly) their Band by divulging confidential information to people outside of the group, well that person should no longer have access to confidential information. It doesn’t matter if it’s email, meeting minutes, financial records, grant info, or someone’s personal genealogy. Nor does it matter who was told.

All officer’s and employees of the Nipmuc Nation are supposed to sign confidentiality agreements. Those agreements should be honored. And even if agreements were not signed, where is your honor? Your integrity? Why violate the trust placed upon you by those who voted for you?

OK, so…enough preaching, time for a disclaimer. These comments are mine and mine alone. They are general statements and not intended to single out any one person. If someone feels like these comments may pertain to him/her, then they should search their own soul.

Aquene !

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.

Not Quite the New Year

At 12:00 am this morning, my grandsons and I blew into our noise-makers and jumped up and down. We had a party in my living room to welcome the year 2012. I rushed them outside to try and catch the firework display with our binoculars and telescopes but there didn’t seem to be one. We came back in, ate some more, drank some more, called and sent text messages to our loved ones. They finally settled down just before 2 am and to sleep we all went.

And so goes our calendar New Year celebration every year. But for us, the real beginning of the year comes when the seasons shift, the air warms, and green begins to return to our yard.

New Year in Nipmuc Country begins with Spring planting time. The exact date varies from year to year. The Nipmuc Nation will celebrate the New Year at our Planting Moon celebration on Saturday, May 5th at Hassanamesit. Won’t you join us?