October 04, 2007

No such thing as Mashpee Wampanoag?

Mashpee:  A Question of Fact vs. FictionWith the advent of King Philip's War in 1675 (shown on right in an old woodcut), the term became associated with those regional (eastern) Indian groups that joined Philip (Metacom) in his conflict against the colonists. Thus we hear of a Wampanoag confederation in various historical writings.

The Wampanoag did not greet the Pilgrims

Did any "Wampanoag" greet the first arrivals at Plymouth? No. No Indians did. What William Bradford and those other first arrivals found were deserted Indian villages, the victims of smallpox epidemic that had spread south from Newfoundland. Were there "Wampanoag" in the region? Yes. The boundary between the Pokanoket and Massachusett tribal lands was in this area. Were these "Wampanoag" members of the Mashpee tribe? No.

Why weren't the Mashpee there? Simply put, there was not a Mashpee tribe in existence at the time of historical contact (1620) in Massachusetts. Mashpee, as a self-governing distinct Indian community or enclave having its own defined territory, did not come into existence until 1665, some 45 years after the point of first sustained Indian contact with non-Indians in this region. Mashpee was a product of the collision between two cultures, English and Indian. Mashpee is not what is commonly called an "historic or historical tribe" that is, a politically organized tribe, having its own defined territory that was in existence at the time of first sustained contact with the colonists. Mashpee was the produce of tribal disintegration and fissioning as a result of this bi-cultural collision.
Some commenters respond to this posting:Cute woodcuts don't of themselves, add authenticity to an admixture of facts & rampant speculation. As a point of fact, the Mashpee Wampanoag chose to pursue a far-more rigorous proof of their continuous existence, than all but one other tribe east of the Mississippi. Their restored sovereignty was a result of submitting 10's of thousands of pages, documenting that the tribe & its members meet rigorous tests imposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and thus outside the domain of lobbyists & congressional gerrymandering, which may have influenced other tribes' recognition attempts. As an outsider to the tribe's culture, Mr. Lynch's story appears to have been largely based on an impoverished written set of "facts" about the Mashpee, which seem to ignore their rich, authenticated oral history. Without some underlying political agenda, I would expect a bona-fide historian to give the richest possible accounting of history, rather than offering selective facts framed in unjustified speculation & innuendo...And:Firstly Mr. Lynch,
"Historically there was never a Wampanoag Tribe".
This statement shows an utter and complete lack of understanding between 'Nation' and 'tribe'. The map shown of 'sub-tribes' further underscores a lack of research on your part. Wampanoag is a NATION not a tribe. There is a difference. There were originally 69 tribes within the Wampanoag Nation. ... The Wampanoag Nation territory during the 17th century was bounded by: current day Cape Anne to the North; Southwest to current day Dudley; Southeast to the Blackstone River in East Providence; South to Narragansett Bay. That is the Nation. Mashpee is but one tribe.


Peter N. Jones said...

I agree that there was no "tribe" called the "Mashpee" at Plymoth Rock. However, there were Native Americans there and they were the ancestors of today's Wampanoag Indians. If you want to find out just how much the Native Americans of the area helped and interacted with the colonists, I suggest you read the new A Cultural History of the Native Peoples of Southern New England. It discusses in detail the Wampanoag and other tribes and their role in early American life.

Todays Drum said...

Long live the Mashpee Wampanoag! The tribe is strong and getting stronger under the leadershipof Chairman Cromwell.