April 25, 2010

Harvard's Indian College

Students Create a Wigwam in Yard

By Evan J. ZepfelIn honor of the 360th anniversary of the Harvard Charter of 1650, the Native Americans at Harvard College celebrated the completion of an Indian hut at a ceremony in Harvard Yard yesterday.

Student members and other local Native Americans started building the wetu, or Indian hut, on Monday. They worked daily from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. until the wetu’s completion on Wednesday afternoon.

The Charter, which was signed in 1650, dedicates Harvard College “to the education of English & Indian youth of this Country in knowledge.”

The Native Americans at Harvard College chose to build the wetu outside Matthews Hall because recent archeological digs have pinpointed it as the site of the Harvard Indian College.

The wetu, which is also known as a wigwam, is the historical home of the Wampanoag Indians who are native to Massachusetts.
Below:  "Students explore the wetu, built in honor of the 360th anniversary of the Charter for the Harvard Indian College, after an opening ceremony yesterday." (Bora Fezga)

Education and Harvard's Indian CollegeNative American engagement with Harvard began soon after the college's inception. In the late 1640s, the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Natives in New England granted funds for Indian education at Harvard, acknowledged in the Harvard College Charter of 1650 as the “necessary provision for the education of the English and Indian youth” of the land.

In addition to supporting education, the Society’s gift to Harvard served to construct the Indian College building in Harvard Yard in 1655 and to print the first Bible translated into the native Algonquian language by the missionary John Eliot. The “Indian Bible” was first published between 1660 and 1663.

Two native students attended Harvard sometime during the 1650s: John Sassomon, and James Printer, an apprentice in the production of Eliot’s “Indian Bible.” Native students who attended the Indian College included John Wampus, who departed before graduation, Joel Iacoombs, and Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck. The latter two, both members of the Wampanoag of Martha’s Vineyard, were members of Harvard’s Class of 1665.

Before the 1970s, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck was the only Native American student who lived long enough to receive a Harvard degree, although he died of tuberculosis one year after graduation. Another student, Eleazar, whose surname is unknown at present, probably attended the College in the late 1670s but did not graduate.
History of the Indian College

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Pee Dee Princess at Harvard.

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