Week 1 2015

The first week addresses the period from before European contact through the 17th century.

Discussion topics for the week included:

  • Indigenous peoples of New England during the pre- and early contact period
  • Native space and the concept of homelands
  • History, pre-history and methodology
  • Native Christianity

The first day began with self-introductions by core faculty and NEH Summer Scholars.

Director Alice Nash then gave an overview of the content and format of the Institute and curricular projects coordinator, Kelley Brown, explained the curricular projects that each Scholar completed by the end of the three weeks.

To highlight the interconnection between “history” and the contemporary concerns of Native American communities in New England, we watched We Still Live Here: Âs Nutayuneân, an award-winning film about the Wampanoag (Wôpanâak) of southeastern Massachusetts who draw on seventeenth-century sources to learn their language today. This program, called the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, was founded and directed by MacArthur Foundation Fellow Jessie Little Doe Baird, whose language reclamation project we visited later in the week.

Rae Gould introduced the concepts of “homelands” and “native space,” that is, how Native Americans in the Northeast used, occupied, and understood their relationship to the land prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Thursday was devoted to visiting Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum that re-creates a Wampanoag homesite and the nearby English village of Plimoth circa 1627.  After visiting the Pilgrim village, where we observed and interacted with historically trained re-enactors, and the Wampanoag homesite, which uses interpreters rather than re-enactors, we met with museum staff to discuss the challenges of interpreting bi-cultural history for school groups and the general public. 

We also visited the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project in Mashpee, MA, and held discussions with Jessie Little Doe Baird, founder of the project and recently elected tribal Vice Chair.

We ended the week with David Silverman, who discussed native Christianity, considering both the impact of Protestant and Catholic missionaries and how Native peoples incorporated Christianity into their lives.  An afternoon primary document workshop focused on the Abenakis of northern New England and their response to Catholicism in New France.