Plimoth Patuxet Museums Reflects on Year-Long 50th Anniversary Celebration of Wampanoag Indigenous Program
Milestone commemoration honors the past and embraces the future
This year, Plimoth Patuxet Museums marked a significant milestone – the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program. Throughout 2023, the Museum featured a slate of public events celebrating and honoring the program’s half-century legacy of introducing Indigenous history and culture to visitors from around the globe. From education presentations featuring music and dancing, to lectures and traditional storytelling, the programs reflect Plimoth Patuxet’s ongoing commitment to inclusivity and diversity as the Museum researches and preserves the 17th-century lifeways of vibrant cultures that continue to this day.
In looking back on this important commemorative year, Ellie Donovan, Executive Director, said, “This was truly an exciting year of honoring the spirit and enormous contributions of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program – a year that illuminated history and culture by sharing the traditions, stories, and lifeways of the Wampanoag, Pokanoket, and other Indigenous peoples of the Northeast. We are grateful to our colleagues and collaborators who helped bring this milestone year to life and for the generous support of our members, donors, and community partners.”
Many programs and events in this series were offered free to the public and drew attendance from the local community and beyond. Plimoth Patuxet Museums recognizes the Town of Plymouth Promotions Fund for supporting cultural programming.
As the 50th anniversary year draws to a close, Plimoth Patuxet is thankful for the work that culture keepers and educators contributed to making this commemoration successful.
Looking ahead, the future is bright for continuing the Museums’ legacy and leadership in Indigenous research and programming. An exciting example of advancing the educational mission is the plan for the Bridge to the Future – a building project that will create new opportunities for underrepresented contemporary expressions of Indigenous history, heritage and culture. This inclusive and diverse expansion of the Indigenous program aims to engage learners of all ages.
A recap of the initiatives, moments, and reflections that made the 50th anniversary of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program an extraordinary milestone year:
- Renovation and maintenance of the Museum’s bark-covered nuhshwetu, one of the key features of the Historic Patuxet Homesite, highlighting the traditional materials and methods that go into building and repairing these winter homes.
- Storytelling, lectures, and demonstrations by guest presenters and Plimoth Patuxet’s Indigenous staff.
- Winter Fine Arts & Craft Fair featuring several Indigenous artisans whose work encompasses jewelry making, beading, weaving, painting, drawing, textiles, wampum art, as well as performances by Standing Quiver.
- Educational presentations focused on musical and dance performances by The Red Hawk Singers and Dancers and the Neesh La Singers and Dancers. A performance by the multi-Grammy nominated soul-funk and Afro beats band, The GroovaLottos.
- Lunch and Learn lectures by Plimoth Patuxet educators focused on topics such as clothing and adornment, and the importance and reintroduction of historic corn in Wampanoag culture.
- A Strawberry Thanksgiving at the Historic Patuxet Homesite to celebrate the arrival of summer and the first berry of the season—wutuhumuneash. Museum educators presented the foodways, sports, and traditions surrounding this celebration through demonstrations, stories, and special program offerings.
- A special screening and discussion focused on the thought-stirring and insightful film Reel Injun.
- An annual Green Corn Celebration – celebrated through activities, games, and cooking in the Historic Patuxet Homesite.
- An exploration of Wampanoag and Indigenous history and culture through Indigenous People’s Weekend featuring a museum-wide participatory program that illuminated Indigenous content at all living history sites.
- The construction of the new behind-the-scenes Indigenous program support building for the Historic Patuxet Homesite.
- Fundraising progress for the ‘Bridge to the Future,’ – an Indigenous Program Building that will take visitors from the traditional environment of the Historic Patuxet Homesite to the present-day.
- Launch of the You Are the Historian Educational resources featuring a curated collection of oral history, archaeological artifacts, and archival documents to explore early intercultural encounters in Patuxet (Plymouth).
Video Spotlight: Nuhshwetu Maintenance Project Completion!
A highlight of this 50th milestone year was a special maintenance project for Plimoth Patuxet’s nuhshwetu using traditional materials and methods. In this video, Plimoth Patuxet staff discuss the project, share behind-the-scenes moments of bark harvesting, and provide a glimpse into the maintenance work that was carried out this year.
Nuhshwetu is the Wampanoag word for a house large enough to accommodate three fires. The nuhshwetu on the Historic Patuxet Homesite represents the winter shelter for an extended family. Originally constructed in 2017, this traditional bark-covered house is an integral feature of the Historic Patuxet Homesite and is enjoyed by visitors as they learn about Wampanoag culture and lifeways. The work on this 36-foot-long cedar wood-framed structure was completed this year. The work on the structure gave museum-goers an opportunity to see firsthand an Indigenous lifeways skill that has been passed on through the generations.
About Plimoth Patuxet
Plimoth Patuxet is one of the Nation’s foremost living history museums. Founded in 1947, the Museum creates engaging experiences of history built on thorough research about the Indigenous and European people who met along Massachusetts' historic shores of change in the 1600s. Immersive and educational encounters underscore the collaborations as well as the cultural clash and conflicts of the 17th-century people of this region. Major exhibits include the Historic Patuxet Homesite, the 17th-Century English Village, Mayflower II, and Plimoth Grist Mill. A private, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational institution, Plimoth Patuxet is supported by admission fees, donations, memberships, and revenue from a variety of educational programming, dining and gift shops. Plimoth Patuxet receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, private foundations, corporations, and local businesses. Located less than an hour’s drive south of Boston, and 15 minutes north of Cape Cod, the Museum is open daily from early spring through the Sunday after Thanksgiving. For more information, visit plimoth.org. Follow the Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.