“Listening to the Call of the Great Spirit: Facing 400 years of Colonization”
For the second year, the Peace Pagoda initiated a 6-day walk from Provincetown, MA, on Friday, November 17, 2017, and ending in Plymouth, MA, on November 23, Thanksgiving Day, today. Following is a report from Nolumbeka Project member David Detmold who is walking with them today: (scroll down for his report about the gathering On November 23)
Dear Friends at Nolumbeka Project
As the monks and nuns from the Leverett Peace Pagoda chant and pray in the hallway here at the oldest continuous monthly meeting of Quakers in North America (established 1657) in Sandwich, Cape Cod I look out the windows at the dawn of a new Thanksgiving and recall the events of yesterday. Yesterday I woke at 5:00 and poured some biodiesel in my tank and drove down here to find the Peace Walk, which has been wending its way south and west from Provincetown since Friday. I met them in Mashpee where I stopped for hot chocolate after searching for an hour or more in torrential rain. I had pretty much given up on finding them until I pulled into the parking lot of the little coffee shop – and there they were, wringing wet, pouring water out of their boots, and glad to see me!
The theme of this year’s Peace Walk is “Listening to the Call of the Great Spirit – Facing 400 Years of the Forced Colonization” (1620 to 2200) of Native People on this continent. We will be joining the Wampanoag and other Native People at Plymouth Rock today.
Yesterday we stopped to listen to Mother Bear Peters take us through a tour of Wampanoag history at the Mashpee Indian Museum on Route 130.
She told us the Wampanoag had run the town and governed their own affairs since 1834 – all the town offices and the police force were made up of Wampanoags. But things began to change in the 1960s when a trailer park for workers at the nearby Otis Air Force Base set up camp in their town. Pretty soon whites were running everything again, just as they did before the itinerant Pequot preacher, William Apess, (born in Colrain) came to town in the early 1830s and helped organize a petition drive to nullify the laws that placed white people in control of the Mashpee Wampanoag – who, like other Native People in Massachusetts were legally held to be second class citizens, wards of the state incompetent to govern their own affairs. Apess preached in the Old Indian Meetinghouse, just south of the Museum in Mashpee.
When the governor of the State received that petition, signed by over 100 men and women from Mashpee, calling for an end to white theft of Mashpee land and crops and wood he considered it an act of Rebellion and hand Apess thrown in jail. But the state legislature granted the petition a year later after favorable press accounts reminded citizens of the Commonwealth of the debt we owe the People who saved the colonists from starvation in 1620, and helped them learn how to live on this land.
The building in which the Mashpee Museum is housed was built by a white pastor named Richard Bourne sent to Mashpee by Harvard University in 1793 to preach to the Natives.
“We went to their church,” Mother Bear explained, “but we didn’t let them know we were still doing our traditional ceremonies out in the woods.”
She mentioned another pastor, Phineas Fish, paid the equivalent of more than $100,000 (500 pounds) annually to convert the Wampanoag – who concluded they were not “serious people” after he told the story of Noah’s Ark in church and one Native man responded, “Wow, that boat sure must have stunk!” Phineas helped himself to 400 acres of Wampanoag land.
In those days, Wampanoag boys as young as 10 were allowed to be impressed into service on the Whaling Boats that formed the economic engine of the Cape and the Islands, in pursuit of the oil of the day. A lawyer from the tribe finally got the enforced servitude of Wampanoag boys at sea outlawed, but not on land.
Photos in sepia tones of Mother Bear’s parents (her father was the Medicine Man Slow Turtle), grandparents and great grandparents line the wall of the little parlor. “When I grew up here, Mashpee was all Wampanoag. We were always together. It gave me a good grounding, and so I am never knocked offmy center, not like the kids of today.
Today, the Mashpee Wampanoag only retain 400 acres of their original township – land surrounding the museum, the meetinghouse, and the tribal offices. Phineas Fish got away with as much of their land as the entire tribe now holds today. And he was not the only one. Mashpee is real rife with high end housing developments and Rte 130 is mined with landscaping firms, there to cater to the needs of condo owners who are unable to lift a rake or hoe a weed from a flower bed; the Mashpee Commons is a faux Colonial masterpiece of plastic architecture that will be torn down a generation later to house more Starbucks, Gaps, and TJ Max outlets.
A plume of toxic waste from Otis creeps down the waterways of Mashpee. Epidemiologists have found clusters of cancer in the flight path of the giant cargo planes, who dumped their excess fuel before landing.
In Massachusetts, “It used to be punishable by death to teach Indians to read or write,” Mother Bear told us.
When the Commonwealth moved to incorporate Mashpee in 1870, (“so they could tax us”) the Wampanoag voted against it. But the state forced the incorporation on them anyway. Little by little, and then all at once in the 1970s, Mashpee was taken away from Wampanoag control.
Mother Bear and other members of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe will meet us at Plymouth Rock at the end of this morning’s walk. It is a sunny day. We have much to be thankful for.