Wednesday, January 28, 2015

32 - Medicine

It has been a long time since I've written a post here, but my journey has continued and it is hard for me to believe that I am going on 5 years since it started. When it began, it was a journey rooted in spirit from a place in my heart that needed to search and now is largely about reclaiming a culture that was almost lost to me and my family. Along the way I have been provided many teachers, mostly in the form of elders, who have given of themselves freely and never hesitated to share their knowledge. 

Early on, I became acquainted with the distinct smells of burning white sage, sweet grass and less frequently cedar and tobacco. All of these are sacred in native communities and they are called "medicines." The concept of medicine in native culture (at least the ones with which I am familiar) is very different than our modern society. It is not specifically about the healing of the body. They are related to the spirit. They are used primarily in ceremony and prayer. Each has special uses and characteristics that make them unique. They are also associated with specific directions in the native medicine wheel. 

There are entire books used to explain the medicine wheel, and I am certainly no expert in this area. Essentially, it reminds us of balance in spirit, body, mind and emotion. This sacred symbol almost always contains the colors, white, black, yellow and red, representing the four sacred directions and the colors of all humankind. Each quadrant is associated with characteristics and teachings. There is no right or wrong way for these colors to be shown, but some combinations have associations with specific nations and others come from spirit and are particular to that person who shows them. The colors, direction and medicines I use and refer to here have been taught to me by Mi’kmaq people in my acquaintance. There are variations even among these in the Mi’kmaq nation. As always, I share what I am taught. 

Dried tobacco leaves
Tobacco, is today associated with the direction of the north . It is largely used as an offering before prayer. It is not native to the Mi'kmaq areas, but they used to grow a substance called "Indian Tobacco" that was included in a mixture of herbs to be smoked in the scared pipe in ceremony. When offered, it is common to make a prayer tie in which tobacco is placed in red felt and offered to the creator or a person for something you are asking. I keep some tied in a pouch to the back of my drum for my offerings along with ties I have been given. Each of the ties on my drum has meaning and significance to me personally. 

Sweet grass is a traditional medicine that is native to my own part of the world. This is a medicine that is native to Mi'kmaq territory and grows abundantly where I was raised. It is associated with the direction of the East, which is the traditional land of the Mi'kmaq. Sweet grass was also the first medicine that I was given as I started my journey. It is often referred to as the hair of mother earth. 
Me and my sweet grass after my first time picking with friends.

I have been blessed with teachers and also friends. One friend I made here in Massachusetts is Mi'kmaq and came from Nova Scotia. Her family resides about a half hour from mine and when I was home this summer, she invited me to pick sweet grass with her friend and sister.  I was thrilled as I had no idea how to do it and it turns out that there is a method and many traditions surrounding it's harvesting. I learned a lot that day about traditions that have happened for generations in Mi'kmaq communities just a few miles from where I grew up. I even had the extra blessing of seeing a beautiful mother eagle and her baby close up as we walked along the shore to pick. New friendships were formed that day and I hope I will see them again this summer. It was a fantastic day with a great group of ladies. 

white sage smudge sticks
Another important medicine is sage. Sage is associated with the direction of the south. It is used to "smudge" before native ceremony and is used to purify the spirit, items and area of the ceremony. The preferred type of sage that is burned is white sage. It produces a thick smoke and very distinct smell that attracts positive spirits and repels negative spirits and energies. If you ever attend a powwow, you will see every one who enters the circle to dance will be smudged with white sage before entering the circle. When we smudge, we remove from our minds all negative thoughts and energy at the time we are smudged. 

The last medicine is cedar. It is a medicine associated with healing and the direction of the west. It is also not native to the east, so juniper, a relative plant would have been used in Mi'kmaq territory. It is also used in smudging ceremonies. It may be used to line the floor of the sweat lodge as well. 
cedar branches

There is a misconception among non native communities that natives smoke tobacco frequently in ceremony. I have found these pipe ceremonies, in which tobacco is smoked, are sacred and more rare. Often the smells of sage and sweet grass are more familiar.  Along this journey, these medicines have come to me, sometimes as gifts, and other times in the forms of offerings for singing. Many came before I even knew their significance. I keep them in a special place at home and now use them for my own prayers and to pass on to others.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

31 - The Drum

At the center that I attend each week, the drum holds a place of honor. It is draped in a blanket with beaters close by. It has an area specifically designated for it and we gather around it each week to sing songs of healing, mourning, and honor, to name a few. All have significance.

When a drum comes to a group, it comes in a ceremony and is officially named. It often has a "keeper" who looks after it and takes it from place to place if it is moved for an event such as a powwow. We make offerings to the drum of tobacco before we sing. It is powerful and respected. Before events that we attend or powwows coming up, the drums are always announced. They hold a place of honor and anticipation for the music that we will hear. In most cases, we will know the drummers, the songs and the people and friends who sing with them.

The drum has great power because of it's connection to mother earth. It is the heartbeat of mother earth. The creator gives everything life, but mother earth sustains it. The drummers are the warriors and are male. Adult females, like myself, do not drum on the large drum because of our close connection to mother earth and this feminine power. We stand in the outer circle as a circle of protection around the warriors and we sing and keep time with our rattles.  We approach the drum only for offerings and in skirts out of respect for this feminine power. These are traditions I have learned and respect.

As someone learning these traditions, these concepts were completely foreign to me. The place that the drum holds and the place of music in this culture is very different from anything I have known. I have grown up in a culture that loves music, but if I am honest, it is for entertainment mostly and we are self-conscious about it. If one doesn't have a nice voice or play something perfectly they are embarrassed to be heard. Perhaps closer to it is singing hymns at church or singing the national anthem, but even these are not the same. There are very few moments that I have experienced that come close to  being a part of the singing and drumming in this culture. The experience here is something much more vital and communal. I would call it something closer to prayer. When people are in need of help, we sing. When they are sick, we sing. When we wish to honor someone, we sing. When someone has passed, we sing. When we wish to celebrate, we sing. Connecting all of it is the drum and no voices are held back.

Last month, I had the opportunity to make my own hand drum. The experience was exciting for me and I couldn't help but notice as I touched and worked with the wet deer skin, how alive it felt. I was aware of it each time I touched it. One friend who had made many of her own drums gave me the advice to "own it" and work it to the way I needed it to go. It was my drum after all and I had to make it my own. All the time there was the awareness that this skin once belonged to something alive, something else made by the creator and given to me for the songs I would sing. I was grateful and have used it daily in the days since. 

These hand drums are played by both men and women and are sometimes painted if the owner feels the spiritual need to paint it. Knowing I would be making my own, I was at a loss for what I should paint on something so meaningful as my first drum. I had almost decided I  was not going to paint it until Roland, my teacher, came up  to me and said, "Why not paint your children's hands on it?" As they are the most important force in my life I thought it was perfect. In children, I also see hope for the future and I am hopeful that these traditions will carry on to the next generation in my family. So, that's exactly what I did. I included some double curves and a "V" symbol (Mi'kmaq) that represents Cape Breton, the home of my Mi'kmaq ancestors. I chose to use the four sacred colors of black, white, yellow and red, which hold so much meaning to all native people.

As my journey continues, I am looking forward to singing my first lead line in a song in January (in public that is). So far it has only been in the safety of our group and usually not alone. Roland let the women know that they would be singing the bear song with our hand drums at an upcoming event. It is funny to me that after all the singing I have done in my life, this makes me so nervous.  Perhaps it is because of its meaning. I think I am in good company as other women seem to be a bit nervous as well. Roland's announcement created a great conversation about how the drummers communicate to know who is doing the lead and when. Some of the signals I had seen, but no one had ever explained them. I like the idea of the women singing songs together. I hope we can do more of it. I am grateful to all of them, women and men, for teaching me so much.
My finished drum with my children's hand prints. The symbols
on the drum are Mi'kmaq. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

30 - Muin (The Bear)

As I write this post, I am sitting in my bed nursing a broken ankle. It is appropriate that I am writing this now as it centers around the figure of the Bear in Mi'kmaq culture.  I have often wondered about the various totems and symbols which are common to see at events. One that I often see is the symbol for the bear (Muin). This symbol, usually represented by a bear paw, is one of great power and strong medicine. It is a healing symbol. Recently, I participated in my first Mi'kmaq pipe ceremony which centered around this strong and powerful animal. It is known as the Bear Feast.

This ceremony is usually a full day event in Mi'kmaq tradition which begins with a sunrise ceremony and includes a sweat lodge, pipe ceremony and culminates in a feast to honor Muin. The version I participated in was a slightly modified one, without a sweat lodge, but powerful none the less. It is celebrated in both the fall and the spring to honor the bear before his journey to the spirit world to gather medicines and upon his return to celebrate the medicines he brings back. In both ceremonies, a woman of the bear clan prepares the feast and a song is sung to honor Muin. 

This feast is based on a traditional story which tells of Muin and his journey to the spirit world after hearing songs of the people honoring him and asking for medicine to help them. Muin knew that he must go on a spirit journey to bring medicines to the people and he prepared himself for his long journey which would last many moons. Upon his return, he visited a woman who he named Muiniskw (Bear Woman) who was praying in a sweat lodge. He asked her to prepare a feast to replenish him after his journey. Four days after he visited her, a feast was prepared, they gathered in a circle and the sacred pipe was shared. The people were grateful to Muin for bringing back the medicines to help them.

The Feast prepared for the bear. It includes foods
he would have eaten to prepare for his journey.

At our ceremony, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and salmon were laid out and smudged while we gathered in a circle. Each person came forward and made a tobacco offering before the pipe ceremony began. These offerings of tobacco are always done before we sing each week and are given as an offering to the Great Spirit or the Creator.  In addition to the prayers, this sacred plant invites the ancestors to gather with us.

After the smudging and reading, we gathered in a circle outside for the pipe ceremony. The sacred pipe is usually carried by one person who has received this calling after a long fast and a sweat lodge ceremony. The person who carries this pipe holds an important position as this pipe will be shared with the community. Only the pipe carrier is allowed to carry the pipe. In our case, we did not have a carrier with us, so our chief led us with his personal pipe that he allowed us to share with him.

UNACC member reading the story of The Bear
 The pipe was filled with tobacco, lit, and passed from person to person. Each one offered a silent prayer to the creator and took the pipe. The pipe was passed among us four times to represent the four sacred directions and the last time, prayers were said for those who were sick. It concluded with a prayer, hugs and greetings among those of us who shared the pipe together. It was very moving and incredibly powerful.

While some of us took the pipe, others stayed inside and told stories of bear encounters. Afterwards, the food was passed around from person to person. We sang the Mi'kmaq honor song facing each of the four directions and shared the feast. Afterwards, we sang the Bear song and our ceremony concluded with a potluck. A great afternoon. I will look forward to the spring ceremony when we wake the bear up.

For now however, I will be singing a healing song and thinking of Muin and his healing power.

The following is a link to the entire story in greater detail and is the source for my summary of the story. This story was read at our feast.

Friday, September 28, 2012

28 - Community

If you search long enough, sometimes you find exactly what you are looking for. Fortunately for me, this was the case earlier this spring.  I have been actively searching for someone to teach me the Mi'kmaq language. Last summer, when I met with an elder in the Pictou Landing Band in Nova Scotia, I expressed interest in learning some Mi'kmaq songs. She encouraged me to begin to learn the language and to go from there.

 Not sure exactly where to begin, I asked around in Millbrook when I visited the Glooscap Center last year and a very nice woman encouraged me to find a cultural center in Boston. "There are lots of Mi'kmaq in Boston," she said. In fact, Boston boasts the largest Mi'kmaq community outside of Canada, so I thought I would be certain to find someone to help me. After a long search, I had absolutely no luck.

One afternoon this winter, while I was waiting for my children to finish Sunday School, someone who knew that I was writing this blog casually mentioned that he sometimes attended a Powwow each spring in Devon, MA. He said, "There is a cultural center there, why don't you ask them?" Since starting this blog I often stumble upon information this way. These casual comments or bits of information lead me in the right direction if I take the time to follow up.  I found the group on facebook and they were holding Mi'kmaq classes!

This organization is called UNACC (United Native American Cultural Center) and is an inter tribal group. I arrived one Sunday afternoon, a bit nervous about coming to a strange place, but I was warmly welcomed. I immediately felt right at home and everyone there was down to earth and incredibly kind to me as a stranger. Even better was the fact that the classes were being taught through songs. I had actually found a center where the leader was Mi'kmaq and he was a drummer with an active drum group! So, I began to learn my first song in Mi'kmaq. A big, big, day for me in my journey.

After I had been there a few times, the "Chief" as we call him, whose name is Roland, took some time to talk to me about where he came from and explained a bit to me about what was happening with the drum group. I was thrilled for this because I had lots of questions. For those of you who may be reading this blog for the first time, I have only recently discovered that I am of Mi'kmaq descent through my grandmother. It is part of my heritage and sadly I know little of it. My ancestors hid their Mi'kmaq identity and with that hiding, came a disconnect with the culture. This is not an unusual story for many of First Nation descent.  I am learning all of it for the first time. I eagerly listen to and absorb everything that anyone tells me about Mi'kmaq culture or any native culture to which they belong.
Some members of UNACC practicing at a weekly meeting.
Roland is seated above in red. 

 Roland hails from Quebec on the Gespe'gewa'gi reserve. He is a fluent speaker of the Mi'kmaq language. He showed me some of the artifacts in their center from his reserve and Mi'kmaq culture. We also spoke about connections that he had in Nova Scotia.

As for the singing and drumming, he told me that only the men did the drumming traditionally. I had often wondered why this was. He explained that the men or the warriors were the keepers of the drum. Traditionally, in times of war, the grandmothers would keep the drums when the men were away because they did not menstruate.  It was believed that women who are "in their moon time" take power from the drum. Females must wear skirts when they are near the drum and I was welcome to sing along and use a rattle when I sing. If I was not wearing a skirt, I could not approach the drum. Roland explained to me that this was tradition and rooted in spirituality. It was not meant to to be disrespectful to women in any way.

The women and other men who do not drum will stand around the inner group of drummers forming a circle of protection around the drum. Roland is doing a great thing with this group because he is taking the time to teach these songs to the members who sing and drum. He takes great care that they are done well. I am lucky to have him as a teacher and I hope to learn everything that I can from him. My hope is that when I know some more songs I will be able to sing with them at powwows.
My ji'kmaqn, a gift from my cousin Cheryl.

As for my rattle, I asked him about using a Ji'kmaqn, a traditional Mi'kmaq percussion instrument.  I had been given one as a gift from my cousin Cheryl when we met at the Ma'wiomi Powwow last summer in Halifax. It was made by a Mi'kmaq basket maker and I treasure it because of the connection made that day to my history and to my new friend and cousin. (She is the granddaughter of my grandmother's sister.) Just last week, I used my Ji'kmaqn at the drum circle for the first time.

 I have since joined the UNACC organization and feel as if I have a new cultural home and community.  I will help with their powwow in May and some other events later this spring.  I am truly excited about this connection that I have found, the new friends I have made, and what I will learn about native communities as times go on. UNACC also has a connection to the Arostook Mi'kmaq Band in Maine and collects food and donations for elders in that community. Check them out on Facebook under UNACC.

This link was added as a comment to this post and I want to make sure people find it. It's a great resource site on Mi'kmaq culture for those of you who use Facebook. Here is the link:
Thank you to the kind reader who directed me to it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

29 - Regalia

This past week-end I had the opportunity to participate in a Native American cultural demonstration presented by UNACC (United Native American Cultural Center) here in Massachusetts. This organization regularly performs at events and does workshops to bring awareness to Native American cultures. There are between 15 and 16 separate nations represented in this organization including the Mi'kmaq.

My new leggings and moccasins.
A UNACC member beaded the moccasins
and she showed me the technique so I could
do the leggings myself. 
This is not the first event that I have attended with UNACC, but this one held special meaning for me. This is the first time I wore my own hand made regalia, sang and danced at an event. For some of you, this may not seem such a feat, but to me it is. When I was just beginning this journey a few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet with an elder who told me I would have to start thinking about my own regalia. At the time I felt she was testing me, and I did not say much as a response. I remember thinking that this was not something I was likely to do. These thoughts occurred because at that point I had an incredible feeling of isolation and no connection to a community.

I am happy to say this has changed largely due to the new friends I have made. It was not long after I started attending Mi'kmaq classes and weekly meetings at UNACC that many of the women began asking me about my regalia. I think they sensed that I was learning and to their credit they helped me along. It was not long before they were helping me to make a dance shawl, showing me beading, talking to me about the advantages to hide or cloth clothing, and I was on my way. One woman brought me cloth for the shawl, one showed me how to fringe it and another showed me beading for my moccasins and leggings. I have worked on this first outfit all summer and this week-end I wore it.

In addition to the lessons I was learning about regalia, Roland and the drummers have kept me singing and learning traditions. I learned about making a tobacco offering before I sing each week and I am memorizing my songs daily. So, this week-end, I went happily to the event excited that this time I could sing and wear my regalia. I should also mention that I have made some friends on face book. Some of these people are singers and dancers who come from the Eskazoni reserve and they have encouraged me to sing and learn the songs but to do it first and foremost from my heart. This is where it all comes from for me, so that's no problem.

Here in the east, you see regalia that is a bit more subdued than in other parts of the country. No less beautiful, but the traditions are different. Often, when people think of traditional regalia, it is the Plains nations that come to mind. Take the large feathered war bonnets as an example. You will not usually see these in the east although they are worn by some chiefs at ceremonies. They are not traditional to this area. The Mi'kmaq traditions range from painted or beaded buckskin (pre-European contact) to ribbon applique skirts, piqued caps and beautiful bead and quill work on red, dark blue or black felt. I have been pouring over books doing research and they are simply beautiful.

My regalia is not incredibly elaborate. I have kept my first one simple and I do plan to make more. I will say that it is definitely special because I made it myself. No small feat for a girl who has not done much more sewing than was taught in an eighth grade home economics class. I included some traditional Mi'kmaq beading patterns on the leggings, dress and shawl to give it more meaning.  I chose to add a traditional curve motif. It is believed that this motif had great spiritual meaning, but it has been lost to time. The motif appears in petroglyphs and on other items that have been preserved and it is a main feature of bead work throughout the 18th and 19th century. The other patterns on my dress and shawl are taken from 19th century ribbon work dresses.

 I do not have a spirit animal as of yet, so I have not included any of these powerful symbols, which are common on regalia. It is my understanding that this is something an elder can bring to you or it can reveal itself at a sweat lodge, in a dream or another meaningful way. I am the equivalent to a toddler in this journey, so I will wait until it reveals itself to me. I chose shades of turquoise because this color has always had special meaning to me and I have always been drawn to it for some unknown reason.

So, now that I have one outfit, I need to make a few more  to keep up with the events I hope to attend! Thanks to the wonderful women at UNACC, I have also begun making shawls as gifts to women close to me or that have influenced my life in some important way. These shawls are given to honor someone and I have to admit to finding great joy in making them. I am currently working on one for my grandmother, who I am happy to say is anxious to wear it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

27 - Kwe!

Kwe! (Hello) I hope that you are all still out there and that this very short post will let you all know that I am still here and on the trail. I am looking forward to another great year discovering Mi'kmaq culture. The Powwow lists are out and I can't wait to learn more.

This winter was relatively quiet, but I did take in some great museum displays, did a lot of reading, and managed to find a cultural group where I am starting to learn a bit of the Mi'kmaq language and songs. It pays to be persistent. It took me eight months to find them, but I did! I will write about all of it and fill you in with coming posts.

Tonight's post is short, but last summer I heard a short story that I want to share. It came from my father's first cousin, who is a Campbell from Pictou Landing. It was passed to him many years ago by Raymond Francis, who was the former chief of the Pictou Landing band and a friend to my father and his brothers growing up.

Each year when I go home in the summer, I love to hear the stories that this cousin tells about this small community. He usually leaves us in a state with our bellies sore from laughing and our faces stiff from smiling so much. It's wonderful. Every so often, one story gets in among them that makes us all pause and breathe for a few minutes. This small story was one of them and one that I had never heard.

Kate Campbell (far left) in Pictou Landing on the homestead.
He told us that day that my great great grandmother, Kate Campbell once had a job with Indian Affairs. The reservation at Pictou Landing is relatively small and Kate's job was to distribute rations of food to the local Mi'kmaq according to agreements between the Mi'kmaq and the government. Butter and eggs were mentioned, but there may have been other provisions as well.

One summer, there were larger than normal numbers of babies born on the reservation. Kate saw that the families didn't have enough to eat, so she provided more of the rations than she was supposed to give. Raymond Francis told my father's cousin that the people she helped never forgot her kindness to them and spoke of it for years to come. Kate Campbell was fired from her job with Indian affairs for this very act. Sadly, I was not surprised.

I found two pictures of Kate while searching through some old family photos.  Stay tuned for more adventures!

Neil Campbell, Kate Campbell (holding child). 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

26 - Thanksgiving

This coming week will mark the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. Plans have been made and are well underway in most families and this annual day of thanks will mark the official beginning of the holiday season. It is a major holiday and is generally a time celebrated by most families.

For those of us here in Massachusetts, the place where this celebration has its origin, this time is especially poignant. Many may be surprised to learn that the actual Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate has its roots in more than one event, but the most famous portion of it of it occurred right here in Massachusetts, just a short drive from where I now live. This place is Plymouth, MA. The fabled story goes that in the late summer of 1621, (the exact date is not known), about a year after the Pilgrims arrived from England on the fabled ship, The Mayflower, a feast of Thanksgiving was celebrated in this very place.
Plymouth Rock, landing place of the Pilgrims in 1620
The native people of the Plymouth area are the Wampanoag, also known as "the people of the first light." Like my Mi'kmaq nation, the Wampanoag are an Algonquin nation and had an established civilization in North America long before the Pilgrims arrived. Other neighboring nations in the area were The Massachuset, Nipmuc, Mohegan, Narraganset and the Pequot. All of these nations spoke different dialects of Algonquin language. These nations had times of peace and war with one another. They were used to having European visitors, but there were no attempts to settle. These visitors did occasionally capture native people and take them as slaves.
Wampanoag woman demonstrating cooking methods in the Wampanoag village

During the years between 1617 - 1619, there were plagues that swept through many of these nations in New England. Many died and left entire villages completely wiped out. One of these Wampanoag villages was Pawtuxet. In December of 1620, after 66 days at sea and 5 weeks at Cape Cod, the newly arrived Pilgrims sent a party of men to explore this area. They came upon the village of Pawtuxet and found human bones, houses in ruins, and in addition, cleared fields on high ground with a view of the harbor. They believed that God had provided this place for them. The Wampanoag, at the urging of their sachem, Massasoit, watched the Pilgrims. They saw women and children who were sickly and starving and the Wampanoag did not see them for the threat they would later become. From the 102 Pilgrims who made the original journey, more than half would be dead by the end of the first winter, including 13 of the 18 women. Miraculously, all of the children survived. They were a weak group in the eyes of the natives who watched.

Wampanoag dugout canoe.

The leader of the Wampanoag, Massasoit, was a chief who had the great respect of his people. He led by example and his people had faith in his leadership. The Wampanoag were badly hurt by disease and were fearful of the neighboring Narraganset who had not lost large numbers in the plagues. They needed allies, and judging by the delicate state of the Pilgrims, Massasoit felt he could control the situation. He knew that the Pilgrims came from a country of military might and they had weapons. In early spring of 1621, he sent a party of 60 men and waited until they sent a man for talks. This man was Edward Winslow, a 25 year old with no family. He invited Massasoit to talk with the Governor in Plimoth.

Plimoth Plantation looking over the harbor
Massasoit took a warrior named Tisquantum (Squanto) to the talks. He had been kidnapped by the English years before and could speak some English. This was to be the first official treaty  in the area. They agreed not to harm one another and each would help to defend the other against attacks from other native nations. The Pilgrims needed allies as did the Wampanoag. The day after the treaty was made,  Massasoit sent his people to plant corn on the side of the stream and ceded the village of Pawtuxet to the Pilgrims. They renamed it Plimoth. That same year in July, Edward Winslow made a 40 mile trip to visist Massasoit at Pokanset and presented him with a gift of a chain. Massasoit agreed not to trade with the French and a few weeks later was invited to the Thanksgiving Feast.

When the Wampanoag arrived for the feast, they were not sure how they would be received. They brought with them 5 killed deer to contribute to the feast. The relationship was still very new and fragile and both groups were cautious of one other.  In retrospect, for the Pilgrims it was a time of beginning, but for the Wampanoag, this event would come to represent the beginning of bad times for their people. In the coming decades, as the number of colonists increased and their need for native assistance diminished, the relationship between the two groups would change dramatically. The native way of life would be forever changed.

Each year in Plymouth, thousands flock to this area, and many take part in a feast made up of the traditional foods served there is 1621. This year in this small village, there will be protests by Native Americans as there have been each year for decades. While we are warm inside watching football and enjoying our family and turkey, they will be standing on Cole Hill observing an official day of mourning. My thoughts will be with them and their ancestors on this day. Maybe some who are reading this will take some time and send them a prayer or a thought as well. These collective thoughts have power I think.

There are some wonderful resources on Plimouth Plantation. They have a great website which may be found at This particular link is a virtual field trip that includes both the Pilgrims and Wampanoag and is suitable for young people.

In addition to the Plimoth Plantation site, there is a video that is a part of The American Experience series called We Shall Remain. A more complete story of the Wampanoag and their relationship with early settlers may be found in Episode 1, After The Mayflower. 

Information for this post comes from the film, We Shall Remain Episode 1, The Atlas of the American Indian and my own visit to Plimoth Plantation.

Note: (added 3/ 7/12)

Since writing this post in November, I have learned more information that the "Thanksgiving Feast" that was celebrated, may have in fact been "talks" and not an intended feast at all. Also, Squanto's real name was "Tisquantum" which I have fixed above. That's the great thing about writing this blog. I keep learning, which is the point after all.