2016 Excellence award from the New England Museum Association (NEMA)

Tomaquag “Belonging(s)” Blog

December 2016


Belonging(s): “A close relationship among a group and personal or public effects”


 “Kunoopeam” (Welcome)!

    The close of a very eventful year is upon us and we at Tomaquag Museum have so much to be grateful for! For “the little museum that could” we have been the recipient of national and state honors as well as individual awards. More recently our fearless leader received a 2016 Excellence award from the New England Museum Association (NEMA). “People are what make our museums great, and NEMA’s members are some of the most talented and dedicated people in the field. NEMA is proud to honor our colleagues’ extraordinary effort and commitment to the New England museum community.” For more information on NEMA please visit https://www.nemanet.org. In addition to receiving numerous accolades, we received funding from various sources that helped us do work that allowed us to continue fulfilling our mission. This assistance helped us increase our staff from three to seven with one on the way. No, we’re not having a baby but we will soon have a new part-time archivist. For a complete list of our partners please visit http://www.tomaquagmuseum.org.

    As I was putting our final blog of the year together, I realized that we will be celebrating the first anniversary of Belonging(s) in January 2017. I remember being asked by our fearless and “trusting” leader to create and write the blog including naming it. “In my head I was thinking what? I don’t think I heard that right, doesn’t she know that I dislike writing? Are you kidding me, I don’t know anything about blogging. That’s social media stuff my limit is playing Candy Crush on Facebook." Hence the following disclaimer in the January 2016 blog, “I am also the writer/manager of this blog, which is my first attempt at blogging. So I pretty much am hoping I don’t mess things up or bore you to death.” I did miss a few months but as a reminder I did apologize. In the past year I have learned quite a bit about blogging and have been given full responsibility for Belonging(s). I have created staff and guest bloggers guidelines as well as new objectives and goals. In fact I have been given the title of Editor, however, I will always be a collections manager first. Moving forward TM will work to meet the following goals:


Offer multidimensional and authentic communication

    The blog provides opportunity to move beyond a single, institutional voice to a more informal dialogue that incorporates a diverse set of perspectives.


Increase relevance and currency

    The blog features regular brief updates alongside compelling photos, short videos, and behind the scenes insights into the work of TM.


Build Community

    The blog creates opportunities to build ongoing relationships with online audiences. When readers respond to blog content—whether by posting comments on the blog itself or on related social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter—they are participating in a conversation with TM. The blog promotes an interactive and social experience.


Expand promotional outreach

    The blog supplies a regular supply of substantive content that supplements and extends the messages featured on the website, social media platforms and in press materials. It attracts visitors to the museum’s physical and virtual offerings and showcases the breadth of our collections and programming.


    As the holidays approach, I thought it would be nice to share a tradition that celebrates the many blessings that we have received throughout the year.




    What is Nikommo? The Nikommo is a traditional thanksgiving marking the first winter moon and showing our gratitude for our lives' blessings by giving away to others.  Not just our excess, but as noted in our history, often the majority of our worldly goods.  A Nikommo is a thanksgiving feast that brings together the whole community.  In historic times, the Nikommo thanksgiving had upwards of 1,000 people attending.  Today, they range in size but 100 is a good average of people who attend the thanksgiving.  The Nikommo includes a feast, storytelling, music, dance, socializing and the giveaway. 

Below is a more contemporary version of this thanksgiving event written by the museum’s director in 2011.


A Tomaquag Nikommo


    At the first winter moon, we gather to celebrate Nikommo. Nikommo is a feast honoring the Creator's gifts. Mukhasunee Pashau greets the people as others set the feast. People visit from far and near, Narragansett, Pequot, Wampanoag, Mohegan, Tuscarora, Lakota and non-Native guests alike.

    Each visitor brings a give-away. The gifts are for those in need in the Narragansett community. Food, clothing, toys, pottery, baskets and other items are given. A Give-away is part of our cultural traditions. Many moons ago, our relatives would have give-aways for as many as 1000 people. Today we have various sized give-aways, but the average is more like 100 people. Today we give to help those in need and to connect to our tradition. We give as part of our worship or spirituality. It was a spiritual giving, not a material giving. Our ancestors often gave beyond their means. This has been pasted down to us and there are still individuals who continue in this tradition. However, the Tomaquag Nikommo does not require it.

    Nikommo begins with a ceremony of Thanksgiving, Kutampanisha-Dawn smudges the circle of people. Smudging is a purification ceremony-to purify your mind, body and spirit through a cleansing with medicinal herbs such as sweet-grass or cedar. A pray is given in both the Narragansett language and in English. Others are given the opportunity to share in prayers of thanksgiving. Sherente sings and drums an honor song: Neeawon Nahahiganseck Numenaki Nupeetooamun-We are Narragansett. We are Strong. We are Proud. It is followed by the Friendship Dance-everyone gets into line behind the lead singer. They put their left hand on the right shoulder of the person in front of them, and dance to the rhythm of the rattle. 

    Time to feast! All enjoy succotash, corn chowder, corn bread, roast turkey, venison stew, Three Sister's soup, corn relish, cranberry muffins, cornmeal cookies, and mint and sassafras teas. Kamonetop plays the flute for all to enjoy. 

    Games begin! Hubub or Bowl game is played. "Hub Hub Hub" is shouted by the players. Wesly has 5 reds, Silver Arrow has only 3. What fun! Who will win? Others play Moccasin Game. Can they guess where the hider is? The quartz stone was in the third moccasin. They sing and drum again. The loudest group is sure to win.  Nikommo-a feast and give-away. 


Kutaputush Kittantoowat. Thank you, Creator. 


Lorén Spears, Executive Director


On Saturday, December 3, 2016, from 10:00am-2:00pm, come celebrate Nikommo with us. Please bring a small gift to donate to our giveaway that will benefit Narragansett families in need.


Additional resources:


http://artways.libsyn.com/nikkommo-storytelling Narragansett Elder and storyteller Paulla Dove Jennings.


Koller, Jackie French. Nickommoh! A Thanksgiving Celebration. Ateneum Books for Young Readers, NY. 1999.


Have a safe and happy holiday! See you next year!

Kim Peters, Editor

The Tomaquag “Belonging(s)” Blog, is a monthly conversation dedicated to the happenings, musings of staff, and a peek at the collections of the Tomaquag Museum. We welcome guest bloggers, and topics relevant to Native American Museums and Indian Country, especially those located in the New England area.


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