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390 A Summit Road
Exeter, RI, 02822
United States

(401)491-9063

Tomaquag Museum is dedicated to educating the public and promote thoughtful dialogue regarding Indigenous history, culture, arts, Mother Earth and to connect to native issues of today.

The Honorees

2017 Honoring Dinner Honorees

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Dale Carson, Abenaki

Life Time Achievement Award  

Dale Carson was born and raised near the water in Rhode Island.  Both parents were artists and some of their talent rubbed off on their daughter.  Her home life was rich in books and artwork.  Dale was very much into painting and doing crafts.  She has had two retail shops featuring Native American goods, paintings, supplies and antiques.  In the early 1990s, she and her mother made dreamcatchers with natural grapevine.  They were sold in over one hundred shops across the country.  Dale erected a tipi on a large field on her land for local school children to learn a little about Native American lifeways.  Many of these children are grown now but never forgot that experience.  Cooking demonstrations over open fire were another endeavor, a regular location was at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington.  From 1981 to the present, Dale has written four published books, numerous short stories, as well as Native food and cooking columns for three Native American publications.  

Robert Shumate, Narragansett

Eleanor Dove Entrepreneur Award

Robert F. Shumate was born and raised in Wakefield, Rhode Island. He attended Rhode Island Junior College where he received an Associate degree in Business Administration and then continued on to refrigeration school at New England Technical Institute.  Starting in the summer of 1966 Robert and his dad Lawrence W. Shumate opened an ice manufacturing business in Narragansett, Rhode Island. He has dedicated his life to growing this small business, the Pier Ice Plant Inc. which reached its 50th year of operation in 2016. He currently lives in Wakefield with his wife Kris and two sons and will continue to serve Rhode Island as one of the top ice manufacturers in the area. 

Laughing Woman- Mashantucket Pequot

Red Wing Arts & Culture Award

During my lifetime, I have been a Musician, Composer and Spiritual Leaders of the Mashantucket Western Pequot Tribal Nation. I have filled the role of Vice Chairwoman of the Mashantucket Western Pequot Nation Tribal Elders Council. I have been the keeper of many languages. In 2003, I was awarded the Native American Music Award for Best Folk/Country Artis. I was one of the many contributors to the building of the Spiritual Center for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. 

I am the window of Pastor Eagle Wings Patrick who was the first Pastor of All Nations Christian Fellowships at MPTN. I studied the Arts at the University of Hartford Art School. I am also a graduate at the Norwich State Hospital Psychiatric Nursing School. In later years, I spent many years fighting to preserve and protect Native American grave sites including fighting the Ku Klux Klan attacking my home in Hampton, Ct. I have always been very proud of my Native American heritage and live it each and every day.

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Jessie "Little Doe" Baird-Mashpee Wampanoag

Ellison"Tarzan"Brown Champion Award

Jessie Little Doe Baird is a linguist whose work as co-founder and program director of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project is reclaimingreviving the language and cultural heritage of the Wampanoag people. In 2010 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” for her pioneering efforts to reestablish the language of her WampanoagAlgonquian ancestors.

Four centuries ago, the language was spoken by tens of thousands of people across southeastern New England. When Puritan missionaries arrived in the region, they encouraged the Wampanoag to transliterate ittransliterated it into the Roman alphabet, andusing it to use that orthography to translate the King James Bible. As the Wampanoag community grew more fragmented with the influx of European settlers, the language was impinged on by the increasing predominance of English. By the mid-19th century it ceased to be spoken; for six generations, only written records remained.

Ms. Baird, who earned her master of science degree in linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2000, was, as the MacArthur Foundation noted in her fellowship citation, “determined to breathe life back into the language” spoken by her forebears. In 1993 she co-founded the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project, an intertribal collaboration of the Mashpee, Herring Pond, Aquinnah, and Assonet Wampanoag communities. While at MIT, she partnered with Kenneth Locke Hale, a linguist and activist for the preservation of endangered languages, to develop a Wampanoag-English dictionary. Working from archival documents and drawing on the pronunciation of related Algonquian languages, they pieced together the vocabulary and grammar of the long-silent language to arrive at the beginning of a dictionary databasea 10,000- word resource that Ms. Baird and colleague Norvin Richards continues to update to this day.

Having developed the dictionary and a curriculum to teach the language, Ms. Baird—fluent in Wôpanâôt8âôk herself—works to restore fluency among the Wampanoag nation as well as to use the language to assist with community wellness initiatives. She is a dedicated educator who organized the first after-school language and culture classes for Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag youth- the TURTLE project- courses for adults, summer immersion programs, and family immersion camps to preserve the rich linguistic traditions of her people. Her work was the subject of a documentary film, We Still Live Here –Âs Nutayuneân, directed by Anne Makepeace, which examines “the first time a language with no native speakers has been revived in this country.”

Ms. Baird—a citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and vice-chairwoman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council—has a long history of engagement and leadership in the Wampanoag community. She is a member of the Wampanoag Women’s Medicine Society, was a commissioner of the Mashpee Housing Authority, and works with Mukayuhsak Weekuw, an immersion Preschool and Kindergarten funded by the Administration for Native American’s Esther Martinez Language Program. directs Pâhshaneekamuq, a charter school planning project funded by the Administration for Native Americans. She has lectured at many colleges and universities and advises other tribal communities on language planning, reconstruction, and curriculum development.

Ms. Baird has received a Social Science Doctorate Honoris Causa from Yale University, National Science Foundation funding as a Documenting Endangered Languages Fellow, and is a member of the American Antiquarian Society and a Commissioner on American Academy of Arts and Science Commission on Language Learning..

Mellissa Tantaquideon Zobel Mohegan

Eva Butler Scholar Award

Melissa grew up on the homestead of Mohegan writer, educator and minister, Reverend Samson Occom, in Mohegan, Connecticut. From an early age. she gave tours at Tantaquidgeon Museum, then run by her great-aunt and great uncle, Medicine Woman Gladys Tantaquidgeon and Chief Harold Tantaquidgeon. Those elders trained her in tribal oral tradition, traditional lifeways, and spiritual beliefs.

Melissa then earned a B.S.F.S. in history/diplomacy from Georgetown University, an M.A. in history from the University of Connecticut and an M.F.A. from Fairfield University in creative writing. As a young adult, she worked as Mohegan Federal Recognition Coordinator, researching and organizing her tribe’s bid for acknowledgment. She was appointed tribal historian in 1991 and Medicine Woman in 2008. Her awards include an Emmy for the movie, “The Mark of Uncas”, and the Alaskan Federation of Natives National Essay Award.

Zobel’s writing on Native issues has been a constant in her life. In 1992, she won the first annual Non-Fiction Award of the Native Writer’s Circle of the Americas, for her historical manuscript The Lasting of the Mohegans. Shortly after that, Zobel became the first American Indian appointed to the Connecticut Historical Commission. In 1996, she received her tribe’s first annual Chief Little Hatchet Award, granted for her contributions to her nation’s success and survival. Zobel has written several other books, including Medicine Trail: The Life and Lessons of Gladys Tantaquidgeon (University of Arizona Press, 2000), Oracles, (University of New Mexico Press, 2004), Fire Hollow (Raven’s Wing Books, 2010), Wabanaki Blues (Poisoned Pen Press, 2015), and the forthcoming Snowy Strangeways, (Urban Farmhouse Press. 2017). Snowy Strangeways is a murder mystery that offers a contemporary allegory about the interactions between Natives and colonists in 17th century southern New England. Her most recent scholarly article is a piece on the poetry of the late Narragansett Medicine Woman Ella Sekatau, titled “Algonquian Naming, Power, and  Relationality in a Rare Native Love Poem.” It is forthcoming in the peer-reviewed Papers of the 46th Algonquian Conference. Michigan State University Press, 2018

Melissa is the daughter of Mohegan Nonner Jayne Fawcett and Dr. Richard Fawcett. She is the mother of three adult children. Her daughter Rachel Sayet, Kidusu. works in the field of Native American research. Her daughter Madeline, Acoukayihs, is a director and writer of Native theatre. And her son David, Skeesucks, is an attorney in California. She is married to her high school sweetheart Randy Zobel and lives in Mystic, Connecticut.