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390 A Summit Road
Exeter, RI, 02822
United States


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.


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A look back at women authors with a cause at Tomaquag speaker event

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March 20, 2017 02:40PM
By Catherine Hewitt Sun staff writer

EXETER — With few avenues of expression open to them, some 19th-century women writers politicized conventional forms of fiction, poetry and magazine-writing to protest the U.S. government’s oppressive policies toward Native Americans. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, author Janet E. Dean, Ph.D, who is chair of the English and Cultural Studies Department at Bryant University, talked about four women writers featured in her book “Unconventional Politics: Nineteenth-Century Women Writers and U.S. Indian Policy,” at the Tomaquag Museum Saturday. 

“The aim of this book is to amplify stories that we as a culture tend to forget, silence or ignore,” she said to the audience of about 15 people. “The women in this book were involved in showing their courage, creativity and determination in an effort to make a difference in the world, and that’s what we celebrate with Women’s History Month.”

In the 19th century, women couldn’t vote, hold office or participate in political life in any formal way, Dean said, but they could write and circulate their published work. At that time, women’s writing gained a wider audience as literacy rates soared, improved printing technology made production more efficient and expanded road and railroad infrastructure allowed for wider distribution of books. 

During the same period, the U.S. government was taking steps to expel Native Americans from their ancestral lands, including the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Dakota War in 1862, Wounded Knee in 1890, and the Trail of Tears resulted in the deaths of thousands of tribespeople. 

The four women featured in Dean’s book wrote in genres typically used to reinforce government policies of removal and war toward Native Americans: the captivity narrative, Indian lament poetry, assimilation fiction and commercial magazine nonfiction.

The captivity narrative was typically about a “vulnerable white woman” captured by “savage tribal men” and rescued by “heroic white men,” but author Sarah Wakefield, a white woman, used the genre to write about how native Americans hid and protected her and her children during the Dakota War in 1862.

“She took the genre — she knew it would sell because it was labeled a captivity narrative — but she sort of exploded it from within,” Dean said. 

Similarly, Poet Lydia Sigourney, of Norwich, used the genre of Indian Lament poems, which were “very sad, sentimental and melancholy,” to protest the removal of Native Americans from their ancestral homes in the southeastern U.S. in the Trail of Tears between 1830 and 1850. 

“It’s typically a poem about someone who is the last in their tribe and it’s the moment when they are weeping over the graves of their lost tribe,” Dean said. “It does a particular culture work and makes the disappearance of Native people seem like a natural occurrence, kind of like the changing of the seasons, without a human cause like the U.S. government.” 

Dean also explored Muscogee/Creek S. Alice Callahan’s satire of assimilation fiction, which typically showed native tribespeople successfully adapting to Western culture. She also wrote about Cherokee Ora V. Eddleman, a magazine publisher, who used the conventions of studio photography to depict tribal women wearing traditional dress in a fashionable way similar to the “society pages” in upscale publications. 

“These writers figured out how to make to make those genres work to voice protest,” Dean said. “In this case, it was all of the things in U.S. policy that impacted Native Americans in a negative way.” 

Securing the rights of Native Americans and protecting civil liberties, civil rights and the environment has strong parallels to current events, such as the conflict at Standing Rock, South Dakota, Dean said.

“These are battles we’re still fighting,” she said. “This spirit of activism is an ongoing thread and we continue to need to find creative means of resistance.” html


Tomaquag Museum Executive Director Lorén Spears interviewed by B101 morning co-host and Coast 93.3 afternoon host Kristin Lessard

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Our Executive Director, Lorén Spears was interviewed by Kristin Lessard, B101 morning co-host and Coast 93.3 afternoon host to share about The Tomaquag Museum, Narragansett Culture and topical Indigenous Issues. The interview will air on B101, Coast 93.3 and 94 HJY Sunday March 12th between 7 and 7:30am. You can listen to the podcast interview in the link

In honor of Women’s History Month Tomaquag Museum to host book talk and signing on March 18, 2017 1-2pm with author Janet Dean on her publication.

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To celebrate Women’s History Month, Tomaquag Museum will host a book talk and signing with author Janet Dean on her publication Unconventional Politics 19th Century Women Writers and US Indian Policy.  The talk will be held on March 18, 2017 from 1-2pm and is free with regular museum admission.  Books will be available for purchase for $20 or can be purchased now on Amazon for $25.95.  To support the Tomaquag Museum, visit to purchase book and choose Tomaquag Museum as your non-profit contribution recipient.  

In Unconventional Politics, Janet Dean explores how four authors, Sarah Wakefield, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, the Muscogee/Creek S. Alice Callahan, and the Cherokee Ora V. Eddleman, advocated for Native Americans by both politicizing conventional literature and employing literary skill to respond to national policy.  Their acts of improvisation and reinvention tell a new story about the development of American women’s writing and political expression.  

“At a time when politics and policy are centerstage in America, women’s rights and human equity are at the forefront of our minds, this book discussion will look back at a period when this was a novel idea. We look forward to the dialogue this talk with inspire,” said Lorén Spears, museum Executive Director.

Janet Dean is Professor and Chair of English and Cultural Studies at Bryant University. She writes and teaches about American literature, literary and social protest, women writers, and Native American Studies. In addition to her book Unconventional Politics, she has published essays and reviews in a number of journals and edited collections. Dean is the past recipient of a Mellon Fellowship and the Don D. Walker Prize in western American studies.

Tomaquag Museum Receives Exhibit Redesign Grant from Champlin Foundations

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Exeter, RI: December 20, 2016-The Champlin Foundations awarded Tomaquag Museum a $9415 to replace 4-5 of the current exhibit casework with new ones that meet museum quality standards. The museum will also use funds to redesign existing exhibits as well as create new ones that will highlight previously unseen collections. 

“This is exciting news for the little gem that could,” stated Collections Manager, Kimberly Peters. “The plan moving forward is to refresh our current exhibits and create new ones.” Exhibits that will get a facelift include focusing on the museums unique southern New England stamped basket collection and the Ellison “Tarzan” Brown exhibit, that will feature one of his trophies that is on loan to our museum by a great- nephew of the Olympic athlete and two-time winner of the Boston Marathon. A new exhibit will feature the art of contemporary Native American artists from the region. Each exhibit will enhance the museums preservation efforts and improve public access to the museum’s extensive collection of Narragansett and other local tribes’ cultural materials.  

“We are grateful to The Champlin Foundation for their continuing support in helping us fulfill our mission,” said Lorén Spears, Executive Director. “The project will allow for a much “richer” visitor experience and greater access to the collection.  Everything we are doing allows us to meet our mission as we make progress towards the overall goal of finding a new home.” The museum will be announcing the opening of each new exhibit to celebrate the rich Indigenous history, arts, and the stories these traditional items share.


Since 1932, The Champlin Foundations have distributed nearly $535M, almost entirely in the State of Rhode Island. The Champlin Foundations are private foundations as defined in Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code and are exempt from Federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3). The Foundations make direct grants to tax exempt organizations, substantially all in Rhode Island, almost exclusively for capital needs. Capital needs may consist of equipment, construction, renovations, the purchase of real property and reduction of mortgage indebtedness. One important goal is to fund tax exempt organizations within Rhode Island that will have the greatest on the broadest possible segment of the population. Another important goal is to provide “hands-on” equipment and facilities for those being served by these tax-exempt organizations. For more information visit


Tomaquag Museum Receives Preservation Assistance Grant from National Endowment for Humanities

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Exeter, RI: December 14, 2016-Tomaquag Museum is pleased to announce that we have received a $6000 Preservation Assistance Grant (PAG) from the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). This project was derived from recommendations made by consultant Alexandra Allardt, Principle and Managing Director of ARTCare Resources during our 2006 Conservation Assessment Program and our 2015 Preservation Assessment Grant that culminated into a four-year Preservation Plan. As Tomaquag continues to plan for a new home, the goal of this project is to strengthen and sustain our collections care and risk mitigation programs throughout the museum with a particular focus on our exhibit and storage spaces. 

According to Kimberly Peters, Collections Manager, “This year-long project is extremely important. The funds will allow us to improve upon and implement a new housekeeping plan, integrated pest management program and an environmental monitoring plan. We will also use NEH funds to create a Collections Care Cart consisting of appropriate conservation equipment, materials, and supplies that will allow us to conduct monitoring and preventive care maintenance tasks.” Consultant Alexandra Allardt will provide program guidance and training on proper equipment use and data interpretation. 

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries, and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.

“We are very grateful to the NEH for continuing to support Tomaquag Museum’s preservation efforts,” stated Tomaquag Museum Executive Director, Lorén Spears. “Each strategic step we take at our current site to identify and mitigate risks now will build upon itself, creating momentum in preparing the collection for its future home. This project will allow us to fulfill our goals for optimum care of our collection for future generations.”


Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at



Wampanoags tell their story in an exhibit for the 400th anniversary of Plymouth

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With Plymouth's 400th anniversary highly anticipated, the Wampanoag community is telling its version of what occurred during that pivotal time four centuries ago.

Paula Peters a native Wampanoag talks about a new exhibit at the quincy historical society museum on adams street. The exhibit goes into detail about the Wampanoag culture before the arrival of the pilgrims and their impact on Thursday Nov. 10th 2016 Photo Credit: Greg Derr / The Patriot Leger

Paula Peters a native Wampanoag talks about a new exhibit at the quincy historical society museum on adams street. The exhibit goes into detail about the Wampanoag culture before the arrival of the pilgrims and their impact on Thursday Nov. 10th 2016

Photo Credit: Greg Derr / The Patriot Leger

"It's the critical back story to the arrival of the Mayflower that is hardly ever told," said Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and the Plymouth 400 Wampanoag Committee. "The story of Plymouth can't be told accurately without it."

Through the traveling exhibit "Our Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History," significant historical events and cultural traditions are highlighted. Its message is this: We suffered, but we have a rich culture and are still here.

"This is where our people have been for 12,000 years, and we have an active and vital culture today," said Peters, whose tribe has about 2,800 members.

The first two of the exhibit's seven chapters are on display at the Quincy Historical Society through Dec. 15. Each year until 2020, an additional chapter will be added, and they will circulate throughout southeastern Massachusetts. The exhibit has been created entirely by Wampanoag people.

It starts with "Captured: 1614." In that year - six years before the Pilgrims landed - a European explorer captured 27 Wampanoag men. They were forced onto ships to be sold as slaves in Spain. Only one man returned: Tisquantum, known as Squanto.

"Squanto was able to help the Pilgrims because he learned English after he was captured and brought to Europe," Peters said.

To convey the impact of the loss of the 27 men, Wampanoag men and women in videos act as their 17th-century ancestors. Around a fire and wearing native clothing, a woman grieves for her future husband, a mother worries who will teach her son, a man talks of trying to rescue his tribesmen, and another describes the trading ruse that made the capture possible.

Narragansett tribe members describe standoff at Standing Rock

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'Protectors' resolute despite being injured by water cannons, rubber bullets North Dakota camp

From left, Christian Hopkins, Evangeline Hopkins and Macheese Spears are members of the Narragansett Tribe who went to Standing Rock in North Dakota to object to the pipeline. The Providence Journal / David Delpoio

From left, Christian Hopkins, Evangeline Hopkins and Macheese Spears are members of the Narragansett Tribe who went to Standing Rock in North Dakota to object to the pipeline. The Providence Journal / David Delpoio

By Carol Kozma
Journal Staff Writer

RICHMOND, R.I. - When Christian Hopkins headed to the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota last month to build a school, so many volunteers wanted to help, he turned some away.

"Hands were not in short supply," he said Monday. "Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of community, the amount of love, the amount of passion."

In five days, they had built a school, a 42-by-21-foot longhouse. They used all donated materials, including maple he and others harvested in Rhode Island.

This was the 26-year-old's second trip to Standing Rock; he had first visited the camp in September with his sister Evangeline, 17, both from Hopkinton. The members of the Narragansett tribe wanted to stand in solidarity with those objecting to the construction of part of an oil pipeline under the Missouri River near the Sioux Reservation. People, in part, fear the pipeline could cause water contamination. 

Christian Hopkins calls himself and others water "protectors," taking issue with the word "protesters."

"Protest is for an issue, but this is a lifestyle" people are protecting, he said. "We are not looking for any kind of pity or guilt, but we are looking for support and we are looking for people to see the value of water in their community."

On Sunday, the American Corps of Engineers announced it would not grant an easement that would have allowed developers from Energy Transfer Partners to drill under the river for the $3.8 billion project.

But President-elect Donald Trump could still reverse that decision. While Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambeault has asked people to leave the camp ahead of a brutal winter, many have said they will stay, according to the Associated Press.

A sad day In Native American History

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Pictorial of the Sand Creek Massacre

Pictorial of the Sand Creek Massacre

-Native American Heritage Month

Today In History....

In 1864, a colorado militia killed at least 150 peaceful Cheyanne Indians in the "Sand Creek Massacre" 



The massacre began at dawn on Nov. 29, 1864, when nearly 1,000 men under the command of Col. John M. Chivington, surrounded hundreds of Indians camped on the banks of Sand Creek. Soule and other witnesses said Chivington wanted to kill Indians and did not care that this group was peaceful and had been promised by other U. S. troops that they would be left alone if they flew an American flag.

The troops opened fire on the mostly unarmed Indians with guns and howitzers, then chased down many who tried to flee. The soldiers mutilated the bodies, taking away scalps, ears, fingers and genitals as trophies.

Although (at the time) the congressional probe sparked by Soule and Lt. Joe Cramer condemned the massacre, those involved were never punished and the reparations promised in a treaty were never paid. Sadly, Chivington has a town in the area named for him.

#Giving Tuesday Launches November 29th

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#GivingTuesday Nov 29th

#GivingTuesday Nov 29th

#GivingTuesday connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.    #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy.

Many small organizations such as Tomaquag Museum, rely on your support to enable us to create good quality educational programs at our museum, as well as off-site in and around our local communities.  The support also goes towards our collection management for the objects in our care.  

We are constantly developing and improving our outreach programs to work with our partners to increase awareness about Indigenous education, and we conduct workshops with our partners such as the University of Rhode Island, Brown University, and Third Sector New England to name just a few.


Engage with us! Please consider a gift to Tomaquag Museum this holiday season, and help us continue toward our educational goals.  Experience native culture firsthand by booking an educator workshop with one of our educators!

Thank You!

Call 401-491-9063 to book an appointment or inquire about a workshop!

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Wednesday 10am - 5pm  Saturday 10am - 2pm

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