Wampanoags tell their story in an exhibit for the 400th anniversary of Plymouth
With Plymouth's 400th anniversary highly anticipated, the Wampanoag community is telling its version of what occurred during that pivotal time four centuries ago.
"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.