Wampanoag Native Americans Blast Massachusetts’ Plimoth Patuxet History Museum

Native Americans in Massachusetts are calling for a boycott of a museum they say erased the place of tribes in history, while investing in the representation of the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth Colony.

Wampanoag tribesmen say they were once again deeply involved in the Plimoth Patuxet museums, but now their involvement has waned.

“I would say most of the people in my tribe worked there at one time or another, but they treated us so badly that no one wanted to work there anymore,” said Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe member Anita Peters and former museum employee. The daily beast.

Plimoth Patuxet Museums, based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is dedicated to telling the millennial history of the area’s Native Americans and the arrival of pilgrims via the Mayflower in 1620. The museum is designed to be a living historical experience, where guests can see the traditional Wampanoag wet (houses), replica artifacts and artwork from the 1600s. The site first opened in the 1940s, using the 17th century colonialist spelling of “Plimoth”.

While it may seem like the museum offers a holistic view of history, Wampanoag members say the museum prioritizes the colonialist past over their own. They complained that the Aboriginal section of the museum is small, outdated and not maintained to the same extent as the pilgrim side, and that museum administrators do not value their cultural contributions enough to include them in decision-making. current.

Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, president of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah, said in an interview with The Daily Beast that the museum has not consulted enough Native Americans about their history.

“We still have to spend a lot of time correcting the narrative they were spreading because it was still feeding into the false narrative. This is the story we have had to endure over the centuries,” she said. “The goal wasn’t really to have this balanced, bicultural experience. … We knew how incredibly important it was to set the record straight and provide that balance.

Andrews-Maltese, who said she, her mother, sister and brothers all worked at the museum at one time, noted that the Native American side of the museum hasn’t seen any noticeable improvement in the past 50 years. , although the museum receives federal grants. funding. Meanwhile, she said the Pilgrim Division is staying up to date with new exhibits and features.

“It relays or communicates a very big misinformation that we didn’t have the sophistication of our culture and our practice in the way that [Pilgrims] would have been at that time, almost reflecting that we are kind of poor and ignorant,” she said. “Well, we weren’t.”

According to Associated press, large holes have been discovered in replicas of traditional Wampanoag dwellings, which are the main attraction of the historic site. guides on the Native American side also did not wear traditional clothing. But the accommodation for the pilgrims has been well maintained and the guides wear detailed 17th century costumes.

In a statement to The Daily Beast on Wednesday, spokesman Robert Kluin said Plimoth Patuxet had raised $2 million for overall renovations, for the Pilgrim site, the Wampanoag site and online campaigns. But he did not provide a breakdown of how the funds would be allocated or how federal funding had already been used to maintain the museum and host site.

Paula Peters, a member of the Wampanoag Mashpee tribe who has worked on and off for about 40 years as an interpreter and in the museum’s marketing department, said she was amazed on a recent trip. She provided photos to The Daily Beast of wet housing covered in holes, and said the Native Americans who work at the museum were hired by other tribes.

“There are fewer and fewer Wampanoag employees. … They have also changed a lot,” she said.

The Wampanoag are the inhabitants of the region, called Patuxet. However, members of the tribe fear that the specific culture of Wampanoag is being equated with a larger identity.

“It used to be called the Wampanoag Homesite, and it’s not called that anymore. It’s called the Patuxet Homesite,” Peters said, adding: It’s almost as if they were erased from the nomenclature.

Sookunôn Nushkeesuqut, a member of the Wampanoag Mashpee tribe, told The Daily Beast that he was warned by museum officials that he would be fired for taking too long to be a ceremonial performer at funerals and spiritual services. . He also said museum workers faced racism and microaggressions from guests.

Anita Peters accepted. She said museum officials do not defend Wampanoag employees whenever they encounter offensive behavior from tourists. Instead, they were told to just smile.

“Tourists were saying ignorant things and we were being told, ‘Well, as long as you have a smile on your face, you can say whatever you want,'” she said, recalling how a woman visiting the park once poked her head under a Wampanoag guide’s loincloth for her friends to take a photo. “I thought, ‘No, no. It’ll make them think we’re just clowns, you know, condoning any type of racism or something.

In response to allegations of workers experiencing racism, Kluin said the museum “has a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination of any kind, takes immediate action to investigate and respond to any incident reported to us.” .

He added that the museum provides training to its employees on how to handle difficult situations with guests, allowing its “staff to remove themselves from any uncomfortable situation”.

Kluin said the history of Wampanoag is vital to the future of the Plimoth Patuxet museums. He did not directly address the holes found in Wampanoag accommodations, but said a spring storm destroyed signage around the site. He also said the Wampanoag and Pilgrim Division exhibits were being expanded and more personnel would be added.

“Our team strongly believes that hiring from Indigenous communities is essential to fostering an authentic learning experience. We have several initiatives in place to recruit and retain professionals within hyper-local Wampanoag communities and broader Indigenous communities,” Kluin said.

“As a cultural institution, we recognize the responsibility to reach out to our employees,” he added, “the communities we serve and the communities reflected in the stories we tell to ensure we respect our high standards of representation”.

Regardless of the museum’s insistence that it remain committed to depicting Wampanoag, some members of the community simply do not buy it. Instead of hiring members or seeking advice from the Wampanoag, tribal members say the museum recruits Native Americans from other communities and apparently tries to pass them off as Wampanoag, treating different Native American tribes as a monolithic group.

“I would be surprised if you could find anyone in the tribe who would recommend going there or working there,” said Paula Peters.

Nohemi M. Moore