Listening to Wampanoag Voices: Beyond 1620

faces of wampanoag speakers.

"In 2020, the year that marks four centuries since the voyage of the Mayflower, the anniversary is being commemorated internationally for establishing the first colony that would be the foothold of New England. But a point too often lost or undersold is that colonization does not occur without people being colonized, subjugated, oppressed, even killed to accommodate the colonizer. Colonization happened to, not for, the Wampanoag.

But we have endured.

In this online exhibit, the Peabody Museum is giving us the opportunity to illustrate that point by lending contemporary Wampanoag voices to objects that were made, held, worn, consumed and otherwise made useful by our ancestors generations, if not centuries ago. These words attest to the significance of the objects and our continued relevance to them.

We are still here to acknowledge them, learn from them, talk about them, and give gratitude to the creator for them."

—Paula Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag)

Four hundred years have passed since the Wampanoag Nation encountered English immigrants who settled on the shores of their land at Patuxet—now called Plymouth. Harvard University has had a relationship with the Wampanoag and other local tribal communities for nearly as long, establishing the Indian College on the Harvard campus in 1655. In 1650, the charter of Harvard College dedicated the institution to the education of Native American and English students to become Puritan ministers; in 1655, the Indian College was built on Harvard’s campus to house students and to achieve those goals. Wampanoag tribal member, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, Class of 1665, was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.   

In acknowledgment of this early history, the Peabody Museum has asked Wampanoag tribal members to reflect on collections spanning the seventeenth to twentieth centuries and stewarded by the Peabody Museum. Listen in as they share memories, thoughts, and reflections about collection items made by their ancestors and relatives and learn how Wampanoag life and culture continues to flourish today. Listen to the HMSC Connects! Podcast episode entitled Wampanoag Perspectives. 

jonathan james-perry and killock.
Listen: "Anchors are very important in our culture because we are seafaring people."
—Jonathan James-Perry, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)


elizabeth james-perry and beaded wool sash.
​Listen: "The sash has a story to tell. The sash has taught me different lessons."
—Elizabeth James-Perry, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)  


phillip wynne and dried and smoked herring.
Listen: "You still hear folks around town asking each other, 'You see the herring run yet?'"
—Phillip Wynne, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod (Otter Clan) reflecting on a collection of dried and smoked herring


elizabeth james-perry and eel trap.
Listen: "We're still by the same waters our ancestors lived on. We still harvest a lot of fish on seasonal fish like herring, eels, shad."
—Elizabeth James-Perry, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) reflecting on an eel trap


phillip wynne and the sudbury bow.
Listen: "The bow is taken from an Indian. Well, reading things like that my whole life I, of course always asked myself, 'Well, who was that Indian? What tribe did he come from? Was he Wampanoag?'"
—Phillip Wynne, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod (Otter Clan) reflecting on the Sudbury bow


Zoe Harris with splint baskets

Listen: "...that these baskets are over one hundred years old really speaks to the craftsmanship."
—Zoë Harris, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod

linda coombs and grass pack basket.
Listen: "[This grass pack basket] was made by Bathsheba Occouch of Gay Head in the nineteenth century, Gay Head now being called Aquinnah."
—Linda Jeffers Coombs, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)


alyssa harris and 6 carrying baskets

Listen: "A woven basket like this...can be used as a purse, but it can also be stored inside a home and act like a dresser or drawer."
—Alyssa Harris, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod


linda coombs and photo.
Listen: "[Deacon Thomas Jeffers] became a whaler, going out on six voyages and circling the globe twice..."
—Linda Jeffers Coombs, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), reflects on the lives of Deacon Thomas Jeffers (left) and Aaron Cooper (right)


Top, left to right: Zoë Harris, Phillip Wynne photo (detail) by David L. Gray, Alyssa Harris, Paula Peters photo (detail) by Matika Wilbur
Bottom, left to right: Elizabeth James-Perry, Linda Jeffers Coombs, Jonathan James-Perry