Plymouth: Indigenous People’s Day at Plimoth Plantation

By noontime Monday, roughly 800 people had come to visit Plimoth Plantation for Indigenous People’s Day.

The day reflects on the culture and history of people native to the region, and not just those who landed ashore.

At the Plantation, which is a Smithsonian affiliate, exhibits include the recreation of a 1620’s Wampanoag Homesite. From homes called “wetu’s,” boats called “mishoons” and fire-cooked meals.

The area is rich in history, but often glossed-over are the impacts the Pilgrims had on the native people.

“It will literally stop people in their tracks and get them to really think about what our ancestors went through,” said Kerri Helme, a historical interpreter at the Homesite. “How devastating even people bringing seeds – how invasive species inhibit the growth of natural plants, how our ancestors had no immunities…it’s a lot of things people don’t really think about.

Helme, who is Mashpee Wampanoag, says the Tribal Council recently voted unanimously to recognize Columbus Day as Indigenous People’s Day.

“We teach our children the real history of Columbus Day, and it gives our children – not that we don’t celebrate our culture everyday – but another day that we can extend our culture to outsiders, which is really important,” said Helme.

At Plimouth Plantation, events were set up all weekend to celebrate the native people of the region. Included was Cranberry Day, the construction of a 32-foot wetu, and an immigration booth to simulate what would have happened if the Wampanoag had immigration services in the 17th century.

“We feel it’s just a really special way of engaging our visitors in some thought-provoking questions and conversation,” said Kate Sheehan, the Plantation spokesperson.

Tim Turner, a Guest Experience Manager, suggested that the Plantation observe Indigenous People’s Day. With many towns and universities starting to recognize the day, Turner is hoping it turns into a bigger conversation in Massachusetts.

“A lot of people don’t think about it today, but native people – we’re still here, we’re still a culture of people, we’re still alive, we still practice our cultures,” said Turner, who is from the Cherokee Nation. “Yes we’re a modern people, we live in modern ways; have cell phones, cars, and live in modern homes, but we’re here. That’s the big thing we like to hammer through. So come ask us, educate yourself about our culture – we’re here to answer questions.”

Shirley, the elder at the Wampanoag Homesite, shows a turtle bag she made. Photo credit: Lenny Rowe.

Shirley, the elder at the Wampanoag Homesite, shows a turtle bag she made. Photo credit: Lenny Rowe.

The food station at the Wampanoag Homesite. Photo credit: Lenny Rowe.

The food station at the Wampanoag Homesite. Photo credit: Lenny Rowe.


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About Lenny Rowe

Lenny Rowe is one of the newest additions to the WATD News team. He grew up in Pembroke and was an intern at WATD in 2012. A 2016 graduate from Suffolk University, Lenny left the City of Boston and now lives in Rockland. Lenny has covered both news and sports, from the trial of James "Whitey" Bulger to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Outside of WATD, Lenny covers high school sports for The Boston Globe. Lenny can be reached at Lenny.Rowe30@Gmail.com