Land acknowledgements

I’ve been trying to find out if the Quonahassit people, when they were pushed out of Cohasset, Mass., joined up with the Wampanoags or the Massachusett, or some went to each. I started out assuming that since they were Massachusett, they would have joined up with that nation. But I can’t find a definitive answer. Another possibility is that a Christian Quonahassit could have joined the Brothertown Indian Nation, which kept relocating westward until they wound up in Wisconsin. (And it’s possible there were at least a couple of Christian Quonahassits, since two Native people joined the Cohasset church in the 1730s.)

In any case, sometime during the course of this research, I ran across a statement by some Native person who said that a land acknowledgement is meaningless unless you have a relationships with the people whose land you’re acknowledging. While this is one Native person’s opinion, this makes sense to me: if you don’t have that relationship, a land acknowledgement can come across as empty words.

“We Still Live Here”

Deneva has been researching Thanksgiving curriculum materials for our congregation, and she sent me a link to an online video titled “We Still Live Here: Black Indians of Wampanoag and African Heritage”:

Still from "We Still Live Here" video

This video poses a nice challenge to neat and tidy racial categories: if you look black, and grew up in a Wampanoag family, and speak Wampanoag, and identify more with your Wampanoag heritage than your African heritage, what are you? Obviously, from the point of view of the U.S. criminal justice system, you’d be non-white. But in terms of your racial and ethnic identity, surely you are a Wampanoag Indian. Such a conclusion challenges typical racial categories in the U.S., where there is a popular myth that both White and Indian are recessive genetic traits, swamped by even the slightest amount of non-white DNA — which implies that even the slightest bit of African heritage means you’re of African descent. And many of us in the U.S. cling to that old myth, even if we’ve taken a high school biology class and have basic knowledge of genetics. This reveals the power of myth over rationality.

But the best part about the video for me was listening to the regional accent. I miss speaking Eastern New England dialect.