This is a popular time of year for school field trips to Plimoth Patuxet (formerly known as Plimoth Plantation), a living history museum portraying Colonial and traditional Indigenous life in the English settlement of Plymouth. However, in late summer, members of the Wampanoag community and their supporters began calling for a boycott of the museum for reasons detailed in this article, posted on the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe website. From the article:
“There were problems for a long time at the museum, said Helme, but the employees who hung on for years stayed because they were fearful of how Wampanoag people would be portrayed. ‘We were afraid of how our story was going to be told if we weren’t there to tell it,’ she said.”
“…interpreters such as herself were often reprimanded by museum officials when they shared historical facts from an Indigenous perspective. ‘We would inform (visitors) that the first Thanksgiving was actually celebrated by the English in 1636, after the massacre at Mystic,’ Helme said. ‘Things like that would get people written up.’”
“…Pocknett, who worked at Plimoth Patuxet between 2010 and 2012 as an interpreter, and later as a manager and site supervisor, said she attended meetings with directors and museum officials where, she said, there was a direct intention to eliminate bi-culturalism at the museum.”
REAL supports Leeds Elementary School Principal Chris Wenz, who—in collaboration with the Leeds PTO—recently made the difficult decision to cancel a planned 3rd grade field trip to Plimoth Patuxet, after learning about the boycott. Wenz wrote in a letter to caregivers, “The Wampanoag Tribe is calling for a boycott of the museum until they elevate the Indigenous perspective. We are supporting the Wampanoag by finding an alternative trip at another time this year.” This decision puts into action our district’s stated values of inclusion and equity and the new social studies standards which emphasize U.S. history from Indigenous perspectives. Of course, planning a field trip of this scope required significant staff time and effort, and students and staff had been looking forward to the event. We believe, however, that this is a crucial learning opportunity. With the guidance of families and educators, the Leeds 3rd graders can learn important lessons about historical and ongoing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It also gives them an opportunity to stand against the racism that the Wampanoag tribe is experiencing and to prepare for an alternate field trip.
As we observe Native American Heritage month, we want to encourage all schools and families to honor the boycott by refraining from visiting Plimoth Patuxet and instead considering alternative options, such as the Indigenous-owned Mashantucket Pequot Museum in CT or the Ohketeau Cultural Center in western MA.
From a related NPR article, Kitty Hendricks-Miller, a Mashpee Wampanoag education coordinator, has been “encouraging teachers to reach out to Native communities directly if they’re seeking culturally and historically accurate programs.”
“‘There’s a level of understanding and respect that should be paid to us,” said Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Gay Head (Aquinnah) Wampanoag Tribe. “That is a minimum threshold that these entities should be doing.'” –Cape Cod Times