Land Acknowledgement

BHCC Land Acknowledgment

Authored by: Larry Mann and Pamela Ellis, Nipmuc Tribe Edited by: Deborah Spears Moorehead, Seaconke Pokanoket Wampanoag Tribe

May 10, 2023

We want to recognize, as Indigenous homelands, this land that I am a (guest, belong to, share kinship with the Indigenous people who belong to, acknowledge my Indigenous relations, etc.) on, where Bunker Hill Community College now sits. This land from which we all benefit is the homeland of the Pawtucket band of the Massachusett Tribe. They have been stewards of this land for thousands of years. They called this place Mishawum, “great springs.” Their leader was the sachem, Nanepashemet (New Moon). Upon his death in 1619, his wife, the Saunkskwa of Mystic ascended to the leadership of the Pawtucket Massachusett homelands. From the historical records, we know little about her. We know her only by her leadership title, Saunkskwa of Mystic. We do not know her proper name. However, we know from the deeds that she executed that she was an important political and diplomatic presence among the Pawtucket people and in her dealings with the English colonists. Through her life, we are reminded of the importance of Indigenous women’s leadership from both historic times to the present day and the gender equality present, before contact, in the tribal nations of the area.

Colonial settlement of the lands on which Bunker Hill Community College now stands began in 1623 with heavy settlement occurring from 1630 on. In 1645, the Saunkskwa of Mystic executed the Deed of Menotomy which included Charlestown and ceded Pawtucket interests in the land, some fifteen (15) years after colonial settlement. The lands were taken without legal authority. Within the framework of the Anglo-American legal system, such an act constitutes theft. Once English colonial settlers outnumbered Indigenous people on their land and the colonial legal system demonstrated its indifference to prosecuting the claims of Indigenous people, a deed was exacted. This happened in place after place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and exemplified the process of systematic dispossession which resulted in the displacement of Indigenous peoples from their homelands.

Massachusett means “Great Hill” in the dialect of southern New England Algonkian spoken by the Pawtucket and was taken as the name of the both the colony and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The present-day citizens of the Massachusett tribe are the descendants of the Neponset band of the Massachusett, led by the Sachem (Chief) Chickataubut, who in 1657 assembled at their homelands at Punkapoag in what is now called Canton.

The neighboring nations of the Massachusett Tribe are the Nipmuc (People of the Fresh Water) of central Massachusetts, the Stockbridge Mohican Nation in western Massachusetts, and south of Boston and the Cape and Islands are the Pokanoket and Wampanoag Nations.

We further recognize that Massachusetts, in many respects, has historically been at the center of freedom, democracy, science, industry and education that has made the United States one of the most prosperous countries in history. However, Massachusetts has also been at the forefront of the development and execution of devastating Indian policies such as slavery, forced removal, tribal termination, detribalization, and assimilation --policies eventually implemented by the United States federal government and later repudiated. Massachusetts has never repudiated its implementation of its devastating state Indian policies or apologized to the tribes that are still recovering and rebuilding from the damage done to them through these policies and the many corrupt guardians assigned to them. Further, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has failed to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of the Tribes of Massachusetts. Adding insult to injury, the Commonwealth has systematically engaged in removal, erasure, and the usurping of tribal lands.

Today, we now benefit from the confiscation of Native lands and colonial expansion; underscored by a Eurocentric narrative that has attempted to obliterate an entire people’s history and culture that has spanned for millennia. Despite centuries of genocide, erasure, and starting in the late 1800s- forcefully taking thousands of Native American children from their homes to Boarding Schools, where countless children died at the hands of the Church and State- The Native Nations are still here.

And from this day forward, we the faculty, students, and staff of BHCC are called to action to recognize, respect, and honor the Tribes of Massachusetts by taking intentional and meaningful actions and steps. Please get to know the Indigenous people of your area and ask what you can do to lift and amplify their voices and to acknowledge, honor, and respect their sovereignty. In that spirit, we have three action steps.

First: Recognize and make changes to the dominant historical and cultural narrative that glorifies colonization and the genocide of Indigenous peoples of this area and throughout the Indigenous homelands now called the United States. Be mindful that problematic terms like “Pioneer Valley” are a reminder of the legacy of Indigenous dispossession, forced removal, and subsequent erasure.

Second: Support Native organizations. They will welcome your involvement and financial support. Your support will assist in the cultivation of learning and growth for the Indigenous community and the next generations.

Lastly: Support federal and state legislation which supports Indigenous peoples and communities. With the present-day challenges of climate disruption, cultural fragmentation, and political unrest around the world, let us therefore look to the land in a holistic way. Let us commit to working with the Tribes of Massachusetts to educate the citizenry on the philosophy, content, and methods of sustainable and regenerative lifestyles, practices, and protocols so central to the teachings of all Indigenous Peoples and so necessary at this time on Planet Earth.