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Our Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History

“Our” Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History, an educational and cultural exhibit about the history and traditions of the Wampanoag Tribe, revisits events that have been historical footnotes until now despite the significant impact they had on colonization. This traveling, multi-media exhibit is part of the Signature Events and Programs of Plymouth 400, Inc., the organization planning the international 400th anniversary commemoration of the 1620 Mayflower voyage and the founding of Plymouth Colony. The exhibit, which opened in 2014, will continue to grow with new content each year documenting additional events of historical significance leading up to 2020.

The exhibit was created to bring to light key legacies of America’s earliest beginnings from the Wampanoag perspective, a perspective that has largely been left out of the narrative of this iconic moment in American history. Told in the Native voice, "Our" Story received widespread media attention since its debut for its honest and powerful approach to highlighting occurrences in indigenous history that are not commonly known yet vital to the founding of Plymouth Colony and the building of America.

The exhibit’s first chapter, “Captured 1614”, tells a critical back-story to colonization and the roots of the American holiday, Thanksgiving. This part of the exhibit explores the story of a rogue English explorer that kidnapped 20 men from Patuxet, the Wampanoag village that ultimately became Plymouth, Massachusetts. Only one of the men is known to return home. His name was Tisquantm, everyone knows him as Squanto. Everyone knows the story of Squanto, but few know that he endured before he became an emissary to the English or what his people sacrificed.

The second chapter opened in 2015, “The Messenger Runner”, highlights the Wampanoag Tribe’s traditional communication network and tribal territories predating the Pilgrim’s arrival.

The third chapter opened in 2016, “The Great Dying,” explores a tragic set of events that set the stage for colonization. Between 1616 and 1619 Native villages of coastal New England from Maine to Cape Cod were stricken by a catastrophic plague that killed tens of thousands of people. Weakening the Wampanoag nation politically, economically and militarily.

Plymouth 400 commissioned a Native design team to create “Our”Story to ensure that the exhibit was thoroughly representative of the history of New England’s indigenous peoples. The Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council Inc. and SmokeSygnals Marketing and Communications conceptualized, researched, and produced “Our”Story, and members of the Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes portrayed historical figures for the exhibit. The creation of this exhibit aligns with Plymouth 400’s mission to create a commemoration that is historically accurate and culturally inclusive, as indigenous peoples have declined participation or faced misrepresentation and even omission from previous anniversary events.

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