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Ancestral land to be returned to Nipmuc tribe

  • From left are professor Ray Mann, of the University of Massachusetts Architecture Department, Fred Freeman, chair of Nipmuk Cultural Preservation Inc., and Dr. Larry Buell, founder of University of the Wild. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 9/16/2019 10:55:54 PM

PETERSHAM — Anyone with an interest in the history of New England can’t help but be aware of just how badly Native Americans were treated following the arrival of white Europeans on the land that makes up the six-state region. Countless numbers were killed and most of their tribal lands confiscated.

A small step toward addressing some of the injustices suffered by area Native Americans — specifically, in this case, the Nipmuc tribe — will take place Saturday in Petersham. University of the Wild founder Dr. Larry Buell said a public “Ceremony of Acknowledgement” of the return of the Nipmuc’s ancestral land will start at 4 p.m. at the University of the Wild, 39 Glasheen Road.

The event, according to a press release from Buell, “will include a brief history of the land and its stories, acknowledgements by the Nipmucs, remarks by local leaders, and time for a gift-giving and ceremony to mark the historic occasion.” The public is encouraged to attend.

Buell said he gave the tribe a 2½-acre tract in 2016. On June 14, the tribe paid Buell $107,000 to purchase an additional 18½ acres.

“What they (the Nipmucs) are going to do,” said Buell, “is they will prepare a center, where they will concentrate on teaching their young people in particular. Their youth face enormous challenges with drug addiction and suicide like many in our society, so they want to bring them back. Right now, they’re an urban population, just outside of Worcester. There are about 500 documented Nipmucs in and around the Worcester area.”

“The original land within the Quabbin/Nichewaug bioregion in Petersham will allow our nation to have a place for teaching, interacting with the greater community, and provide a space for tribal members to heal,” said Fred Freeman, chair and founding member of Nipmuk Cultural Preservation Inc. “In the future, we will construct an environmentally-friendly cultural and education center for teaching and represent the aesthetics of Nipmuc culture.”

Buell explained that all of the land in Petersham that was given or sold to the tribe was traditional Nipmuc land.

“It’s called Nichewaug,” Buell said, “the Nichewaug section of Petersham. The name means ‘land between the fresh waters.’ In 1754, when we became a town, the people wanted to name it Nichewaug, but the colonial leaders didn’t want that, so they named it after Lord Petersham in Petersham, England.”

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