Commissioned painting ‘a symbol of commitment to reconciliation’ in Montague

  • The “Peskeompskut” painting created by Mashpee Wampanoag artist Robert Peters. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Mashpee Wampanoag artist Robert Peters speaks about his painting, “Peskeompskut,” at the Great Falls Discovery Center on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Lily-Rakia Chandler sings at the Great Falls Discovery Center on Saturday during a ceremony unveiling “Peskeompskut,” a painting by Mashpee Wampanoag artist Robert Peters. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer
Published: 11/13/2022 7:27:27 PM

MONTAGUE — When Mashpee Wampanoag artist Robert Peters was commissioned by the Nolumbeka Project to make a painting that will be displayed in Town Hall, he was stumped regarding what to create.

On Saturday, the fruits of Peters’ labor were revealed during the annual Full Beaver Moon Gathering at the Great Falls Discovery Center. The finished product is named “Peskeompskut.”

“This painting is about healing,” Peters said.

“The purchase of the painting is a symbol of commitment to reconciliation of this land,” said Suzanne LoManto, assistant town planner and director of RiverCulture, Montague’s arts and business organization. LoManto also thanked FirstLight Hydro Generating Co. for providing funding to commission Peters.

The painting depicts Indigenous people gathering fish, but is rich with symbolism in every inch of the work.

The land shown in the background is in the shape of a turtle as a reference to Turtle Island, an Indigenous creation story. People in the background are simply “enjoying their lives,” Peters said, noting that he didn’t want to paint a massacre, even though the village of Turners Falls is named after Capt. William Turner, who led the Great Falls Massacre where 300 Native American women, children and elders were killed.

“This is also how we hope to enjoy our lives in the future,” Peters said.

After being commissioned, Peters visited Montague and learned the Indigenous history of the area. He borrowed the idea of salmon as shadows from another artist, and from there, the painting took off.

“It was a journey for me to be able to do this,” he said.

Peters explained he was drawn to this area’s Indigenous stories because they are similar to ones of his nation. The Mashpee Wampanoag tell a story of how a giant named Moshup created Cape Cod. People in western Massachusetts nations tell a story of how a giant beaver formed the mountain ranges.

“Cultures who witnessed the glaciers all have stories with giants,” said Peters.

He painted a vast sky because that is what he experienced while visiting Montague in preparation for making the painting. Geese fly at the top of the piece for the same reason, as Peters watched geese fly overhead while sitting on the grass during the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival.

“I don’t go looking for significance,” Peters said, “but sometimes the creator beats me up.”

Echoing LoManto and Peters, Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz said the painting is part of a larger process of reconciling with Montague’s past. By hanging the painting in Town Hall, it will serve as an educational tool for residents to learn about what life was like before colonization.

“To understand what has happened in the past, we need to educate ourselves and the youth,” Kuklewicz said.

“Being able to contribute to this consciousness is a gift,” Peters added, saying he is glad he can assist in educating people about what Indigenous life was like before Montague was incorporated.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or


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