Towns, tribes support battlefield study

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Kudos for the “Native Insight” columns by Gary Sanderson, which have provided a wealth of information about local indigenous peoples’ presence and histories in our region.

However, the Recorder readership may not be very aware of a current deep study serving as a focus and vehicle driving this renewed local interest in King Philip’s War, and the massacre at the falls on May 19, 1676.

In fact, there has been a four-year ongoing study funded by the National Park Service to research the war, the massacre and native counter-attack in Riverside, Factory Hollow and parts of Greenfield.

Local historians, who have had a life-long interest in indigenous history, received a huge boost in the form of this Park Service grant focused on the events at the falls. It should be noted to the readership of the Recorder, that the archaeological research team from the Mashantucket Pequot Museum Research Center, headed by Kevin McBride and mentioned by Sanderson, did not just drop out of the sky to undertake an expensive new study of the war and its impact on the region now known as Franklin County.

The Town of Montague, with strong support from the Town of Gill, applied for, and has received thus far, close to $140,000 to study this massacre and counter-attack involving colonial settlers and indigenous people from more than a dozen tribes.

Under the umbrella of this grant, an advisory board was formed to hire the team of Kevin McBride’s military terrain experts, and to oversee the progress of this research team.

This board has set a unique, even ground-breaking, template for collaboration between towns and tribes. Members of the board include historical commissioners from five towns, within whose modern-day boundaries the events took place: Montague, Greenfield, Gill, Deerfield and Northfield. In addition, representatives from four tribes have been actively participating in every monthly meeting: the Aquinnah Wampanoag, the Narragansett, the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuc Indians and the Elnu Abenaki.

Over the past four years of this focused study has come new information relating to the approach and retreat routes of the colonial forces, the depth and size of the tribal counter-attack, the heretofore ignored planning and tactical strategies of the tribal soldiers, the on-going generational trauma endured by our regional indigenous people, the fates of the colonial survivors and more.

The monthly board meetings, held at Montague Town Hall every first Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., are open to the public. The findings of the research team, as well as agendas and other updates, can be found on the Town of Montague’s website: www.montague-ma.gov/

David Brule