A Journey from Mashpee

This December brings to a close another successful semester of the Yale Indian Papers Project’s Native Internship Program.  This year’s interns, Eric Maynard (Mohegan) and Danielle Hill (Mashpee), assisted the Project with document transcription, metadata development, record creation, and various other aspects of the scholarly editing and publication process.

Last week Danielle made the journey from Mashpee, Massachusetts to the Yale campus in New Haven to visit with Project editors but also used the time to view selected Native materials at two of the University’s Libraries.

Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, put together an assortment of Native American legal materials for us to look through — among them, law texts from the Cherokee, an original Choctaw Protest text, and Muscogee Nation session laws written in the Creek language and several manuscripts dealing with the Herring Pond Wampanoag, a community near to and culturally affiliated with the Mashpee.

One such manuscript was an eyewitness account of the theft of an Indian canoe that was sworn in open court.  The other two items were sentencings of Indian men.  In one case, the defendants were found guilty of stealing a lace handkerchief.  In the other case, three defendants had been convicted of the theft of goods cast off from a shipwreck.  All four were sentenced to bond slavery.

Currently, these materials are being processed for review by Herring Pond Wampanoag tribal representatives before being made publicly accessible on the Project’s Native Northeast Portal. Their inclusion in the YIPP corpus serves to not only highlight the richness of the Law Library’s holdings but together with materials from other contributing institutions they expand the Project’s extensive collection of legal materials.

The original intent of the visit to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library was to view some of the Ezra Stiles Papers, in particular, some of his mid-18th-century maps of Mashpee (far left).  This collection, however, is being conserved and is temporarily unavailable for viewing.  Instead, we examined an 1880 Town of Mashpee map (detail, left, in blue), which differs from the older plan by including Mashpee community members’ named home sites.  These features can be a very helpful resource while reading the Portal’s Mashpee collection of documents.










A Warm Welcome to Danielle Hill (Mashpee) Our New Native Intern for 2018

Danielle Hill (Mashpee) will be joining the Indian Papers Project staff as one of its Native Interns for 2018.

Ms. Hill has been working with tribal governments since 2010 in various capacities and departments and offers a well-rounded perspective on the needs and pertinent issues affecting tribal citizens and tribal organizations. She is dedicated to advancing the economic and educational opportunities available for underserved communities. She holds a bachelors degree in communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in Sustainable Development from the SIT World Learning Graduate Institute in Vermont. Danielle was also a Commissioner with the Cape Cod Commission as the Native American Representative, a founding member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Economic Development Committee, the former Senior Planner for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and a current board member on the Native Land Conservancy. Danielle is a Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal citizen and has lived in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington DC, New York and Chicago specializing in Native American affairs, grant writing, grant management and program evaluation.

Supported by funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities this year, the Project’s Native Internship Program gives Native students/scholars the opportunity to work closely with staff in the editorial processing and publication of the Native documentary record.

Please Welcome Our New Project Advisory Board Members

Toby and I are very happy to announce six new members to the Project’s Advisory Board have joined over the past year.  They replace several members who have retired, taken positions as Project consultants, or whose term has expired.

The Advisory Board provides administrative direction to the Project, gives strategic advice in achieving the Project’s goals, and advocates on behalf the Project.

Please welcome the following:

Top left to right:

Bottom left to right:

Thomas Commuck’s Indian Melodies Initiative

One of the items that will be appearing in the Indian Papers Collection is a copy of Thomas Commuck’s Indian Melodies that Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns.  Published in 1845, the work is possibly the earliest musical publication by a Native American composer.

Commuck was a Narragansett from Charlestown, Rhode Island, who joined the Brothertown community in New York and then removed with his Eastern Pequot wife to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he became the tribe’s postmaster, justice of the peace, and historian.  In 1844, the Wisconsin Whig Party had nominated him as their candidate for the Territory’s House of Representatives.

Since Commuck’s hymn book consists of pages of shape note music, it presented a question for the Editors as how to annotate it properly.  Our inclination was to have the music sung so people (especially the non-musically inclined who can’t read music) could hear what Commuck’s audiences would have heard.

To accomplish this task, a number of students from Yale’s Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music, together with members of the Shape Note community have joined us in an endeavor to perform and record a number of Commuck’s melodies to be attached to the photographic images on our web platform, as well as to provide scholarly music and historical commentary.

YIPP’s ethical and professional practice is to ask permission of the relevant communities before such initiatives are begun and offer participation in the endeavor.   Since Commuck was a member of the Wisconsin Brothertown community, we reached out to the Brothertown Tribal Council and Cultural Committee, who responded very positively.

In a series of emails, phone conversations, and teleconferencing between the Editors, students, tribal community representatives, and Shape Note community scholars, we have arranged for a Singing and Sharing of Thomas Commuck’s Indian Melodies.

Songs from Indian Melodies will be interwoven with reflections on the history of the Brothertown Indian Nation and the social, musical and historical context of Commuck’s music. The singing will be recorded and the day’s events documented. Copies of the recordings and documents will be made available at the Brothertown Indian Nation archives and the Yale Indian Papers Project.

We welcome the attendance of members of the Brothertown Indian Nation, local Native communities, shape note singers, and all who feel moved to share this day with us. We hope that as we sing and listen and learn together with friends old and new, we can foster relationships among our communities.


Thanksgiving 2017

For most of us, Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow.  A time when we remember family, friends, and the good things that have happened throughout the year.

But for our friends and colleagues in the Mohegan Tribe, you could say that a long-awaited thanksgiving happened last Friday in the Corporation Room of Yale’s Woodbridge Hall.  There, after decades of discussion and negotiation, Yale University and Mohegan officials signed an agreement to return hundreds of Mohegan cultural items once part of the collections at the Peabody Museum.

Objects include a wooden doll, a mortar, archaeological artifacts collected from Grand Sachem Uncas’ Fort Shantock in Uncasville, CT, and an 18th-Century wooden succotash bowl that once belonged to Lucy Occum (1731-1830), the sister of Samson Occom.

As Chief Many Hearts Lynn Malerba explained “Today we celebrate an exciting moment in the long-standing relationship between Yale and the Mohegan Tribe.  This transfer completes a sacred circle for us. The Mohegan people are now able to welcome the spirits of Chief Uncas and Lucy Occum home with the return of these significant cultural objects. We are joyous at the return of these spiritual objects and thank Yale University and the Peabody Museum for their thoughtfulness in creating this unique opportunity.”

After the signing of the agreement, the Mohegans presented President Peter Salovey with a contemporary wampum burl bowl crafted by tribal community member Justin Scott.

Congratulations to all of the Mohegan community.


Photographs of Chief Malerba and President Salovey and the Justin Scott bowl by Mara Levitt, Yale News.  Photograph of Lucy Occum bowl courtesy of Peabody Museum, Yale University.