Exhibit showcases cornerstone events that shaped America’s earliest beginnings
by Amy Remer, Martha’s Vineyard Times
Whose history is it? That’s what moving exhibition “‘Our’ Story: 400 Years of Wampanoag History” is all about. It showcases the cultural realities of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage in 1620 and the founding of Plymouth Colony. This small gem of a show is nestled in the Aquinnah Cultural Center, a 19th century historic Wampanoag family homestead at the Aquinnah Cliffs.
The first English settled permanently on Noepe, the Wampanoag name for Martha’s Vineyard, in 1641. But the Wampanoag in Patuxet — called Plymouth by the English — had experiences with the English for decades prior. These interactions make for a stirring exhibition about the Europeans’ and the Wampanoag people’s earliest contact, from the Wampanoag perspective — a voice often silenced in the colonial narrative.
Behind the unprecedented exhibition is organizer Plymouth 400, along with SmokeSygnals, an indigenous-founded and -run communications group that worked closely with its Wampanoag advisory committee. The Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council and SmokeSygnals conceptualized, researched, and produced “‘Our’Story,” and members of the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes portrayed historical figures for the exhibit in first-person narratives that shine a light on historic events with a significant impact on the Wampanoag tribe, their relationship with the Mayflower Pilgrims, and the founding of Plymouth Colony — cornerstone events that shaped America’s earliest beginnings.