For centuries, the remains of Wampanoag Massasoit 8sâmeeqan (pronounced oosa-meek-kwan) had been scattered far and wide.
On May 13, 2017, the Wampanoag leader who signed the first treaty with the Mayflower’s Puritan pilgrims in 1621 will be repatriated to his original burial site on Burrs Hill Park overlooking Narragansett Bay.
The 20 year quest to track down the scattered remains (and artifacts) of 8sâmeeqan -- kept in collections of seven different museums -- has been led by Ramona Peters, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Director for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe; Repatriation Officers, Edith Andrews of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Kenneth Alves of the Assonet Band of Wampanoag, and John Peters Jr. of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
“8sâmeeqan is a significant figure in our shared history,” Peters said. “He stands at the crossroad between the indigenous people of this land and the origins of what would eventually become the United States of America.”
“In the 17th century, when the Wampanoag first encountered the early settlers, 8sâmeeqan had a vision of how we could all live together. There was 50 years of peace between the English and Wampanoag until he died in 1665. That was 10 years before the King’s Phillips War, which changed the whole course of history in this country,” Peters said.
A citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe – one of two federally-acknowledged tribes who trace their roots to the confederation of Wampanoag tribes that stretched from Gloucester Bay across southeastern Massachusetts to Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island – Peters is also the coordinator of the Wampanoag Repatriation Confederation.
Over the past two decades, the confederation has been focused on finding the remains of 8sâmeeqan, which had been removed from his original Burr Hill Park burial site in 1851 to make way for railroad construction.
Through painstaking historical detective work, the Confederation was able to recoup the remains of the Massasoit through the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, with the cooperation of the following museums: National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian); Museum of the City of New York; The Haffenraffer Museum; Rhode Island Historic Society; Roger Williams Park Museum and Planetarium; Robert Peabody Museum; and the George Hail Free Library/Charles Whipple Museum.
Over the years, the Confederation has successfully repatriated the grave contents of 42 burials with 658 funerary objects removed from the burial ground on a hill at the edge of 8sâmeeqan’s village of Sowams, now known as the Town of Warren.
For more information visit www.massasoithomecoming.com