12/9/04: NORTH GRAFTON: Professor Stephen Mrozowski from the University of Massachusetts at Boston  reported to a standing-room-only crowd of 135 people at the Community Barn Thursday night (December 2nd) about archeological findings on 200 acres of town-owned land known as the Hassanamesit Woods, one of the largest Indian Praying Villages in Massachusetts. According to Professor Mrozowski, the Town of Grafton has an historic treasure that can be preserved as an educational resource.

From the beginning of October through Nov. 19, Hassanamesit Woods was the site of an archeological investigation led by Mr. Mrozowski and conducted by a group of students and  volunteers. The investigation was overseen by field supervisor Jack Gary, a graduate student at UMass-Boston. The team was charged with gathering information that would be used to assist the town in managing the property in the future. They found  — signs of habitation from the 18th and early 19th centuries — but traces of life prior to that, specific evidence of the praying village in the 17th century, still eludes them. (Thanks for submission to John LaPoint)

Grafton, May 12, 2004:

Grafton Recognizes National Tourism Week with Friday, May 14th Hassanamesit Village 350th Anniversary Events

GRAFTON, MASSACHUSETTS: The week of May 8th to May 16th is National Tourism Week, an opportunity to renew our appreciation for the natural, cultural and historic treasures of our nation. This annual event, now in it’s 21st year, is coordinated by the Travel Industry Association of America. (TIA) Massachusetts will celebrate National Tourism Week with Massachusetts Tourism Day on Wednesday, May 12th at State House ceremonies in Boston.

Grafton has several significant tourist treasures, and in 2004 we invite everyone to join with us to showcase our newest natural and historic asset in a very big way. Ceremonies commemorating the 350th Anniversary of the founding of the Indian Village at Hassanamesit will be held on the historic Grafton Common on Friday, May 14th. The ceremonies also celebrate the recent purchase of the original site of the Hassanamesit village center, 200 acres of land off Keith Hill Road in Grafton, believed to contain the site of the original Hassanamesit Meeting House, by The Trust for Public Land for $2.1 million in February, 2004. Historic and cultural exhibits, featuring a display of the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council History Boards at the Evangelical Congregational Church, next to the Grafton Common, start at 4:30 PM. The anniversary program begins promptly at 5:00 PM and concludes at 6:00 PM. In the event of heavy rain, the program will be held at the Grafton Municipal Center Auditorium on Providence Road. Announcements will be made on area radio stations.

National Park Service Ranger John McNiff will portray the Reverend John Eliot, who on May 14, 1654, was granted permission from the Massachusetts Colony for the formation of a Praying Indian Village which was called Hassanamesit. This was one of a series of villages formed to house Christianized Native Americans, where they were to live following English customs and religion, and along with Natick was one of only two villages which grew to be granted “church” status. Much of Hassanamesit was later purchased by English settlers and became the town of Grafton.

James Edward Hood, the Director of Research, Collections and the Library at Old Sturbridge Village will discuss the historical context of the Hassanamesit 350th Anniversary Event. Mr. Hood played a key role in Sturbridge Village’s exhibit, “The Enduring People: Native American Life in Central New England." The exhibit challenges the commonly held belief that Native Americans disappeared from New England centuries ago and, drawing both on historical records and on the memories of local Native Americans, tells the story of the area's Native Americans and places the museum's artifacts in context.

Walter A. Vickers, Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council Chief Natachman will perform The Calumet Ceremony, the traditional Nipmuc Peace Pipe Ceremony, to begin the anniversary events. Bruce Curliss of the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council and Ken Crater of the Grafton Land Trust will serve as master of ceremonies.
                               
Traditional 1600’s Puritan Psalm Singing will be performed by the Grafton Ecumenical Choir, under the direction of Pat Knowlton. Native American Music will be performed by the Quabbin Lake Singers, a Nipmuc family drum group familiar to many in the region. The Quabbin Lake Singers have appeared at the Peabody Museum in Cambridge, Boston Children’s Museum, Hartford School of the Performing Arts and numerous pow-wows and Native gatherings from Canada to Virginia. At the 2002 Native American pow-wow hosted in Washington by the Museum of the American Indian, Quabbin Lake Singers were recognized as honored guests.

Another facet of the story of Hassanamesit is the persistence and coexistence of the Native American population among the English settlers, continuing to present times. The Nipmuc tribe, now represented by the Nipmuc Nation, were the settlers at Hassanamesit, and to this day retain the only Indian Reservation in Massachusetts on Brigham Hill in Grafton. Members of the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council have actively worked on all aspects of planning and conducting these 350th Anniversary events.

This anniversary comes at an important time for the site of the original Hassanamesit village. Through a major fundraising effort – still underway – involving a partnership among the Trust for Public Land, Grafton Land Trust, Town of Grafton, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the original site of the Hassanamesit village center has been purchased by The Trust for Public Land. The ownership of the 200-acre site will be transferred to the Town of Grafton, subject to conservation restrictions held by the Commonwealth and Grafton Land Trust, for public education and recreation.

The 350th Anniversary Committee includes representatives of the Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council, Grafton Town Officials, members of the Grafton Land Trust, Grafton Historic Commission, John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, The Trust for Public Land, Worcester Historical Museum and local civic, cultural and youth groups. They have been meeting to plan a series of town-wide celebrations of the event. Several other events will be included in the year long 350th Anniversary Commemoration, including the 51st annual Native American Fair at the Nipmuc Brigham Hill Reservation on Sunday, July25, 2004.                           

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Hassanamesit 350th Anniversary Ceremonies
May 14th Events Schedule


4:00 - 4:30 PM     Set-up Nipmuc Nation's History Boards at Evangelical Congregational Church

4:30 - 4:50 PM     Nipmuc Nation's History Board's Open for Visitation

4:45 - 5:00 PM     Traditional Nipmuc Music w/ the Quabbin Lake Singers

5:00 - 5:15 PM     Commemoration Ceremony Begins
                Master of Ceremonies - Bruce Curliss & Ken Crater
                Calumet Ceremony -Chief Walter A. Vickers -Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council
                (Nipmuc Peace Pipe Ceremony)
                Invocation by Rev. Dr. Duane Brown, Grafton Clergy Association
                Reading of the General Court's Original Order to Establish the Praying
                Village of Hassanamesitt  - Reading By Ranger John McNiff
                Why Are We Here? - Bruce Curliss -Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council

5:15 - 5:20 PM     Traditional Puritan Psalm Singing - 1 Psalm

5:20 - 5:30 PM     Historical Significance & Context of Event and its Meaning
                Historian J. Edward Hood, Old Sturbridge Village

5:30 - 5:35 PM     Town of Grafton Proclamation
                Massachusetts House of Representatives Proclamation
                         Massachusetts State Senate Proclamation

5:35 - 5:40 PM         Traditional Nipmuc Drumming

5:40 - 5:45 PM         Proclamation - U.S. House of Representatives
                         Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council Proclamation

5:45 - 5:50 PM        Traditional Puritan Psalm Singing

5:50 - 6:00 PM        Close & Recognition of Partners - Bruce Curliss & Ken Crater
                        Future Events & How To Learn About Them
                   
                Joint Reading of Rev. John Eliot's Prayer (The Lord's Prayer) in both                             Algonquin& English - Each line of Prayer spoken in Algonquin & English
                Commemoration Ceremony Ends

6:00 - 6:30 PM     Traditional Nipmuc Drum Music as people mingle, ask questions and view                         Nipmuc Nation's History Boards at Evangelical Congregational Church.

 

Hassanamesit 350 Event Summary


Background and Purpose of Event

On May 14, 1654, the Massachusetts Colony granted permission to Rev. John Eliot, as trustee, for the formation of a Praying Indian Village which was called Hassanamesit.  This was one of a series of villages formed to house Christianized Native Americans, where they were to live following English  customs and religion, and along with Natick was one of only two which grew to be granted “church” status.

Hassanamesit grew and prospered up until the time of the Native American uprising known as King Philip’s War (1675) when it was temporarily abandoned and many of the Natives were imprisoned on Deer Island in Boston Harbor for the duration of the war.  After the war many returned to the village to farm, but it had ceased to be a “Praying Indian Village”.  Much of Hassanamesit was later purchased by English settlers and later became the town of Grafton.

This event is a commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the formation of Hassanamesit, and a recognition of that remarkable moment in history when the story of the European and Native American interaction was not yet fully written.

Praying Indian Villages

The Puritan colonists saw one of their primary missions as the conversion of the Native American population to Christianity and English customs.  Their early efforts met with mixed success, and many of the Natives who initially adopted English ways would revert to their own culture once they returned to their villages.

This led to the idea to form segregated villages for the Christianized Natives, so they would be less likely to “relapse”.  The idea took hold, and dozens of such villages were formed throughout the colony, many of them short-lived, but some of which became well established.  Of the two to reach “church” status – Natick and Hassanamesit – the site of Hassanamesit is the only one to be sufficiently undisturbed to have significant archaeological value today.

The Site of Hassanamesit

This anniversary comes at an important time for the site of the original village.  Through a major fundraising effort – still underway – involving a partnership among the Trust for Public Land, Grafton Land Trust, Town of Grafton, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the original site of the Hassanamesit village center, believed to contain the site of the Meeting House, has been purchased by Trust for Public Land for $2.1 million in February, 2004.

The ownership of the 200-acre site will be transferred to the Town of Grafton, subject to conservation restrictions held by the Commonwealth and Grafton Land Trust, for public education and recreation.

The Nipmuc Nation

Another facet of the story of Hassanamesit is the persistence and coexistence of the Native American population among the English settlers, continuing to present times.  The Nipmuc tribe, now represented by the Nipmuc Nation, were the settlers at Hassanamesit, and to this day retain the only Indian Reservation in Massachusetts on Brigham Hill in Grafton.

For many years the tribe has been working toward recognition by the federal government and, at the time of this anniversary event, is in the midst of the latest 45-day delay in a final decision on their application. Members of the Nipmuc Nation join us in this commemoration, as it recognizes an important milestone in our collective history of interaction.  The anniversary is a good time to build greater understanding across boundaries of culture and time, and to learn what we can from the past to apply to our common future.

The Town of Grafton

Today, Grafton faces many challenges to the way of life currently enjoyed by its residents.  Its traditional town common, the outlying farms, and the later mill villages that characterize its cultural landscape are being threatened and overwhelmed by an uncontrolled growth which also taxes its roads, schools and municipal services.

This anniversary, along with the preservation of a local site with great, national historical significance, comes at an important time in the life of the town.  It has brought together groups and individuals having divergent interests in a common celebration and commemoration of the town’s heritage.

Events such as this have as much to say about the present and future as they do about the past.  Even as we contemplate and discuss the meaning of our history, we are building the foundation of common understanding and friendship upon which our future may be built.



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