We believe we have an obligation to recognize the unceded land our Cambridge-based businesses are built upon with a Land Acknowledgement.
We are on the traditional territory of the Massachusett people. We honor the original owners of this land and also offer respect to the Pawtucket, Nipmuck, and Wampanoag tribes.
Although we strive to be accountable with this acknowledgement, we understand it changes little and is not enough, as harm continues to be inflicted upon indigenous people everywhere.
What follows are two narrowly detailed examples of land and language that account the perpetuated violations of territory, sovereignty and history of mass destruction that have been allowed on the original inhabitants of this region.
Massachusett territory was the region in the view from Great Blue Hill. Indigenous Massachusett villages include what is now covered by the City of Boston, Cambridge, greater Boston, eastern Metrowest, the southern North Shore, the South Shore and the Boston Harbor Islands.
In 1657, the English settler government agreed to “grant” land ownership of a traditional territory called Ponkapoag. It was not to exceed 6,000 acres of land, an absurd reduction of land for what had been the traditional territory for the Massachusett tribe. Here, various tribes, including the Massachusett were forced to settle, weakening ethnic identities. Ponkapoag, for example, became the new place-based identity. People traditionally took their names from the place where they dwelled and not the opposite. Therefore the move to Ponkapoag prompted the indigenous tribes to now be called Ponkapoags; a similar land deal (of 2000 acres) was fixed in Natick. These lands were sold in the early nineteenth century, leaving no remaining central traditional territory for indigenous Massachusett people.
The Ponkapoag Massachusett, descendants of the Ponkapoag Plantation, received “state recognition” in the 1970’s along with the Natick Massachusett-Nipmuc. All current members of the Massachusett tribes descend from either one of these two traditional indigenous communities, and to this day, have no legal central territory.
The Massachusett tribe spoke their own dialect which belongs to the Algonquian languages family. The language faded in the 1750’s due to the requirement that English (Puritan) law and customs be followed, and that the people at Ponkapoag and Natick convert to Christianity.
The language went extinct sometime in the 1890’s with the death of it’s last speaker, even though it was shared with and related to that of several other tribes in the region.
Whose land do you currently live on?
Individually, you can take your first steps in honoring indigenous and native lands by learning more about the land you currently live on and occupy. Take this step by visiting Native Land Digital’s interactive Native Land map.
- What are the names of past and present Indigenous people connected to the land you reside on and occupy?
- What are the correct pronunciations for tribal names and places in your area?
- What is the history of the land?
- How do you make meaning of your place within this history?
- How can you honor indigenous communities in your actions moving forward?
Learn more about the indigenous peoples of greater Boston:
- Mashpee Wampanoag
- Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness
- North American Indian Center of Boston
Learn more about Land Acknowledgements
The purpose of a Land Acknowledgment statement is to show respect for indigenous peoples, recognize their enduring relationship to the land, and to help raise awareness about Indigenous history.
- US Dept. of Arts and Culture Honor Native Land Guide
- Native Land Territory Acknowledgement Resource
- Native Governance Center Indigenous Acknowledgement Guide
Moving Beyond Acknowledgment Into Action
Land acknowledgment is only one small part of supporting Indigenous communities. Some examples of ways to take action:
- Support Native American organizations by donating time and/or money to Indigenous-led organizations like The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA).
- Amplify the voices of Indigenous people leading grassroots change movements.
- Commit to returning land. Individuals around the country are returning their land, encourage others you know to do the same.