The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council Building location:
483 Great Neck Road, South
Mashpee, MA 02649
P. O. Box 1048
Mashpee, MA 02649
Our Phone and Fax:
(508) 477-0208 Fax (508) 477-1218
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Health Staff Phone Phone and Fax:
1-508-477-0209, ext 107 Fax 1-508-477-1936
Kathleen Szmit Photos
GENERATIONS GIVE THANKS – Vicki Wakanabo, center, is joined by her daughter Elizabeth (left), and mother Natalie Costa (right), for a special spoken and signed Native interpretation of the 23rd Psalm during the Mashpee Wampanoag Native American Thanksgiving Celebration Nov. 20 in Mashpee.
Gratitude at the heart of age-old tradition
Along Meeting House Road in Mashpee there sits a tiny white-clapboard building simply decorated for the season with corncobs, pumpkins and bits of wampum, nearly blending into the surrounding hillside.
No doubt the many passersby of this little building are unaware of its significance to the land on which it rests and to the longtime inhabitants of that land, the Mashpee Wampanoag.
The structure is the Old Indian Meeting House, a meeting hall and house of worship centuries old.
The Meeting House came alive on Nov. 20 for a special Native American Thanksgiving Celebration that included timeless tradition, countless offerings of gratitude, and a sumptuous buffet of true Wampanoag cuisine.
The event, hosted by the Old Indian Meeting House Committee, began with music and prayer followed by special offering of gratitude to Creator in honor of the season.
“Wampanoags give thanks every day,” said Wayne Jackson after offering the opening prayer and opening the floor to expressions of gratitude from the standing-room-only crowd, including numerous members of the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag, as well as the Narragansett tribes.
The statement alludes to a well-known truth that for many Native American peoples Thanksgiving is a holiday fraught with conflict. Not everyone agrees with historical accounts of the day and the rosy light in which much of the holiday is hued, and many Tribal people spend the day in mourning, contemplating the plight of their ancestors.
The purpose of the Nov. 20 event, however, was more festive, and centered mainly on offering thanks for all of the blessings Creator had bestowed upon the people during the year.
Many expressed gratitude for their unique heritage, ties to the land, and for the abundance of traditional crops such as cranberries, quahogs, and oysters.
Anita Peters recited a stirring poem of Thanksgiving written by Mabel Avant, her great grandmother, after which Vicki Wakanabo was joined in a special spoken and signed version of the 23rd Psalm by her daughter, Elizabeth, and mother Natalie Costa.
Trish Keliinui closed the service with the poem “Growing Old But Not Forgotten” by Carol Lopez, written in honor of the Meeting House, before Wampanoag dancers and singers led a traditional dance out of the Meeting House to the waiting spread of foods.
As folks dined happily on quahogs, steamed littlenecks, bluefish, and delicious corn chowder, the Red Hawk Singers and Eastern Son Drum group performed, their music echoing off the rafters of the centuries-oid building.
“After 400 years we are still here, still strong,” said Tribe Chairman Cedric Cromwell. “They call us the ‘first Americans.’ We are the People of the First Light.”