Wampanoag Perspective: a wonderful visit

From the 21st-25th of September 2021, Bassetlaw hosted visitors from the Native American Wampanoag Nation. Their visit was part of a cultural exchange designed to bring local people into tangible contact with Wampanoag culture. The visit was also part of a wider project aiming to share a more holistic view of Mayflower history. The project has been made possible thanks to Arts Council England funding, and a funding partnership between Bassetlaw District Council and Nottinghamshire County Council. The visit was made a success due to the generosity of our guests alongside the commitment of a brilliant team of volunteers and staff.

‘I had such a fantastic time on this project… I thought the museum staff were sensitive and engaged. And the students asked wonderful questions’ – one of the Wampanoag Perspective volunteers.

Our guests lead visitors and volunteers in traditional dances during the cultural showcases.

Tuesday-Friday, our guests built the wetu (traditional home) which will be a feature of Bassetlaw Museum grounds for years to come. During that time, we also had nearly 600 local primary school students come with their teachers and take part in bespoke education sessions. The sessions allowed students to consider issues such as immigration, freedom and acceptance; learn about Wampum beads and craft a binary code bracelet; and most importantly, meet the team from America, ask them questions they had prepared in class and see the wetu being built.

‘We don’t want to leave, Miss!’ – one school group to their teacher at the end of their visit.

Early in the week, a civic reception was held for our guests in Retford Town Hall. There, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant shared greetings and commendation from her Majesty the Queen, and the Bassetlaw District and Nottinghamshire County Council Chairmen talked of the significance of the event. Steven Peters, of the Wampanoag Nation, spoke of the importance of the visit and his hope that local people, especially children, would explore and enjoy the wetu.

Our guests photographed with Dr Nigel Chapman, Deputy Lord Lieutenant at the Civic Reception.

On Thursday evening, our four guests shared their perspective in a seminar, to which questions had been submitted by older students and adults. There were questions about climate change, the education system in the USA and England, and about the impact of colonisation. This was an incredibly moving experience for those present and has been recorded as a resource for future learning. (This is available to view at the bottom of this page.)

A fire was lit in the finished wetu on Friday evening. Then the team of staff, guests and volunteers shared English fish and chips.

Throughout the week, food, stories and laughter were shared, forming friendships and fond memories that will last for even longer than the wetu. Our visitors, Steve, Mark, Hartman and Troy were really taken to the hearts of all those who met them. They stayed with host families while they were here, and between them and the volunteers, we are sure there will be some cross-Atlantic voyages in future to cement the friendships and understanding developed during the week.

‘The project, though adapted and delayed due to the pandemic, has been more impactful than we could even have hoped for.’ – Isabelle Richards, Project Manager

A multi-generational crowd was drawn to join in Saturday’s showcases.

The project is not yet over! There will be more opportunities to engage with this challenging history and the unique perspective of the Wampanoag Nation. Not only will we be uploading videos and learning resources to our website, but we will be hosting a virtual follow-up conference on acceptance in December. Our key note speaker at this event will be spokesperson and activist Paula Peters; further details will be announced on our website in due course.

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