Native American mounds a casualty of Hopping Brook expansion (Holliston MA)
By Bill Shaner
Daily News staff
HOLLISTON – Along the edge of woods that crews have recently cut to expand the Hopping Brook Business Park sat a pile of stones unlike the uprooted boulders and tree trunks in which it surrounded.
The stones were laid in an oval-shaped mound. The mound had rounded edges that wrapped around a depression in the center. Overgrown and worn, with faded moss on the granite rocks, the mound had clearly been there for years. Some would argue it's been there for centuries.
A small but resolute group of archaeologists, historians and activists believe the mound is one of thousands of similar artifacts, sometimes called rock piles, that predate white settlers. Left by native people, experts believe they were created for spiritual purposes, perhaps for burial or other ceremonies.
And soon, that one particular mound in Holliston will be gone.
The mound on Tuesday afternoon resembled an island, surrounded by hundreds of acres of deforested land. Crews had already removed a mound next to it, said Joanne Hulbert, town historian.
“That's pretty much the sad tale of it,” said Hulbert. “Bulldoze it over, the march of progress, and a little vestige of Native American evidence goes away once more.”
When the 200-acre development, essentially a delayed second leg of the Hopping Brook Business Park, is complete, the mound will make way for a road or a parking lot, foundation for an office space or a warehouse. Construction started about a month ago.
Standing by the mound, Matthew Howes, a Holliston man who's helped archaeologists discover and register native landmarks in the area, lamented the fact it would disappear.
“People need to kind of wake up and realize that native people were here for thousands of years … and their remains are everywhere,” he said.
There are hundreds of similar mounds in the area, and those who are passionate about native histories want to see more thought given to their preservation.
Curtiss Hoffman, a Bridgewater State University professor, has inventoried about 5,100 similar mounds all along the Eastern Seaboard, from Georgia to Nova Scotia. The mounds, he said, often sit in clusters – 50 or so built very close to one another. It's something he feels isn't an accident.
The only way to truly save the mounds is to have state preservation offices acknowledge them as historic, and include them in state registries. Until then, he said, local ordinances and land acquisitions to preserve the mounds are the most effective method.
But before that happens, there needs to be consensus in the archaeological community. Some feel the mounds are the product of colonial farmers removing rocks from farmland. Hoffman feels the mounds are too deliberate, too ornate in their arrangement, for that to be legitimate.
Bill Shaner can be reached at 508-626-3957 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bill_shaner.
"Ethnic cleansing is the systematic forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a given territory by a more powerful ethnic group, with the intent of making it ethnically homogeneous. The forces applied may be various forms of forced migration (deportation, population transfer), intimidation, as well as mass murder and genocidal rape.
Ethnic cleansing is usually accompanied with the efforts to remove physical and cultural evidence of the targeted group in the territory through the destruction of homes, social centers, farms, and infrastructure, and by the desecration of monuments, cemeteries, and places of worship..."
"At the time of the earliest European settlements, where Holliston exists now was part of the territory of the Awassamog family of Natick (the first Nipmuc Praying Town), who also held authority over land near Waushakum Pond at Framingham and land near Annamasset at Mendon. In 1701, a large tract of land that included the west half of Holliston, eastern Milford and parts of Hopkinton and Ashland was given to the local Nipmucs in a land exchange with Sherborn. Their ownership of the tract was brief, as settlers purchased tracts of land there until all traces of Nipmuc presence disappeared. The Nipmuc village of Mucksquit (translation – “place of much grass”), located on the shore of Wennakeening (translation – “smile of the great spirit”) was near the site of the Morse family farm, today known as Lake Winthrop. The Morses, Sheffields, Marshalls and Bullards and many others followed Pout Lane (an old Native American foot-path, now partly modern day Rte 16 and Highland St., respectively) out to the new territory and settled along the path, thus forming a cluster of farms that would eventually become Holliston. John Eliot and Daniel Gookin (Christian missionaries) also followed the path in search of converts to Christianity and encouraged the Nipmucs to gather into villages, which made their task of finding them easier. Though not as famous as the Bay Path or the Old Connecticut Path, Pout Lane played a major role in the settlement of Holliston and other points southwest of Boston. Holliston, then part of Sherborn, was first settled by Europeans in 1659 by Massachusetts Bay Puritans..." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holliston,_Massachusetts
The Nipmuc or Nipmuck people are descendants of the indigenous Algonquian peoples of Nippenet, 'the freshwater pond place', which corresponds to central Massachusetts and immediately adjacent portions of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The tribe were first encountered by Europeans in 1630, when John Acquittamaug arrived with maize to sell to the starving colonists of Boston, Massachusetts.
The colonists introduced pathogens, such as smallpox, to which the Native Americans had no prior exposure. They were also exposed to alcohol for the first time, which led to huge numbers of natives succumbing to the effects of alcoholism. With the passage of increasingly harsh laws against Indian culture and religion, the loss of land, legally and illegally, to growing English colonies, many of the Nipmuc joined Metacomet's rebellion in 1675, the results of which were disastrous. Many of the Nipmuc were interned on Deer Island in Boston Harbor and perished, and others were executed or sold into slavery in the West Indies.
The Reverend John Eliot arrived in Boston in 1631 and began an ambitious project to learn the Massachusett language, widely understood throughout New England, convert the Native Americans, and published a Bible and grammar of the language. His efforts, with colonial government backing, established several 'Indian plantations' or 'Praying towns'—predecessors to the Indian Reservation—where the Native Americans were coerced to settle and instructed in English customs, Christianity, but governed and preached to by other Native Americans and in their own dialects. By the 19th century, the Nipmuc were reduced to wards of the state that were administered by state-appointed commissioners. The passage of the Massachusetts Enfranchisement Act of 1869 effectively 'detribalised' the Nipmuc, and the last of the remaining Indian plantation lands were sold. Nipmuc communities continued to survive, and the tribe received state recognition in 1979, but efforts at federal recognition have not met with success.
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