The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Museum was a dream, then a passion of Amelia Peters Bingham, in which she saw the opportunity to highlight the rich indigenous culture and historic significance of the Town of Mashpee, on Cape Cod, known as the Land of the Wampanoag.
The idea also coincided with the 100th anniversary of the 1870 incorporation of the Town of Mashpee. The Native Community embraced the concept of self-determination to show the world who we are and how we survived the conquest of America.
The Bourne-Avant house situated on Snake Pond Road, also known as Main Street or Route 130, was chosen as an ideal historic structure to start this small museum. This building is one of the oldest remaining homesteads located near the historic center of town, adjacent to the Mashpee River and the Herring Run across from the Mill Pond and within close proximity to the Mashpee Wakeby Lake. It was originally built approximately 1793 by Sherjashub Bourne, great grandson of the missionary Richard Bourne.
Since that time there have been many occupants of this historic dwelling the last being George and Mabel (Nakoomis) Avant. For many years Mabel fulfilled a variety of roles including Town Clerk, Tribal Historian, and mortician. This house was considered the story telling center as Mabel is remembered for this very important role.
The Museum is the geographic core of the Mashpee Wampanoag people. Eighty-five percent of Wampanoag people live within 20 miles of the Museum.
Through Our Doors…
Through the door of our Museum the history and culture of the Wampanoag from the Stone Age to the present is carefully detailed through a range of exhibits. First established under the guidance of the Mashpee Historical Commission, the Museum is the only one in existence devoted exclusively to Wampanoag history.
Housed in a fine example of an old half Cape Cod house, the Museum contains displays of ancient artifacts and other Native American heirlooms that form a chronological commentary on life among the Wampanoag for thousands of years. Displays include a variety of tools, baskets, hunting and fishing implements, weapons and domestic utensils. The focal point in the exhibits is a large diorama depicting a typical scene from an early Wampanoag settlement.
During the May 1997 Annual Town Meeting it was unanimously voted to transfer this building and its contents to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council.
This major renovation project is expected to exceed $220,000 and will include a new roof, gutters, sills and windows. A separate project will be to renovate the parking lot and create a drainage system to protect the Mashpee River from road runoff. The Museum was placed on to the National Register of Historic Places in January 1999.
The return of our Museum, housed in this historic building provides exciting opportunities to portray our history from our own perspective. The museum will be the centerpiece of a long-range plan that includes the Parsonage across the street, the Herring Flume recreating the Bourne Mill and a Traditional Village setting on adjacent private property.
For this endeavor to come to fruition, it will be necessary to initiate an aggressive fundraising campaign. This campaign will concentrate not only on the building renovation at hand, but also to develop new and innovative exhibits and educational programs. We can only achieve this goal with a network of friends and supporters.