The stories of the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Wampanoag native people are getting an overhaul at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum (PMPM).
The portrayal of the history of the Wampanoag native people, their presence on Cape Cod prior to the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims, their interactions with the Pilgrims and the significance of that time period in history, will be the focus of a new exhibition at the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown Museum and the only one of its kind in the United States.
The museum is working with the Mashpee-based Smoke Sygnals, the leading Native American creative agency in the Northeast to open the exhibition in April 2020 that will coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in the “new world” in Provincetown, where they signed the Mayflower Compact, considered the first governing document of colonial America.
The new exhibition will be located in the Museum’s Mayflower Room and will include interactive videos and panels to educate visitors on the accurate story about the local Wampanoag people and their interaction with the Mayflower Pilgrims and other colonists.
Courtney Hurst, President of the museum’s Board of Trustees, said that the real story needs to be told about the importance of the local native people to the Outer Cape and their meeting the Mayflower Pilgrims.
“We see a real connection between the history of the Wampanoag native people, the Mayflower Pilgrims and what is happening in the world today and why pilgrims of all backgrounds continue to come to Provincetown. We are the place where individual freedom is celebrated, we care about social justice for all, and the Pilgrim Monument stands tall as a symbol that dominates the landscape to show that all are welcome here,” said Hurst.
The new exhibition will include a welcome kiosk where visitors can choose from several videos to begin their tour. The exhibition will cover four time periods: Pre-colonial interaction of the Wampanoags, the Mayflower Compact, relations between the native Wampanoags, and King Phillip’s War.
“We see our work on the new exhibition as a tremendous opportunity to tell the actual stories and to provide an experience for the visitors that will make them think about the importance of both the Wampanoag native people and the Mayflower Pilgrims to the history of Provincetown and to the country,” said Steven Peters, Founder of Smoke Sygnals and a member of the Wampanoag nation.
The exhibition also features an interactive piece where visitors will be asked, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” where one of the current panels that depicts the first encounter between the Pilgrims and the native Wampanoags will remain and will feature questions for visitors to point out the inaccuracies in the panel.
Dr. K. David Weidner, the museum’s Executive Director says that the new exhibition will be a learning experience for anyone who has been taught the Euro-centric version of the Mayflower Pilgrims landing. “We will be telling the accurate story about the history of the Wampanoag native people and their presence on Cape Cod, their interactions with the Mayflower Pilgrims and how they helped them survive, the significance of the Mayflower Compact, and how that history informs what we are today as a region and as a nation,” said Dr. Weidner.
The new Wampanoag/Mayflower exhibition will include panels highlighted the following:
- Captured 1614 – In 1614, a European explorer kidnapped 20 Wampanoag men from Patuxet and seven more from Nauset on Cape Cod to sell them as slaves in Spain. Only one was known to survive and his name was Tisquantum, who came to be known as Squanto.
- Wampanoag Territory – This will include one of the most extensively researched and documented maps tracing the roots of the Wampanoag language
- The Great Dying – Between 1616 and 1619, native villages of coastal New England from Maine to Cape Cod were stricken by a catastrophic plague that killed tens of thousands, weakening the Wampanoag nation politically, economically and militarily.
- First Landing – This event was a significant moment for the Pilgrims’ quest to establish a life in New England and a proof point that these Europeans had different motivations than previous visitors.
- Pilgrims’ First Washing Day – This was the first time that women from the Mayflower had stepped on land to do clothes washing after the long voyage at sea.
- Signing of the Mayflower Compact – Separatist Puritans sign the first government document. In this part of the exhibit, we’ll explore the motivations, connections to Provincetown and the impact it will have on future relations with the Native Community.
- Governance – The unique style of governance practiced by the Wampanoag and other Algonquin nations was so appealing to the founding fathers of the U.S., that many elements are reflected in the U.S. Constitution.
- Squanto Returns – Kidnapped in 1614, learn how Squanto finally found his way home and how his return forever changed relations between the Pilgrims and Natives.
Dr. Weidner says that the new permanent exhibition is just one of a series of initiatives going on at the Provincetown Museum to tell the history about the town and will at some point be adding others to tell the story on the impact of the LGBTQ community, the arrival of people from the Azores and Portugal, and the local Afro-Caribbean people who have made significant contributions to Provincetown.
Dr. Weidner says that these new exhibitions will require financial resources. “We are actively seeking partners and sponsors who can help us tell the story of Provincetown and be part of the continuing legacy of the town and all of its uniqueness that makes it a special place like nowhere else.”
About the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum
Dedicated in 1910, the Monument commemorates the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Provincetown in 1620. Here they signed the historic Mayflower Compact, the first agreement to establish a government by the people in the ‘new world;’ which became the cornerstone of American democracy. They explored the Cape for five weeks before sailing on to Plymouth. At 252 feet, the Monument is an engineering marvel and the tallest granite tower in the United States.
Visitors can climb the Monument’s 116 steps and 60 ramps at a leisurely pace and enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire Cape and visit our webcam for a live “View from the Top.”The Provincetown Museum at the base of the Monument presents engaging exhibitions of important chapters in our national heritage and the Town’s history and oversees Provincetown 400, the committee developing the commemorations for 2020, the 400thanniversary of the Mayflower voyage and landing in Provincetown. Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum is a non-profit educational, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. For more information please visit pilgrim-monument.org.