Created By: University of Massachusetts Boston
You are standing at the Centre Common, also know as the Village Green, for what was the Town of Framingham. This is unceded Nipmuc land. Unceded means that the Indigeneous people of the area never legally signed away the rights to these lands. The Nipmuc people called this area Washakamaug, meaning the “eel fishing place,” which referred to what is today called Farm Pond. The Nipmuc people used game management techniques through the hunting of deer and beaver, fishing in ponds and streams, as well as established growing areas for the Three Sisters (squash, corn, and beans) in the nearby hills. The ancient Native trail later known as the Old Connecticut Path also ran through this area and provided for trade between the Nipmuc people and other Native nations.
In 1647, English settler-colonist John Stone took Native land and established a corn mill on the Sudbury River. Other settlers soon followed. This was troubling for the Nipmuc people of the area, because English encroachment forced them further and further away from their farm land, fishing ponds, and hunting grounds. During the initial period of colonization of the region by settlers, the Nipmuc suffered a rapid decline in population due to the introduction of foreign infectious diseases to which they had no immunity and violence related to settler colonialism.
In 1662, Thomas Danforth had the settler-colonial government of Massachusetts Bay Colony give him this Nipmuc land that would be renamed Danforth's Farms and later renamed Framlingham, after Danforth's home town in England. However, he would continue to live in Cambridge. Danforth would become the deputy royal governor of the colony serving from 1679-1686. In 1692, Danforth was acting governor of the colony during the early months of the Salem witch trials and his name appears in the Salem court records as part of a council who observed the proceedings. Danforth chose this spot where you are now standing near the geographic center of his land grant to erect the first meeting house and where the common would be established to allow settlers to graze their animals. These animals would sometimes leave the common and trample the harvests of Nipmuc people further adding to tensions between the two groups (and being one of the major causes of what would be called King Philip's War).
As more white settlers invaded, they continued to take Native peoples' land, destroy their farming and hunting grounds, force them into debt, and push them into the outskirts of the area. In the face of encroachment methods, Native people had three choices: cede, share, or resist (which we will see examples of each during this tour).
Today, Native activists have organized around the Land Back Movement. They aim to reestablish Indigenous political authority over Indigenous territories, especially when those were not ceded or were taken by Europeans on unjust terms. Land Back also demands that Indigenous rights be respected, Native languages and cultural traditions be preserved, and Native nations have sovereignty, which should include food security, decent housing, and a clean environment.
There are examples of the Land Back Movement taking action here in Massachusetts. One example is of Larry Buell, who is a white settler-colonist living on unceded Nipmuc territorial land in Petersham, Massachusetts, and who returned some of land to the Nipmuc Nation: https://www.recorder.com/A1-Nipmuc-land-returned-28435807
Continue to reflect on the questions from the last stop. How are Nipmuc people engaging in survivance? What are ways that non-Native people living in the unceded lands of the Nipmuc people can support their nation's sovereignty?
This point of interest is part of the tour: Framingham Local History Walking Tour