Charlestown Traditional Indigenous Canoe Burning First Time In 400 Years

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CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Indigenous tribe members gathered in Boston for a traditional canoe burning for the first time in four centuries. Members burned a large piece of white pine and carved out the inside to create a mishoon, a traditional canoe.

Andre StrongBearHeart Gaines Jr. of the Nipmuc tribe said his group waited for five months to perform their graft inside Boston for the first time in 400 years.

"My ancestors weren't allowed to do things like this anywhere near the city over the last 400 years," Thomas Green, a Massachusetts tribe member, told WBZ's Kendall Buhl. "We did not disappear, we did not die off, we are still here."

In the 1670s, a law made it punishable by death for an indigenous person to enter the city of Boston unless accompanied by a musketeer. The law banned indigenous people for almost 330 years. The ban was repealed in 2004.

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Gaines and other Nipmuc tribe members are using the opportunity to educate younger generations about their culture. They welcome anyone interested in learning about Nipmuc history to come. Several schools have taken students on trips to visit to help educate their students on indigenous history.

While many have been supportive of the traditional canoe burning, tribe members have faced several instances of people who have approached them to investigate and give their opinions on the matter.

"We've already had two altercations, one of them a guy making sure people weren't coming to invade the space and isn't that funny you're going to tell a bunch of indigenous people here that you're worried about our people invading the space, but you know the thing that drives us is having these groups of 30 kids or more come in and have public education," Gaines said.

The burning of the mishoon takes seven to twelve days. Craftsmen are living along the Little Mystic Channel until the canoe is complete.

WBZ's Kendall Buhl has more:

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