There is a wealth of Native American history to be found in Massachusetts. Find out the history of the Mashpee Wampanoag, Aquinnah Wampanoag, and Nipmuc Nation. We’ve also included attractions to visit. For more information on multicultural tourism visit massvacation.com/multicultural.
Select a region to find Native American attractions
The entire National Park area is included as part of the trail. Prior to European contact, American Indians lived on many of the islands from early spring to late autumn. Beginning in 1675, American colonists engaged in a major war with aboriginal people in the region, which began a tragic time in the life of American Indians including internment on the islands.
The Ponkapoag tribe of the Praying Indians is commemorated on MA Route 138 with a historic marker indicating the northern boundary of their settlement. It reads: “Ponkapoag Plantation – The north line of Ponkapoag plantation second of the apostle Eliot’s praying Indian towns set apart by the Dorchester Proprietors in 1657.”
Located in Arlington, where Dallin lived for a long period of his life, this museum celebrates an artist best-known for Native American sculptures. Dallin’s four piece equestrian series culminated in Appeal to the Great Spirit (1909), perhaps his most well-known piece which is located at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
This memorial will be dedicated to tell the story of Native Americans as it relates to the history of the Boston Harbor Islands, including the painful years of King Philip’s War and the internment at Deer Island. The memorial will be built at the Deer Island Water Treatment facility and artist Lloyd Grey-Nessatako, Mohawk Iroquois, was selected for the piece. Currently, a plaque commemorates and a wayside exhibit interprets the American Indian history of the site.
In 1930, as part of Boston’s 300th anniversary celebration, the Founders’ Memorial was erected along Beacon Mall on the Boston Common. It depicts early English Settlers arriving in Boston and also includes Native Americans bearing witness to the scene. Its bronze bas-relief, sitting in a large frame, shows William Blackstone welcoming John Winthrop’s party to Shawmut peninsula, as allegorical figures look on.
Foxborough Historical Marker
Foxborough erected a historical marker in 2006 which alludes to Native American history there: “On July 13, 1670 chief Squamaug of the Ponkapoags and Metacom (King Philip) of the Wampanoags met in the House owned by Captain William Hudson to discuss the limits of their own jurisdictions. All parties agreed upon a line between Norfolk and Bristol counties and the towns of Foxborough and Mansfield.”
Shortly after Harvard’s founding an “Indian School” was established and Native youths were sent to Cambridge Latin to prepare for Harvard. A considerable Indian Library was also established at Harvard, which include John Eliot’s translation of the Bible. Harvard has the Native American Commemorative Plaque, a memorial to the first Native Americans who attended the college, which is located on north wall of Matthews Hall.
Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society has a rich collection of Native American photography and also possesses a copy of John Eliot’s Bible translated Bible. Its independent research library is an invaluable resource for Native American history, life, and culture.
This Historical Society includes a history of the town’s involvement in King Philip’s War. During King Philip’s War in 1675, Medfield became the frontier town when Mendon was abandoned.
At the historic meetinghouse in Newton is a marker which refers to John Eliot’s son: “Site of Early Meetinghouse – The original meetinghouse of the First Church in Newton was built in this burying ground in 1660. The first pastor was John Eliot, Jr, son of the Apostle to the Indians.”
North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB)
Assists Native Americans by providing job training and education. We are also a resource center for housing, health and social services and other related programs.
This Tower is named for Chickatawbut, sachem of the 17th century Wampanoags. A short drive from Neponset Bridge is Squantum Point Park. Also in Quincy is Moswetuset Hummock, with historic marker reading: “Moswetuset Hummock was the seat of Chickatawbut, Sagamore of the MA Indians. Adjoining were their planting grounds. ‘Massachusetts’ means ‘at the great (blue) hills.’ With Chickatawbut Gov Winthrop made a treaty which was never broken.”
The Peabody Museum has a large collection of Native American materials from throughout the United States. Collection types include Archaeology; Ethnography; Osteology; and Painting, Drawing, and Prints.
Moose Hill includes an authentic Wigwam, as well as other artifacts from the Wompanoag tribe. The school program description reads: “come and visit Moose Hill and view the forest and fields as local Native Americans did – seeing the earth as your source of food, medicine, and shelter. Listen and learn from a legend told many years ago and visit a wigwam. Learn how knowledge of the forests and fields was necessary for survival and see if you can find what Native Americans used as a cup, bowl, and hair-brush.”
Approximately 15 minutes from downtown Boston by park ferry, an exhibit in the Visitor Center chronicles the Native American’s presence on all of the islands, especially Spectacle.
Oven Mouth, also known as Devil’s Oven, led to an Indian Cave that was active during the colonial period; there is a historic marker for it just feet from busy High Street.
An Indian dugout was discovered in 1965. As the Great Pond was drying up the intact dugout was found at the Pond’s southern end. It now resides in the Weymouth Historical Commission for preservation and safekeeping.
South of Boston
Aptuxet Trading Post
The structure existing today is a replica erected on the original foundation which was archaeologically excavated in the 1920’s, and is surrounded by 12 acres of recreational land. Aptucxet Trading Post may have the earliest remains of a Pilgrim building. The known facts present a fascinating story, not only of an antique building but also of Bourne’s participation in 17th-century events.
Dighton Rock in Berkley
Dighton Rock is a 40-ton boulder that was once submerged in the Taunton River, but became visible when the tide went out. There are markings on the rock, also known as “petroglyphs”, and leaders of the Assonet Bank of the Wampanoag Nation believe that the markings were created by Native Americans who lived in that area. The rock is in the Dighton Rock Museum located in Dighton State Park.
Freetown-Fall River State Forest
Freetown State Forest is five minutes from Fall River and Taunton and 15 minutes from New Bedford. It features more than 50 miles of unpaved roads and trails; horseback riders, dog sledders, mountain bikers, seasonal motorcycles and snowmobile users are welcome, and hunters and anglers in season. Profile Rock, a 50-foot outcropping, shows a profile of what the Wamanoags believe to be Chief Massasoit. The 5,441-acre forest also includes the 227-acre Watuppa Reservation, belonging to the Wampanoag Nation and is the site of annual tribal meetings.
At Pilgrim Hall Museum, you will learn the story of the Wampanoag, “People of the Dawn,” the Native People who inhabited this area for 10,000 years before the arrival of the new settlers and who are still here today. The story of the interrelationship between the Wampanoag and Colonial settlers continues through the disastrous conflict of the 1670s, known as King Philip’s War.
Here you’ll discover how the 17th-century Wampanoag would have lived along the coast during the growing season; planting their crops, fishing and hunting, gathering wild herbs and berries for food, and reeds for making mats and baskets. You’ll see different kinds of homes including a mat-covered wetu, the Wampanoag word for house, and a bark-covered long house or nush wetu, meaning a house with three fire pits inside.
Cape Cod & The Islands
Old Indian Meeting House, Mashpee
Wampanoag meeting house which holds annual events.
These are a stone construction most often seen in stone rows, but occasionally on their own. A large slab will be placed with smaller stones such that there is a cove beneath it. In this cove will be found an old bottle or two. Interestingly, it was post-contact Native tradition in New England to place bottles in such places as an offering – or donation – to the spirits.
Fruitlands Museum, founded in 1914 by Clara Endicott Sears, takes its name from an experimental Utopian Community led by Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane which took place on this site in 1843. The Native American Gallery, which houses a significant collection of artifacts that honor the spiritual presence and cultural history of the first Americans.
The Rowlandson Massacre Site in Lancaster is where the garrison house of Reverend Joseph Rowlandson was destroyed and inhabitants were captured during King Phillips war. This story is immortalized in the Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Marry Rowlandson, the minister’s wife. The marker is on Route 70.
This spot in Princeton is where John Hoar of Concord negotiated with King Phillip for the release of the colonists. Redemption Rock is only one-quarter acre in size, it is surrounded by watershed lands owned by the City of Fitchburg and is a link in the 92-mile Mid-State Trail.
Rock Shelter, Snake Hill, Ayer
These are simply an area under an overhang of ledge or boulders that allows shelter for several people. The locations of such natural shelters were well known to the Indians and were often improved by them with stone-work.
Western Massachusetts was originally settled by Native American societies, including the Pocumtuc, Nonotuck Mohawk, Nipmuc, and Mohican. The first European explorers to reach Western Massachusetts were English Puritans, who in 1635, at the request of William Pynchon, settled the land that they considered most advantageous for both agriculture and trading – in modern Agawam, adjacent to modern Metro Center, Springfield.
Bash Bish Falls
In the extreme southwest corner of the state is a cluster of state parks noted for their spectacular scenery and breathtaking views. Located here is Bash Bish Falls, one of Massachusetts’ most dramatic and its highest single-drop waterfall. Cascading water tumbles through a series of gorges and a hemlock-hardwood ravine forest, and then drops about 60 feet into a sparkling pool below.
Where Indians lived at time of King Phillips War and from where they launched their attack on Springfield. Springfield was the second and final major New England settlement burnt to the ground during the war. The Attack on Springfield was one of the Native Americans greatest successes during King Philip’s War.
In 1777, George Washington and Henry Knox selected Springfield for the site of the fledgling United States’ National Armory. After the American Revolution, a rebellion led by Daniel Shays, culminated in a battle at the National Armory in Springfield. Shays’ Rebellion is often considered the watershed event in the creation of the United States Constitution.
The Springfield Museums Association traces its origins to the varied collections of the Springfield City Library Association, gathered in the nineteenth century. It houses a permanent exhibit depicting Native American life from an anthropological viewpoint. There have been several ongoing exhibits highlighting this culture.
Located in the heart of the Berkshire Hills, Wahconah Falls offers visitors spectacular scenic views anytime of year. Wahconah Falls Brook flows over several smaller tiered falls then cascades about 40 feet into a deep pool. The falls “roar,” especially during spring run-off. Relax, picnic or fish in the shade of the northern hardwood-conifer forest, or take a hike on the 0.5 mile loop trail (moderate difficulty) through open woods and along upper portions of the falls.
Our Story—A Wampanoag History
This exhibit tells the story of the kidnapping of twenty Native men from Patuxet (the later site of Plymouth village), one of whom was Squanto. The exhibit, produced by the Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council and SmokeSygnals Marketing and Communications, brings to light a piece of history that had a monumental effect on the Wampanoag tribe, their relationship with the Pilgrims, and the founding of Plymouth Colony.