When the Land Speaks: Nipmuc storyteller to give online program

  • Larry "Spotted Crow" Mann, internationally recognized Nipmuc storyteller, will offer a "When the Land Speaks" online program Sunday, Nov. 15, at 4 p.m. Christine Peterson

  • Cover, "Tales from the Whispering Basket," by Larry Spotted Crow Mann. At left, older photo of members of Nipmuc nation. Contributed photo

  • Older photo of members of Nipmuc nation. Contributed photo/Nipmuc Culture and Education Center

Published: 11/8/2020 2:31:52 PM
Modified: 11/8/2020 2:31:48 PM

The rich cultural history of the Nipmuc Nation will be shared through stories and Native American Teachings by Larry “Spotted Crow” Mann, noted Nipmuc story teller in a program entitled “When the Land Speaks” on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 4 p.m. through an online ZOOM conference.

The free program will explore the dynamic relationship between land, people and nature through the eyes of the Native Americans of New England. Many of the stories can be related to the Nichewaug/Quabbin section of land area surrounding the massive Quabbin Reservoir, which was originally Nipmuc land.

Mann is a member of the Nipmuc Nation, an award winning writer, poet, cultural educator, traditional storyteller, tribal drummer /dancer, and motivational speaker involving youth sobriety, cultural and environmental awareness. Mann is also a board member of the. Nipmuk Cultural Preservation Inc. which is an organization set up to promote the cultural, social and spiritual needs of Nipmuc Nation.

Among Mann’s books are “Tales from the Whispering Basket,” a collection of short stories and poetry, which will be used in the Nov. 15 program.

Larry Buell, Petersham resident and founder of the University of the Wild at Earthlands, and one of the organizers of the storytelling event, was moved by the title story in the Whispering Basket book. “The message of this one story helped to convince me and my family to return land to the Nipmuc Nation,” Buell said.

“‘Tales From the Whispering Basket’ was a beautiful story about a teenager and his buddies who see a basket in the back of a car and steal it. The teenager brings the basket home and his mom, who has Nipmuc heritage, knew it was a Nipmuc-made basket. Through this, the son becomes connected with his indigenous roots.” He continued he related to the story and realized land, then owned by Earthlands, belonged to the Nipmucs.

Buell’s interest in returning land ownership to the Nipmucs first began in 2002 when an activist group walking across Massachusetts to bring awareness to the importance of returning indigenous land to indigenous peoples, spent a night at Earthlands.

In 1997, he continued, there was a peace program with Jake Swamp, a member of the Mohawk nation and in a ceremony, he planted a sugar maple and stated right now children are holding up the Peace Tree, meaning the young ones will preserve the planet.

Then he met the late David Tall Pine White, a member of the Nipmuc Nation and who became a member of the Nipmuc Preservation project. “I was doing a historical walk on Sacred Stones of Petersham, of which the Native Underground Chambers were part of. White’s father, Ken, suggested White attend. White replied, “I am not going to have a white guy show me around native sites. Ken convinced him to go anyway. As soon as David walked up, he knew he had come back home to the land the Nipmucs had owned 8,000 years ago. In 2007, we began working together to create Educational and Cultural Center for the Nipmucs, Buell said.

In 2014, through a grant from the UMass Architectural Department, a strategic plan for the land was created by the Conway School of Design. In 2016, two and a half acres were deeded to the Nipmuc nation. In 2019, another 18½ acres was deeded to the Nipmuc, giving the tribe legal title to 21 acres of Earthlands in the Eastern section of Petersham. The nation plans on creating a Native American Culture and Education Center there for both native and non-native people.

In September 2019, over 100 Nipmucs, town residents and the public came to a Land Return Ceremony honoring the Nipmuc people and their original land.

In 1753, the land was originally purchased from the Nipmucs by the Wilder family for two bushels of snap beans. Since then, eight families including the Buells had owned it until it was returned to the Nipmuc Nation.

The Nipmucs built their first structure, a geodesic dome, on land that had not been built on by Nipmucs since 1676. The dome will serve as a storage and meeting place.

Harvard Forest, Trustees of Reservations, Mass Audubon, Quabbin Visitor Center, Millers River Environmental Center and the Nolumbeka Center in Turners Falls support the Nov. 15, storytelling program and encourage further research on the indigenous history of the bioregion.

Funding for the storytelling program came from the Petersham Cultural Council and is sponsored by the University of the Wild, a special project of the Wild Earth Institute, Inc. and its new Sustainable Petersham Project. The program is free. For more information on Larry “Spotted Crow” Mann, visit www.whisperingbasket.com. The on-line link to the Nov. 15 program can be found on www.universityofthewild.org.

More information on the Nipmuk Cultural Preservation Inc. can be found on their Facebook page.


Larry “Spotted Crow” Mann, internationally recognized Nipmuc story teller will offer a “When the Land Speaks” on-line program on Sunday, November 15th at 4:00 PM

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