Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Williamstown, MA
Also known as the Mohican Nation, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community is a federally recognized tribe whose homelands comprise the Hudson River and Housatonic River Valleys. Williams College is located on Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s Mohican homelands and the Historic Preservation Office, where I interned, protects Mohican and Munsee cultural heritage sites and repatriates culturally significant items and ancestors’ remains for reburial.
My internship centered on Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s long-term goal to update the National Register of Historic Places to include Mohican cultural heritage sites in Stockbridge—including an eighteenth-century experimental missionary community in Mohican homelands, co-governed by Mohicans and English colonists. This designation amplifies Mohican ancestors’ legacies, while protecting their cultural heritage sites from possible disturbance due to construction.
The initial focus of my internship with the Historic Preservation Manager, Bonney Hartley, grew beyond researching and writing about the sites and I also recruited fifty-one volunteers for a Stockbridge-Munsee Community-led archaeological investigation. The investigation focused on identifying the sites of the 1739 Stockbridge Mohican Meetinghouse, the experimental missionary community’s political and religious center, and the 1783 Ox Roast, a feast sponsored by George Washington to honor Mohican service in the Revolutionary War. Furthermore, I drafted a legal claim under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act for a Mohican cultural and religious artifact in a historical society’s collection. Because the office consists of a small team, I took on various exciting and relevant projects that allowed me to learn more about cultural resource management.
Working for the office was a pleasure. Bonney provided me with extensive support and under her supervision, I further developed my writing skills and gained experience in historical and archaeological research. Through a partner with Williams, the office was able to relocate to Spring Street in October 2020, allowing me to establish long-term relationships with Stockbridge-Munsee, Williams College, and Williamstown community members.
The entire Historic Preservation team provided insight, support, and mentorship and thus changed my personal, professional, and academic trajectory. For example, before the archaeological excavation, the Tribe hired a geophysicist to locate the most significant soil anomalies (indicating the presence of possible archaeological finds) to respect their homelands. This practice changes how I see the land I live on; wherever I am in North America, I live on a peoples’ homelands. In addition, Bonney’s approach to her work and focus on service inspires me to pursue a career in which I can give back to the communities I have belonged to through public policy or public service work. I have also decided to conduct an independent study this upcoming semester with Professor Christine DeLucia on the Mohican Nation’s past, present, and future in their homelands within the borders of Williamstown.
Oneewe or “thank you” to the Class of 1972 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this amazing experience!