Stockbridge-Munsee Community, Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Williamstown, MA
Last year I took two American Studies courses and I had the opportunity to learn more about Indigenous issues. With the knowledge that I gained from these classes, I knew I wanted to take part in decolonial efforts; and interning remotely at the Stockbridge-Munsee Historic Preservation Extension Office reaffirmed my desire to pursue a career in public service and, most likely, major in American Studies.
At the start of my internship, I was feeling confident because I had just finished up a research position on the history of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation in what we now call Williamstown. For the majority of my summer, I worked on state nominations of Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican sites in the Stockbridge Main Street Historic District. The forms were surprisingly technical and time-consuming. In order to fill out certain sections, I had to learn more about archaeology and use mapping sites like MACRIS, of which I knew absolutely nothing about. The part I enjoyed the most was putting together a biography of the members of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community who owned the land. Discovering information about the people and sites was really interesting, and putting together narratives felt rewarding. One of the sites was previously owned by the Historic Preservation Manager Bonney Hartley’s direct ancestor, which made the work I was doing feel all the more real. Knowing that I was helping preserve sites historically and culturally important to the Stockbridge-Munsee community helped motivate me to put in my all. By the end of the internship, I had successfully compiled three state nominations that would eventually be used for a National Register nomination.
I also drafted a claim letter to notify the Berkshire Museum of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community’s intent to repatriate a culturally important item that the museum was in possession of. I then met with the Collections Experience Manager at the Berkshire Museum to discuss the items we were interested in claiming. After the meeting, we both agreed on claiming another item at the Berkshire Museum as “cultural patrimony” under NAGPRA, and I incorporated this into the claim letter as well. With the updated claim letter and the positive outcome from the meeting, Bonney and I felt confident that we would reclaim the items from the museum.
Seeing how my efforts directly helped a community get a piece of their history back confirmed that I would like to work in public service. Above all, I learned that I would like to continue helping people in a similar way, and I gained even more interest in taking classes that center on Indigenous issues. I am glad to have learned the skills to help other communities in the future when it comes to historic preservation or any task that requires collaboration and attention to detail. I am extremely grateful to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Class of 1972 for providing me with the support I needed to take this opportunity to expand my skillset and make important connections, and for making this rewarding experience possible.