Friday morning, Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers dressed in their finest regalia welcomed kids of all ages to Smith Hall, inside the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  For years, it’s been the tradition of the Library to invite these educators to share a bit of their history the day after Thanksgiving.

As part of a month long celebration of Native American Heritage, Tribal Members spent nearly two hours explaining to the full-house a few Wampanoag traditions, a bit of our shared culture and a little of the Algonquin language.  ‘Did you realize every time you say the word ‘Massachusetts‘ you’re using a Native American word?

Translating ‘Wampanoag’ into English means “People of the First Light“. The Tribe is so named because it describes the area they’ve called home since the Ice-Age left Cape Cod’s coast-line inhabitable.

However, Wampanoag is not only a word that explains the place on the North American continent that sees dawn first, but  Wampanoag is also a state of mind. It’s tradition for members of the Tribe to set their intentions for the day by acknowledging the first-light with gratitude in their deeds.

Filled with sacred ritual, Wampanoag Tribal Members shared stories in song and dance. They explained ‘some songs honor a life-force, some feathers, furs and buckskins honor a spirit, and some dances, like the Robin Dance, honor a season.’


Soon everybody in Smith Hall was asked to ‘stand up, hold hands with a new-spirit, and dance!’

The intention of the Wampanoags was to share a few of their traditional symbols of thanksgiving with the audience.

In return, one of the littlest spirits in the light-filled room responded with a symbol of her own tradition.


Dateline: ‘Massachusetts’


“…the great unifying and humanizing experience …the arts incarnate the creativity of a free society”

President John F. Kennedy ” The Arts in America” 1962


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