By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Over 340 years ago, during the King Phillips war (1675-1676) the Nipmuc Indians were interned on Deer Island against their will by the Massachusetts Bay Colonists.
October 30, 1675 the genocide of the Nipmucs began.
Over 500 hundred men, women and children were move from their homeland in Natick to Deer Island in an attempt to keep them from joining other Native American people who were at war with the colonies. Ironically, the victims were pro-English Christian converts known as the “Praying Indians”. They endured a harsh winter and only half of them survived.
This is why today the row of the canoes is done to commerate what their ancestors did – row from Deer Island, across Boston Harbor and up the Charles River home to Natick. Over Columbus Day weekend the Nipmucs and others gathered at Deer Island with the spirits of their ancestors guiding them.
“We are looking for donations to complete our memorial and carry on our tradition,” said Deedy Wyman, a Nipmuc descendent.
The tribe commissioned a bronze statu
e to represent the courage and suffering of the Nipmucs, but have run into trouble with the artist, said Wyman. They are back to needing to raise funds. In the meantime the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) has given the Nipmucs a piece of land to put their memorial on. There is also a bench there with a plaque commerating history.
Deer Island has also served as a site where Irish immigrants were held during the Great Famine, a hospital, and a jail. Most recently is home to an MWRA sewerage treatment facility. It was also the site where 2-year-old Bella Bond was found on June 25. Many of the Nipmucs believe their ancestors called her to their shores.
Donations for the memorial may be sent to: Barbara L. Woodcock, American Indians Committee, 4 Sunnyside Ave., in Winthrop.