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Glimpsing 'hidden history'

Nipmuck culture alive in area

Holy Cross Lecturer Thomas Doughton and Library Director Margaret Morrissey set up Doughton’s laptop for his presentation. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — To Thomas Doughton, one of the more misleading stereotypes of American history is one you've probably never thought about, but heard in various ways— what he dubs "the discourse of the disappearing Indians."

Throughout history, he argues, the whole creation of America has been interwoven with the idea "that they were destined to disappear" so Europeans, and later Americans, could claim the land. It's an idea rooted partly in Christian concepts of themselves as favored by their god over the "heathens," but also in the fact that colonists found a lot of vacant Native villages when they arrived due to the epidemics that preceded them.

In reality, although their numbers are far below what they used to be, Native Americans are very much still with us, the Holy Cross professor told a small audience at Jacob Edwards Library Monday. He said they experienced a "hidden history" of folklore and folkways, often in plain sight of everyone else, and their genes now flow through many who may not even know.

"They didn't go underground," he observed. "Contemporary Nipmuc people still hunt and gather at Price Chopper."

As a Nipmuc himself, Doughton said he rejects some things he sees in his own culture. Among them are people claiming to be "chiefs and princesses" and those who have been trying to restore the "Nipmuc language" in recent years.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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