The 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing at Plymouth in 1620 is still a few years out, but the group charged with organizing festivities around the quadricentennial isn’t waiting to begin commemorations.
The nonprofit, called Plymouth 400, makes the case that the country’s Thanksgiving story actually began six years earlier, when in 1614 the American Indian known as Squanto and other members of the Wampanoag and other tribes were captured by an English explorer and brought to Europe to be sold as slaves.
It was there that Squanto learned the language and customs that, once he was returned to the New World, allowed him to help the Wampanoag to communicate with the Mayflower Pilgrims and ensure their survival that first winter.
To honor this pivotal event, the group has unveiled “Captured: 1614,” a new exhibition currently on view at the Plymouth Public Library in Plymouth, Mass.
Conceptualized, researched and edited by a Wampanoag design team and produced by the Indian Spiritual and Cultural Training Council and Smoke Sygnals Marketing and Communications, it includes photos, text and videos of Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah Wampanoag portraying historic figures from their tribes and telling the stories of their ancestors, their capture and the eventual return of only a few to Massachusetts.
“This exhibit tells a story that answers the obvious, yet unasked question of how Squanto and Samoset were so well-versed in the English language that they were able to communicate with and help the Pilgrims survive,” Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag and a producer at SmokeSygnals, said in a press release. “This is a critical piece of the history of Plymouth that can’t be told accurately without a Wampanoag voice and I’m excited for this opportunity to tell our story on an international platform.”
The exhibition is to remain at the library through March 2015, after which it will tour Massachusetts throughout the spring and summer, making stops in Provincetown, Mashpee and Martha’s Vineyard.
Organizers hope to expand the exhibition over the next six years, adding more significant events leading up to the 2020 commemoration event in Plymouth.