MORRILL MEMORIAL LIBRARY

Limited Browsing Hours
Monday - Saturday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
Sundays: Closed
At Risk/Senior Hours
Tuesday / Thursday : 8:30 am - 9:30 am
Curbside Pickup
Monday - Saturday: 1:30 pm - 4:15 pm

first-thanksgiving-feast-by-gordon-johnson

This Land

first-thanksgiving-feast-by-gordon-johnsonI was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Yes, THAT Plymouth, the one that you probably learned about in grade school. The Mayflower, Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, the first Thanksgiving, etc. I’m confident if you grew up in the United States that you know the story. Though I grew up in the “City of Presidents” (Quincy), a part of me will always belong to Plymouth. My family lives in Plymouth and I proposed to the wife in Brewster Gardens. I take my kids to all of the places my parents and family used to take me (Plymouth Rock, the jetty, and of course, Lobster Hut!)  So, in 2019, when I saw a statewide email that Jennifer Harris, Director of the Plymouth Public Library, sent out about a bold program she was part of for the upcoming Plymouth 400 celebration, I wasted no time letting her know that I wanted to be a part of it.

The program is called the “This Land” production, a play that is being produced about the voyage and experience of the Pilgrims when they landed here in New England. However, what makes this presentation unique is that the story is being told from the perspective of the Wampanoag Tribe, and it’s being produced and shown in Plymouth, U.K. The production will be performed at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, England, as part of their Mayflower 400 celebration (the U.K equivalent of our Plymouth 400 celebration). The production will have a cast of 400 members from the U.K. and 30 members from the Wampanoag Tribe. Jennifer’s email was inquiring if there were libraries that were interested in helping out with the program, specifically for the purpose of showing a recording of the production across multiple libraries in the Commonwealth. I was eager to help show this very unique program at the Morrill Memorial Library for our community to watch.

I, along with many other librarians in Massachusetts, met at the Plymouth Public Library on a regular basis to work out details about the project. At our meetings, we were updated on the status of the production by a representative from the Theatre Royal, and we worked out the logistics of showing the recording to the public. We were getting close to finalizing the showing of the presentation in June 2020, but of course, before the production could take place, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As with many things in 2020, the pandemic complicated and delayed the “This Land” production. Despite its postponement, which has been rescheduled to 2021, I still remain passionate about the project and remain hopeful that one day in the future I will be able to showcase it at the library.

What makes the “This Land” production so special is that it is a great example of how libraries in Massachusetts were participating in a truly one of a kind international program that fosters both global and underrepresented voices and opinions. It is a play about a historical event, as told from the perspective of the Wampanoag Tribe, who suffered from the Pilgrims’ arrival, and whose perspective on this historical event and the Thanksgiving holiday is rarely taken into account. The play was to take place and be produced in the U.K., and excluding the 30 Wampanoag Tribe members who were to be part of the performance, the cast was to be made up of people from the U.K. As you can imagine, the landing of the Pilgrims in New England carries a different cultural weight and meaning to those in the U.K. than it does to us in the United States.

Of all these factors, what I find most intriguing about this production is that it is giving a forum and voice to a people who have a very strong, and a very different view of, the Mayflower landing in Plymouth. Here in New England, the ancestors of the Wampanoag tribe still grapple and wrestle with the ramifications of that historical event, and what it means to them as a people today. Nick Stimson, the writer of “This Land,” took the input and perspective of the Wampanoag very seriously. Along with the narrative being driven by their perspective, personal reflections of their thoughts about the Mayflower landing, and its impact on their culture, were to be included at the end of the production. This perspective is understandably very different from the story that I, and many of us reading, learned about when we were taught about the holiday as kids.

As I worked and learned more about “This Land,” my interest in the project underwent a dramatic shift. I initially was drawn to the project out of my own personal love for the town I was born in, but as I learned more, I realized I wanted to know more about the perspective of the Wampanoag tribe. I wanted to know why their perspective on Thanksgiving was so starkly contrasted with my own opinions on the holiday. Learning more about the indigenous perspective on the ramifications of the Mayflower landing was sometimes challenging for me, and continues to be challenging to me. I had to adopt a different perspective of a holiday that I love, and had to re-evaluate the historical stories that were embedded in me since a young age. It’s not easy to wrestle with hard truths and different perspectives about history, but I believe it is necessary to do so in order to  get a truer understanding of our nation’s history. Even though the “This Land” production has been delayed, my work with the project imbued me with a new understanding and appreciation for the Wampanoag Tribe, and other indigenous peoples in the United States. 

Want to know more about “This Land?” Check out the website and listen to music that will be featured in the production on Hoopla.

“This Land” website: theatreroyal.com/whats-on/this-land/

Music: “A Pilgrim’s Tale” by Seth Lakeman – Available though our Hoopla app.

Celebrate National Native American Heritage month with these great titles by Indigenous Authors:

Where the Dead Sit Talking – Brandon Hobson

House Made of Dawn – M. Scott Momaday

Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears – Diane Glancy

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

There There – Tommy Orange

Perma Red – Debra Magpie Erling

Heart Berries: A Memoir – Terese Marie Mailhot

Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land – Toni Jensen

Brian DeFelice is the Information Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for his article in the November 19, 2020 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.

nortech

Translate »