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Dorcas Honorable, the last known Native American woman on Nantucket, who died in 1855. (Nantucket Historical Association)

Nantucket's 'Last Wampanoags'

by Claire O'Neill
Nov 21, 2012

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Abram Quary, the last known Indian male on Nantucket, who died in 1854.

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Claire O'Neill

With the big day right around the corner, here's one more last-minute historical tidbit:

The Wampanoags were the Native Americans, indigenous to New England, who purportedly helped the Pilgrims at Plymouth (about 60 miles from Nantucket, Mass.). Today they still live in small communities scattered around New England — but a few centuries ago, they numbered in the thousands.

Well, here's something interesting I just happened upon. At least according to the Nantucket Historical Association on Flickr, these two individuals were "the last known" Native Americans living on Nantucket island when they died in the 1850s.

"Both had been born in the 1770s, at the time of the American Revolution, a decade after the 'Indian sickness' killed 222 of Nantucket's 358 Wampanoags," the association's website explains.

The last native speakers of the Wampanoag language died at least a century ago; but Jessie Little Doe Baird, who was a MacArthur Fellow in 2010, has been working to reclaim the language.

It's unfortunate that there seem to be so few photographs documenting the Wampanoag culture like, for example, Edward Curtis' photos of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps it's because there weren't many left to document by the time photography was in vogue. Or maybe it's because we don't always value what's disappearing in front of our very eyes.

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