Tribal Chief Who Signed Treaty With Pilgrims to Be Reburied

Massasoit Ousamequin's remains were scattered when a railroad was built
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 14, 2017 4:04 PM CDT
Tribal Chief Who Signed Treaty With Pilgrims to Be Reburied
A statue of Massasoit Ousamequin overlooking the site of Plymouth Rock.   (Wikimedia Commons/Gkullberg)

The remains of the Wampanoag leader who forged a peaceful relationship with the Pilgrims will be reburied at his original gravesite in Rhode Island, the AP reports. Members of the Wampanoag Nation have spent 20 years tracking down the remains and artifacts of Massasoit Ousamequin. It was their "spiritual and cultural obligation," said Ramona Peters, who coordinated the effort. Ousamequin signed the first treaty with the Pilgrims after they arrived on the Mayflower, promising in 1621 in the village that became Plymouth, Massachusetts, to protect each other, according to the Wampanoags. The peace lasted for decades.

Ousamequin was buried on a hilltop overlooking Narragansett Bay. His remains and artifacts were scattered when a railroad was built through the burial site nearly two centuries after his death and archaeologists and local residents dug there. Objects belonging to Ousamequin became part of collections in seven museums. A private ceremony is planned for May at the gravesite. A federal law that took effect in 1990 requires museums to transfer remains and any associated burial objects to culturally affiliated tribes. The purpose of the law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was to allow for reburials consistent with tribal traditions. Peters said it has been difficult because there was resistance from some museums at first. (More burial stories.)

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