Historic Westport Farm Comes Back to Life

Photo by Merri Cyr; Article Ted Hayed in East Bay RI Newsletter

Wainer Farm was once owned by Paul Cuffe

A lot of people don’t know about Native American culture; they may be interested, but they don’t know where to learn. And so we wanted to tie it all in together. – Robert Cox

Over the last five decades, vines and thickets real and metaphorical have all but claimed the old Wainer Farm on Drift Road, closing off and choking out an irreplaceable piece of Westport’s history.

But now, a descendent of the prominent Westport family that purchased the farm from Paul Cuffe 225 years ago this year is working to reclaim the land from time’s weeds.

Robert Cox, a Pocasset Pokanoket, has spent the past year working on a plan to resurrect the old farm, which today totals about 52 acres but was once three times that size, running west from the East Branch of the Westport River all the way to Main Road.

Though it has been fallow for years, the farm holds an important place in early Westport history.

Paul Cuffe, the noted African American businessman, sailor and Quaker who founded the nation’s first integrated school in Westport, purchased the property for his business partner and brother-in-law, Michael Wainer, and sister Mary Wainer, in 1799, and sold it to Michael in 1800. Once worked as an operating farm, the property has remained in the Wainer family ever since and today is owned by an LLC comprised of Wainer descendents George Wortham Jr., Jesse Williams III and Jessye Williams, Cox’s cousins.

After learning about his roots over the past several years, Cox has found himself as the lead person on the restoration effort, which will see the property take on a new role.

A fireman by trade, he has spent about a year working to clear the land, establish relationships with non-profits, the town, educators and others, like foresters and botanists, and hopes to turn the property into a historical and environmental education center, meeting place and a place of peaceful, quiet reflection.

“We want to share the history of the family, the history of the tribe, and just have a general gathering place where people can network and get in touch with the land,” he said.

“Since the 1700s there has always been community back up there — it’s always been a gathering spot. So I wanted to bring back that concept, to be able to teach and share somewhere where children and parents can come and learn. A lot of people don’t know about Native American culture; they may be interested, but they don’t know where to learn. And so we wanted to tie it all in together.”

How that mission is served remains to be seen, as it will take many more months for Cox’s vision to come into focus. But he hopes to develop relationships with area environmental organizations like the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and farmers and others, and set up a series of outdoor classrooms where people can learn about herbal medicine, foraging, botany and farming. Further, there are plans to make the land available to others who wish to use it and whose goal jibes with the owners’, valuing education, respect for history, and the environment.

“We plan on having a lot of events, not just for tribal members, but for everybody,” he said. “It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take money. But we want to be able to give people who come out of there something more than they came in with whether it’s understanding, the opening of eyes, or something as simple as a recipe, a medicinal plant they didn’t know about, or a relaxed mind.”

Betty Slade, a Westport historian who knew Cox’s father well, said his stewardship over the land has been inspiring, after having seen it sit unused for so long. She said it’s not surprising he’s been received with open arms by local environmental and historical organizations, and many of his neigbhbors, as he seeks to open up and preserve the land and establish programming and a public presence there.

“It’s remarkable what he’s done in such a short amount of time,” she said. “It’s been really great to see, and very exciting.”

If you’d like to read more about the land, Paul Cuffe, or Cox’s plans, see paulcuffe.org or pocassetpokanoket.com.

PPLT Receives Community Grant to Host Big Drum Powwow in Tiverton

The Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust (PPLT) received a Community Grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to host a Big Drum Powwow in Tiverton. The local community will be invited to the event in the hope of bringing Native and non-Native people closer together.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the state’s largest funder of RI nonprofit organizations. It was organized at the Rhode Island Hospital Trust Co. in June 1916 by a small group of prominent Rhode Islanders and was modeled after the first community foundation established in Cleveland two years earlier. The Foundation’s Community Grants program supports community-making efforts that make unique and important things happen at the intersection of people and places.

“We are grateful for the RI Foundation for supporting this endeavor and look forward to sharing our traditions,” says Chief Sequan Pijaki, Chairman of the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation and founder of PPLT.

Paul Cuffe Day at Westport Elementary

In conjunction with the Westport Historical Society, Chief Two Running Elk of the Cuffe Clan of the Pocasset tribe celebrated Paul Cuffe Day with the students of Westport Elementary on January 17, 2024, Paul Cuffe’s birthday. Westport Elementary School in Westport, MA was the first racially integrated school in the United States. Paul Cuffe (1759-1817) was of African American and Native American descent, born on Cuttyhunk Island, and he later made his home in Westport. He was a Quaker who fought against slavery and sought out tolerance.

Chief Two Running Elk’s presentation included talk of his uncle’s life and the tribe, encouraging the students to be anything they want using his uncle as an example. He also spoke on the important of being kind, to have many friends all over the world, and to explore different cultures. In the days leading up to the Chief’s visit, students were taught lessons about Paul Cuffe. The program has been going on for 4 years.

Mass Humanities Awards the Indigenous Peoples Network an Expand Massachusetts Stories Grant

The Indigenous Peoples Network has been selected as a grantee by the Expand Massachusetts Stories Initiative of the Massachusetts Humanities Foundation. The grant will fund “Black and Red: The Dilemma of African American-Indigenous Identity in Massachusetts,” a 30-minute film will explore the racial identity of African American-Indigenous members of the Pocasset Wampanoag of the Pokanoket Nation. It was among 42 grantees for cultural projects that include exhibits, documentaries, oral histories and public events. The film will be presented to community and educational members on the campus of Nichols College in Dudley, MA in fall 2024, with opportunity for public discussion. The project will be sponsored by the Pocasset Pokanoket Land Trust.

Impressed with Mass Humanities’ commitment to an accurate and inclusive telling of Massachusetts history, Chief George Spring Buffalo a.k.a. Sequan Pijaki,-Yellow Feather, says “Indigenous people come in many shades,” and encourages all ethnicities to “educate themselves on what indigenous community you come from – don’t accept being put into a box because of your skin color.” The Expand Massachusetts Stories initiative offers up to $20,000 for projects that collect, interpret and share narratives about the commonwealth, with an emphasis on the voices and experiences that have gone unrecognized, or have been excluded from public conversation. Since its founding in 1974, Mass Humanities, a non-profit based in Northampton, has provided millions of dollars in support of thousands of humanities projects across the Commonwealth.


Eastern Medicine Singers bring Indigenous music to the forefront at Newport Folk Festival

Daryl Jamieson and the Eastern Medicine Singers in full regalia

By Olivia Ebertz, Public Radio

On Friday, a Woonsocket and Providence-based Indigenous drum group helped kick off the Newport Folk Festival. The Eastern Medicine Singers aim to bring cultural healing and representation to audiences.

It was hot, humid and sunny at the 2023 Newport Folk Festival last Friday. To try to keep cool, most festival attendees wore as little clothing as possible. But at half past high noon on the festival mainstage the Eastern Medicine Singers, an inter-Tribal drum group from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, wore long deerskin pants trimmed with beads and fringe, cherry red ribbon shirts, feathered headdresses and face paint.

Bandleader and Woonsocket resident Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson is Pocasset Wampanoag from the Pokanoket Nation. He said repping traditional regalia from the region was worth the sweat, especially for the mostly white audiences in Newport.

“A lot of people expect to see a Native from like out West, so I think it’s important that we specify that this is an Eastern culture. This is our style of dress,” Jamieson said.

All that regalia is handmade by regional artisans.

“George Thomas, he’s Pequot, and he makes a lot of the accessories for us and the head dresses,” he said. “These ribbon shirts that we have, made by our good friend Birdie up in New Hampshire. And we all make our own different leggings.”

And equally important for showing Eastern Indigenous culture is the singing, which is all done in Algonquin, a language with just a few thousand native speakers. The band members all hail from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, making the music a refreshing burst of hyper-local flavor for festival goers.

MUSIC: Reviving Language in Song

The Medicine Singers Daybreak

By Sandra Hale Schulman
Excerpt from Indian Country Today

The Medicine Singers – a collective formed as an offshoot of the powwow group, Eastern Medicine Singers – has released a video single, “Daybreak,” sung in a vanishing Algonquin language.

The release comes ahead of the release of their self-titled debut album.

“I took the words from the Algonquin Massachusetts dialect,” said bandleader Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson and a clan chief of the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation.

“Right now there’s less than 10 people in the world who speak it,” he said. “It was approved by our teacher, Donald Three Bears Fisher, who passed away after the song was finished. I got to play it for him. Three Bears was a traditional guy, but he really liked it. That stayed in my head, because Three Bears is a great man, and knowing that he approved was all I needed.”

“Daybreak” is a fast-paced track, using flashing psychedelic word visuals as a tool to preserve the Indigenous language.

“The people of the Pokanoket are the people of the first light – we see the light first – we are the guardians of the first gates,” he said. “It’s a tradition for us to do these prayers in the morning to thank the Creator for life. It’s a very important song, and I gave it to my tribe, the Pocasset Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation. It’s important to keep these songs and pass them down to the generations – that’s why we want to show the words, to help people know that this language is still out there and some people are still speaking it.”

The album is rounded out by contributions from Ryan Olson of Gayngs, who co-produced “Daybreak”; rising jazz trumpet star Jaimie Branch, who also did the album artwork; Thor Harris and Christopher Pravdica of Swans; no wave icon Ikue Mori; and ambient music pioneer Laraaji. It is set for release July 1 by Stone Tapes, a sub-label of Joyful Noise Recordings.

Jamieson’s passion for preserving the culture and language of the Pocasset Wampanoag is the driving force behind his music. He studied the Massachusett dialect of Algonquin with the late Clinton Wixon, a venerated tribal leader who was known as one of the last fluent speakers of the Wampanoag language.

“This is experimental art. We’re showing people experimental art from the Eastern Algonquin side of the world, a completely new realm of music,” Jamieson said.

What is at the New Bedford waterfront? It is the 5 projects in the Seaport Art Walk.

The Heirs of the Land by Marcus Cusick, Kyle Couture, Chief George Spring Buffalo and Chief Daryl Black Eagle

Read the complete article at South Coast Today
Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times
Published July 16, 2021

NEW BEDFORD — The Seaport Art Walk is back, this year titled “Tides and Times,” for viewing through October on the New Bedford waterfront. The installations were created by local artists reflecting on the pandemic.

The idea for the Seaport Art Walk began as a seed in the mind of Seaport Art Walk creator Jessica Bregoli when she was 8 years old. It started when her mother had her work with gardener Emily John, in the flowerbeds on the New Bedford waterfront.

Marcus Cusick and Kyle Couture, of Open Eye Movement, worked with Chief George Spring Buffalo and Chief Daryl Black Eagle of the Pocasset on a mural based on the true histories surrounding the Pokanoket nation.

“The mural aims to depict portraits of local Native American chiefs and their descendants showing how, over time, the nation was resilient and able to survive,” wrote Cusick in a statement.

“The Algonquian language was nearly lost to oppression of a people and their culture, and is kept alive today by the descendants of a nation who first greeted the pilgrims, the Pocasset Wampanoag tribe of the Pokanoket nation,” he stated.

Agreement with Twin River-Tiverton



Chief George Spring Buffalo of the Pocasset Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation (“Tribe”) announced today that the Tribe has entered into an Agreement with Twin River-Tiverton LLC to settle all matters relating to the development of the casino on lands of historical and cultural significance to the Pocasset Tribe.

Casino Agreement“We are excited to work together with Twin River-Tiverton in respect of the cultural and historical connection of this casino land to the Pocasset ancestors of the Tribe” said Chief Spring Buffalo. “The Casino is built on lands that were granted by the colonial government as the first Indian reservation in the United States, and near the site of an important battle in the King Philip War” Spring Buffalo added, “and this agreement respects the cultural significance of these lands, and the historical importance of the Pocasset Tribe. I want to thank Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard and Chief Daryl Black Eagle Jamieson and the support of the Tribal Council.”

Members of the present day Pocasset Tribe are the direct descendants of the Royal Family of the Pokanoket Nation, including Massasoit (also known as “Ousamequin”), the Sachem of the Pokanoket Nation who led his nation when the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Massasoit entered into a treaty with the Pilgrims in 1621 assuring the peaceful coexistence of the colonists and the Indians. Massasoit’s territory extended from the eastern tip of Cape Cod through southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island to the Connecticut River, and north to the Charles River. The Pocasset Tribe has never left its land and retained unbroken existence as a sovereign nation. The Pocasset Tribe has been recognized as the direct descendants of the original beneficiaries and heirs to certain lands in Fall River and Tiverton, and can prove so through well-documented history. There was a large and prosperous village of Indians throughout Tiverton, which previously was named ‘Pocasset’.

“Our history in Rhode Island is long and respected,” said Chief Spring Buffalo. “The Tribe itself has been a significant factor in the history of the formation of our country. There have been many books written about the Pocassets and its woman chief, Weetamoe, and all of the happenings surrounding the King Philips War, and our intent is to ensure that our culture and heritage shall be maintained in perpetuity.” Spring Buffalo added, “it is not our intent to kick anyone off their land where they live and work . . . we are asking that the governments correct the past injustices which they allowed to happen.”

For More Information Contact: Lesley S. Rich, Esq. 401-529-1191