O’siyo. By now many people know that it was the Wampanoag Tribe who had first contact with the Mayflower pilgrims. But not many know about the historical relationship between the Wampanoag and Harvard University dating back to the 1600s. Harvard University recently honored members of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes by hosting a dinner to commemorate the long-established relationship between the tribes and the university. Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, a member of the Wampanoag tribe, was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College, in 1665.
Excerpt: Wampanoags and Harvard Celebrate Historic Ties by G. C. Toensing, ICTMN
“Harvard University hosted the leaders of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes at a clambake at the Harvard Faculty Club February 7 to honor the longstanding relationship between America’s first institution of higher learning and the indigenous people of the territory on which it is built.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and Harvard University have ties that go all the way back to the university’s earliest days, Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement. It’s important to celebrate that connection and look for ways that we can work together in the future.
T.J. Vanderhoop, chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), is a 2008 graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. While I was at the Kennedy School, I cherished the opportunities and knowledge that I could then bring back to my community.
The university’s relationship with Natives goes back to its earliest days. Harvard College was founded in 1636 and struggled financially in its early years until the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England stepped in, raising money and granting funds for the education of Indian boys at the university, according to a Harvard website. The Society’s funds were also used to construct the Indian College, Harvard’s first brick building, in 1655.
The College, in turn promised to waive tuition and provide housing for American Indian students,” according to a Peabody Museum at Harvard website.
Two Native students attended Harvard sometime during the 1650s: John Sassomon, and James Printer, an apprentice in the production of Eliot’s Indian Bible, according to the website.
Native students who attended the Indian College included John Wampus, who departed before graduation, and Joel Iacoomes, and Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, both members of the Wampanoag Tribe of Martha’s Vineyard. Cheeshahteaumuck was a member of Harvard’s Class of 1665, but Iacoomes died just before graduation.”
“Without the Wampanoag, Harvard would not exist today. We actually saved Harvard,” ~ Tiffany Smalley~ Wampanoag Tribe.
Kudos to the Wampanoag for their strength and courage! Kudos to Harvard for honoring the promise.