Mount Grace completed its 1st Cultural Respect and Use Agreement with the Nipmuc for the Huppert Conservation Area in Petersham MA.
A Welcome Start to Dialog: New Partnership with the Nipmuc
The Nipmuc people have been stewards of the eastern woodlands for thousands of years but have been largely barred from doing so today. The Nipmuc’s sustainable management practices help the ecosystem thrive. With the spread of colonialism, however, almost all Nipmuc land was unfairly taken, and policies were created that suppressed native land ownership. The Nipmuc lost more than just acres. Since their lives are deeply connected to the land and to nature, land loss impacted their language, culture, ceremony, and connections to their ancestors. Mount Grace deeply respects and values the Nipmuc connections to their land, which includes much of the Quabbin region. We are committed to exploring how we might play a role in helping the Nipmuc regain critical land access.
Working with Fred Freeman of Nipmuk Cultural Preservation, Inc., we began discussing possible joint projects and programs that could reconnect the land to the Nipmuc. One of the first was a model Cultural Use and Respect Agreement for the Huppert Conservation Area in Petersham, MA. There is archeological evidence that the Nipmuc historically lived in the eastern Quabbin region, particularly in Petersham which they named Nichewaug, making this location a significant starting point. This agreement invites the Nipmuc to the land and reserves them rights beyond those granted to the general public, such as harvesting medicinal plants, camping, and holding ceremonies on the land. The agreement, signed by Mount Grace and Nipmuk Cultural Preservation Inc., can be used by all Nipmuc citizens. At the signing this January, Fred described the agreement as “a welcome start to a dialog on land use and an opportunity for nature exploration for our youth and other members of the Nipmuc community”.
Mount Grace is proud to be a part of this dialog and is looking forward to a continued relationship with the Nipmuc and considering additional sites where similar agreements could be reached. We also plan to add traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge in our management plans for our Mount Grace Conservation Areas. As this collaboration moves forward, we also plan to include Nipmuc cultural values among the conservation values we use to prioritize new projects.
A note about Nipmuc/k spelling from Fred Freeman: Nipmuk is an old variation of the spelling our [Nipmuk Cultural Preservation, Inc] organization uses to differentiate it from other groups who use Nipmuc or Nipmuck in their titles. We all try to work together to promote positive goals.