Event—Public Programming

Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit


Watch a recording of this program.

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What does a twentieth-century statue tell us about the ways Indigenous peoples are memorialized?

When it was first installed at Plymouth in 1921, Cyrus Dallin's statue Massasoit was intended to memorialize the Pokanoket ​leader ​8sâmeeqan (commonly remembered as "Massasoit," the Wampanoag term for leader) as a welcoming diplomat and participant in the mythical first Thanksgiving. But soon after the statue's unveiling, Massasoit began to move in ways one would not expect of a stationary monument. The plaster model was soon donated to the artist's home state of Utah and prominently displayed in the state capitol. Later, the statue was caught up in a surprising case of fraud in the fine art market. More recently, it has made the rounds from one American city to another.

In this virtual conversation with the Newberry’s Rose Miron, authors Lisa Blee and Jean O'Brien will discuss their new book Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit, which tells the surprising story of the statue of 8sâmeeqan and how it reveals much about the process of creating, commodifying, and reinforcing the historical memory of Indigenous people.

About the Speakers:

Lisa Blee is an associate professor of history and the Program Director of Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is author of Framing Chief Leschi: Narratives and the Politics of Historical Justice (North Carolina, 2014) and has published many articles and book chapters on commemoration, historical memory, Pacific Northwest Indigenous history, and public history pedagogy. She has received awards from the American Historical Association, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Oregon Historical Quarterly, and the National Council for Public History, and she currently holds the White Family Faculty Fellowship for Outstanding Teacher-Scholars at Wake Forest. She is co-author, along with Jean M. O’Brien, of Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit.

Jean M. O’Brien (White Earth Ojibwe) is Distinguished McKnight University Professor and Northrop Professor at the University of Minnesota. In addition to numerous articles and book chapters, O’Brien is the author of Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England (Minnesota, 2010); Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650-1790 (Cambridge and Nebraska, 1997 and 2003); and three co-edited volumes. She is a co-founder and past president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and inaugural co-editor (with Robert Warrior) of the association’s journal, Native American and Indigenous Studies. She is co-author, along with Lisa Blee, of Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit.

Rose Miron is the Director of the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry. Her research explores Indigenous interventions in public history in the Northeast and the Great Lakes regions, as well as American Indian nationalism and activism in the twentieth century. Her current book project is tentatively entitled Indigenous Archival Activism: Narrating Nationalism in the Mohican Tribal Archive and Beyond. She is the author of a recent article about the repatriation of material culture that was published in Native American and Indigenous Studies, and her work on monuments has been published by the National Council on Public History.

This event is co-sponsored by the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies at the Newberry.

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