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(Many Paths)
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Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian Accepts Mishoon (Dugout Canoe) from Plimoth Plantation into its Collection
by Plimoth Planrtation press release{byline}
credits: photos courtesy of Plimoth Plantation

Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, Massachusetts—Plimoth Plantation's Wampanoag Indigenous Program (WIP) is proud to announce that a mishoon (a traditional Native American canoe) has recently been accepted into the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, one of 19 museums, research centers and zoos that comprise the Smithsonian Institution.

The mishoon was created on the Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation this spring. The boat—as well as a companion documentary produced by Plymouth Access Cable Television—will be brought to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. on September 6, 2013.

During the 17th century, the mishoon was the most common boat in North American waters. Darius Coombs, Associate Director of the Wampanoag Indigenous Program, reached out to the Smithsonian and offered to donate a mishoon to the museum's collection in Washington, D.C. Work began on the mishoon in the spring of this year. The completed canoe is 16 feet long and can fit up to 3 people.

"As a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Native American communities, we're delighted to welcome a creation like this one that represents a living tradition among the Wampanoag," says Kevin Gover (Pawnee) Director, National Museum of the American Indian.

WIP has close to 40 years of experience in creating mishoons at Plimoth Plantation. During the process for this particular mishoon, they received input from local Mashpee residents Earl Mills, Jr. and Ramona Peters. These two prominent Wampanoag figures also contributed interviews for the documentary. Currently, the mishoon is on display in the Eel River next to Plimoth Plantation's Wampanoag Homesite. It will leave Plymouth for Washington, D.C. the morning of September 5, along with paddles for the mishoon created by WIP. Members of WIP will present the mishoon in a special gift ceremony at the museum's Cultural Resources Center, located in Suitland, Maryland on September 6.

"It's an honor that the Smithsonian will accept it, and we enjoy doing new work—it keeps the job challenging," Coombs said. "It has been a fun and educational experience. The mishoon is an invaluable piece that will add depth to the Smithsonian's already rich representation of Northeast Native life."

Picking the tree is the first step in creating a mishoon. With the help of Gurney's Lumber Yard in Freetown, Massachusetts, WIP selected a white pine. The tree was burned down by wrapping clay around the trunk and burning the roots. It was then brought to Plimoth Plantation's Wampanoag Homesite, where the log was worked with fire. By burning into the widest point of the tree a natural keel is created, where the bottom of the boat is thicker than its sides. Historically, mishoons were burned 24 hours a day, since the longer the fire was maintained the hotter it would get. Typically, it would take about ten to twelve days for mishoons to be created in the 17th century. Although this seems like a long time, trees during this period were typically over 150 feet tall and 6 feet wide, capable of creating mishoons that could easily fit 40 men.

Plimoth Plantation is one of 177 Smithsonian-affiliated museums throughout the United States. The Affiliations program develops collaborative partnerships with community organizations and provides broad access to the Smithsonian's collections, scholarship and exhibitions. "We have learned a great deal through our partnership with Plimoth Plantation," said Harold A. Closter, Director of Smithsonian Affiliations. "The gift of this invaluable artifact will add depth to our collections and help us expand our educational offerings."Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Wampanoag Indigenous Program at Plimoth Plantation is based at the Wampanoag Homesite, where Native men and women work as interpreters and wear traditional clothing. Guests visiting the Homesite can learn about Wampanoag history and culture from the 17th century through today.

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About Plimoth Plantation
Plimoth Plantation is a 17th-century living history museum dedicated to telling the history of Plymouth Colony from the perspective of both the Pilgrims and the Native Wampanoag. Located less than an hour's drive south of Boston in Plymouth, Massachusetts (Exit 4, Route 3 south) and 15 minutes north of Cape Cod, the Museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week, from March 16 through December 1, 2013. Plimoth Plantation is a private, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit educational institution supported by admission fees, contributions, memberships and revenue from a variety of educational programs/dining/special events and Museum Shops. Plimoth Plantation is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, private foundations, corporations and local businesses.

About the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian
Established in 1989 through an Act of Congress, the National Museum of the American Indian is an institution of living cultures dedicated to advancing knowledge of the life, languages, literature, history and arts of contemporary Native people of North and South America. NMAI includes its building on the National Mall; the George Gustav Heye Center, a permanent museum in lower Manhattan; and the Cultural Resources Center, a research and collections facility in Suitland, Md.

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