First Contact: Puritans, Native Americans, and the Clash Over Land in 1630
• An immersive digital multimedia art exhibit about the roles of Christianity,
indigenous Spirituality and land use in 17th century central Massachusetts.
• Artist: Roberto Mighty, MFA, Artist-in-Residence, Harvard Forest
• Genre: 4-channel multimedia art exhibit plus ancillary videos
• Location: Harvard Fisher Museum, Petersham, MA
I knew nothing. Whatever I thought I knew about the Pilgrims, the Puritans and the Native Americans was wrong. After spending a year hiking around, filming in and reading about a 3,500 acre forest in central Massachusetts, I have come to see this as the history of two diametrically opposed — and tragically incompatible — ideas about land use.
Spirituality. Those differential ways of thinking about humankind’s proper relationship to the earth were rooted in the spiritual worldviews of two peoples divided by irreconcilable economic models.
Economics. The clash of the English settlers and the Nipmuc country bands involved the conquest of the domesticated cow over the white tailed deer. Town builders over hunter-gatherers; extractive exporters of beaver pelts and lumber over subsistence growers of maize, squash and beans.
Ethnic Cleansing. Forest-dwellers displaced by deforestation. Wagers of ritual warfare versus a sustained campaign of ethnic cleansing. Of viruses and alcohol. Of seasonal movers versus property lines and bounded lands.
Genesis. God told the English to tame the wilderness. The Nipmucs were living in harmony with the land. These were the seeds of one hundred years of armed conflict. And the keys to the fate of our world today. - Roberto