Native Americans call on tourists to boycott ‘tone deaf’ Massachusetts museum

Native Americans in Massachusetts are calling on tourists to boycott a popular living history museum.

The museum features colonial reenactors portraying life in the town of Plymouth, a famous English settlement founded by the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower.

Members of the state’s Wampanoag community and their supporters say Plimoth Patuxet Museums has failed to create a “bi-cultural museum” that equally tells the story of the European and Indigenous peoples that lived there.

They say the Historic Patuxet Homesite – the portion of the mostly outdoor museum focused on traditional Indigenous life – is inadequately small, in need of repairs and staffed by workers who are not from local tribes.

“We’re saying don’t patronise them, don’t work over there,” said Camille Madison, a member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on Martha’s Vineyard. “We don’t want to engage with them until they can find a way to respect Indigenous knowledge and experience.”

The recent calls for boycott come just two years after the museum changed its name from Plimoth Plantation to Plimoth Patuxet as part of a year long celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing.

At the time, the museum said the “new, more balanced” name highlighted the importance of the Indigenous perspective to the 75-year-old institution’s educational mission.

“Patuxet” was an Indigenous community near “Plimoth,” as the Pilgrim colony was known before becoming modern day Plymouth.

“They’ve changed the name but haven’t changed the attitude,” said Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe who worked for nearly 20 years at the museum, most recently as marketing director. “They’ve done nothing to ingratiate themselves with tribes. Every step they take is tone deaf.”

Former museum staffers say museum officials have repeatedly ignored their suggestions for modernising and expanding the outdoor exhibit, which marks its 50th anniversary next year.

They claim these frustrations, along with low pay and poor working conditions, have led to the departure of many long-standing Native employees who helped popularise the attraction in the first place.

The Independent contacted Plimoth Patuxet Museums for comment.

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