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A Land Trust’s Role in Expanding the Narrative in Mohican Homelands

Posted Monday, December 2, 2019

Almost 40% of land in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, part of the homelands of the Mohican Nation, is currently conserved. This land is under private and public ownership and hosts numerous recreational trails that are open and widely used by the public. Along trails you’ll likely see stone walls or a stone foundation—evidence of European settlers clearing the land for agriculture during the 18th and 19th centuries. That landscape history is widely discussed and well known. Yet the history and current engagements of Indigenous Peoples to this land are more hidden and less known.

Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) has been working to “protect and preserve that natural beauty and ecological integrity of the Berkshires for public benefit and enjoyment” for over 50 years and has protected over 22,000 acres of land throughout the county. With over 55 miles of trails open to the public, BNRC is interested in helping those of all ages establish a connection to the land. That connection can be deepened by storytelling. The past and present story of the Mohican Nation is one that BNRC is eager to share with all who engage with their homeland.

BNRC recognizes that we can play an active role in helping to expand the public’s awareness of the narrative of Indigenous Peoples. We are very thankful for the partnership, support, and volunteered time of the Stockbridge-Munsee Language & Culture Committee for developing language for two interpretive signs and to Stockbridge Munsee Tribal Council for approving these signs. The signs are now standing at BNRC’s Hoosac Range Reserve in North Adams and Thomas & Palmer Brook Reserve in Great Barrington.

An excerpt from one interpretive sign says “The lands in the Berkshires continue to be of great significance to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican people… [who] continue to value its history and promote public educational opportunities such as historical trips, walking tours, and history events that promote the Tribe’s presence and celebrate its heritage.”

Including these narratives on the lands we now care for promotes an understanding and acknowledgement of what was and what is. It also encourages the awakening of a wider social and ecological consciousness. BNRC looks forward to future partnerships and welcomes feedback and conversations on additional ways to contribute.