Contested places: The history and meaning of Hassanamisco

Date of Completion

January 2010


Anthropology, Cultural|Cultural Resources Management|Native American Studies




This study focuses on a cultural landscape in southern New England: the Hassanamisco Reservation and Cisco Homestead in Grafton, Massachusetts. I demonstrate how this place is a significant location to be studied and recognized as a cultural landscape important to the region's history. The focal point of this dissertation is the transformation between the 1860s and 1930 of this place from a domestic landscape to a tribal reservation that today symbolizes the continued presence of Nipmuc people. This transformation was the result of decisions and actions by the homestead's occupants, the Cisco family, dating back to the late 1850s (when this parcel became the final piece of Nipmuc land in Grafton). In addition to the importance of this land base as a symbol of the continued presence of Nipmuc people, the Cisco Homestead is also an important historical structure believed to be the oldest surviving timber-framed house built for and continuously occupied by Native Americans in the region. ^ The research for this dissertation was conducted within the framework of an interdisciplinary ethnohistorical approach, integrating anthropology, documentary research, architectural history, archaeological investigations and oral history. This study also provides an example of a Native scholar reappropriating her past, correcting misconceptions about Native people, and beginning a dialogue about a cultural landscape in southern New England that can serve as a model for how to investigate similar places. As an example of a reappropriation of my tribe's past and present, this study reaffirms that Native voices can be more powerful and influential than ever. The representation of non-Western cultures through the writing of anthropological and historical texts and how these acts constitute power relations that mirror those that have defined the colonial and neo-colonial relations between peoples are also important concepts of this study, as well as the issue of authenticity and who decides what a "real" Indian is. Studies such as this, which reflect on the history and meaning of contested places (and, by association, the contested people associated with them), address issues that help us better understand the cultural, identity and heritage differences that exist in today's more globalized world. ^