Indigenous History of Westwood, Massachusetts
This website is the final product of a senior project completed through Westwood High School's SIPP (Senior Independent Project Program) class. It reflects my efforts to honor the indigenous history of the land I live on.
I will research the histories of local indigenous peoples, create a finished product that synthesizes the information I have learned, and teach Westwood residents about Native sites in order to combat narratives of settler replacement and educate my local community on Native history.
Combating Settler Replacement Narratives
One of the principal reasons that I decided to study local Native history was the prevalence of settler replacement narratives in our society today. Settler replacement narratives are perpetuated by books and academic texts that claim that many Native Tribes are "extinct," product names such as the "Jeep Cherokee" that appropriate Native names for monetary functions, streets or places such as "Nahatan Street" that use Native names but are not widely known as Native spaces, and, generally, the ignorance of indigenous peoples, indigenous histories, and indigenous survival by institutions, townships, and settler society as a whole. Settler replacement narratives are common in the United States on municipal, state, and federal levels; for instance, 25 states have names that come from Native languages or Tribes.
This excerpt from The History of Dedham: From The Beginning of Its Settlement in September 1635 to May 1827 by Erastus Worthington is riddled with narratives of settler replacement: it states that Native people in the Dedham area became "extinct" by 1826, which is a blatant falsehood, and that they were uncivilized people who needed to be converted to Christianity and "trained" to live like Europeans. The fact that this book is listed in many institutions as a scholarly text hints at just how prevalent settler replacement narratives, and blatant racism towards Native people (which is made apparent by even the names of American sports teams), are in our society.
Although the act of saying "Nahatan Street" over and over again without recognizing who it refers to does not have exactly the same effect as writing the racist rhetoric that is mentioned in the excerpt above, it is still a form of settler replacement. Every time a piece of mail arrives at Westwood High School, it has the street name of a Native person on it; every time you look at your GPS and it tells you to take a left on Nahatan Street from High Street (which is quite a scary turn, I might add), you see the name of a Native person; every time you walk into that T.J. Maxx on Nahatan Street near Norwood Center, you see the name of a Native person, but almost never do you process that information when they commit simple acts such as turning or shopping. After looking through this website, though, you may have learned more about the name Nahatan: you will have learned about the family's influence throughout the Westwood and Newton/Wellesley areas, and you will have learned about the land deeds that he signed. My hope is that after reading through the information on this website, you will have understood much more about the land that you live on, and maybe, just maybe, you'll think of William Nahatan the next time you turn onto Nahatan Street.