Traveling Sowams art display comes to East Providence

Weaver Library shows works of Major: Ousamequin portrait, winter settlement

Posted 9/16/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — Weaver Library is the latest spot for viewing of regional artwork presented by the Sowams Heritage Area Project, the paintings by Ruth Major on display through the end of …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Traveling Sowams art display comes to East Providence

Weaver Library shows works of Major: Ousamequin portrait, winter settlement

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Weaver Library is the latest spot for viewing of regional artwork presented by the Sowams Heritage Area Project, the paintings by Ruth Major on display through the end of September.

The work of Ms. Major, based on Martha’s Vineyard, is part of a traveling historical exhibit in Rhode Island commissioned by the Warren Preservation Society in conjunction with the Sowams Project, founded by town resident David Weed. Mr. Weed created the effort four years ago to bring the 17th century history of Bristol and seven other East Bay communities, including East Providence, to light.

“The display of these beautiful, historically accurate paintings should bring an increased awareness to the history of the land of Sowams and its people, which included a peace treaty between the Pokanoket and the Puritans that stood for 40 years. We invite the community to come into the library to see and study the paintings,” said Joyce May, East Providence Library Director.

Mr. Weed commissioned Ms. Major to paint a portrait of the young Massasoit Ousamequin and one of a Sowams winter settlement, both of which are available for viewing at Weaver. Today’s East Providence (originally called Rehoboth) was part of Sowams, or the “Southern Area” that was home to the Pokanoket Tribe for thousands of years until their displacement following the King Philip War in 1675-76.

“Ruth has done a fabulous job of researching each of these images,” said Mr. Weed. “The elements within each painting were described in 17th century documents, so they are historically accurate.”

The portrait of Massasoit Ousamequin, who met the Pilgrims in 1621 and who was reburied at Burr’s Hill Park in Warren in 2017, features a red horseman’s coat given to him as a gift in the spring of 1621 by Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins on behalf of the Plymouth colonists; “in his bosom hanging in a string, a great long knife”; a great chain of white bone beads about his neck; a copper jewel chain; his face was painted with a sad red like murry; And, as described in a letter by Emmanuel Altham in 1623, “a black wolf skin he wears upon his shoulder.”

The Sowams winter settlement depiction takes into account three main considerations of choosing a village site, then and now: Is clean, fresh water available nearby? Can the location be defended in case of attack, and is food, fuel and materials for shelter available? Details include: Quaboag Nipmuc relatives pay a visit to Massasoit Ousamequin at Pokanoket; Paniese protect the Nipmuc Sachem and Massasoit as well as their families, and accompany them wherever they travel outside their home communities; Massasoit extends a welcome to his wife’s people; Sachem Nattawayhunt of the Quaboag Nipmuc extends a greeting to Massasoit; A pet dog follows his master, one of several Paniese protectors and warriors attend from both communities.

Of her works, Ms. Major said, “I believe strongly that we should honor our ancestors and unite in our efforts to provide all people with equal justice, liberty, opportunity and respect.”

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.