speakers for Sept. 30, 2023From left, Strong Bear Medicine, Daniel Boudillion

UPDATED Sept. 28: Local residents can learn about the resilience and endurance of the “Nashobah Praying Indians” at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. This free, family-friendly event is to be held at the Robbins Library, 700 Mass. Ave., downstairs in the Community Room. It is intended as an early observance of Indigenous Peoples' Day

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a term commonly used in Massachusetts and by some other states, cities and universities for what is also known as Columbus Day, occurring the second Monday in October.


 'Praying Indians'

“Praying Indian” is a 17th-century term referring to Native Americans of New England who converted to Christianity in the mid-1600s, during the initial English colonization of eastern Massachusetts. Between 1651 and 1674, Massachusetts Bay Colony established 14 “praying towns” under the direction of missionary and Puritan minister John Eliot, according to Heather Leavell, Cyrus Dallin Art Museum director and curator.

While the conversions were aligned with settler plans to control Indigenous peoples and seize their ancestral lands, these “Praying Towns” in some cases were also a refuge and seat of power for some Indigenous families, she said.

For example, the Littleton area was home to a vibrant Massachusett Indigenous community in the village of Nashope – meaning “between the waters” – under Sagamore (Chief) Tahattawan, an early convert to Christianity. There, in 1654, John Eliot founded the Nashobah Praying Indian Plantation, which lasted until 1675, when the violence of King Philip’s War caused the demise of many of the Nashobah and most of the other Praying Indian towns.

However, the descendants of the survivors of this war’s atrocities have endured to this very day, added Leavell. This is their story, to be told by two visiting experts.

Strong Bear Medicine, Daniel Boudillion to speak

On Saturday morning, Strong Bear Medicine and Daniel Boudillion plan to discuss the Nashobah people’s millennia-long presence on these lands, their journey of survival and their current thriving community.

Strong Bear Medicine is Sagamore of the Nashobah Praying Indians and brother of Chief Caring Hands of the Nashobah-Natick-Punkapoag Praying Indians of the Massachusett Tribe.

Strong Bear Medicine is a noted Native dancer and singer, having performed in the U.S. and Europe, as well as a public speaker and craftsman.

Boudillion is a historian with a wide knowledge of early Nashobah history and the locations associated with them. He is on the board of the Littleton Historical Society, a Trustee of the Littleton Conservation Trust, on the Steering Committee of Friends of Pine Hawk, founder of Nashoba CSL, cofounder of the Friends of the Nashobah Praying Indians, and he was previously webmaster for the New England Antiquities Research Association. He has given numerous talks and walks on Nashobah history. His work has been featured in the NEARA Journal and Weird Massachusetts, and he has recently published “The History of the Nashobah Praying Indian: Doings, Sufferings, Survival, and Triumph.”

Book signings available

Attendees may purchase copies of Boudillion’s book or bring their own for him to sign.

This event is co-sponsored by Arlington’s Old Schwamb Mill, Cyrus Dallin Art Museum and Robbins Library.


This news announcement by YourArlington freelancer Susan Gilbert, who is also a Dallin trustee who prepares publicity materials for the museum, was published Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, and was updated Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, with attribution to a top museum official for statements about Nashobah history.