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Thomas Morton & the Maypole of Merrymount:

Disorder in the American Wilderness  (1992: 2 hours)


In 1990 I had the luck to meet Mr. Mark Wagner (now Professor of English at Nichols College, MA, and a fine poet)---who was then a fellow bohemian with a shared interest in Native and Early American subjects, and who was working on creative projects with Cambridge Public Access TV. Before we knew it, we were connecting with Native American, “old English” and New England scholars and institutions to produce a documentary film on Thomas Morton of Merrymount---our First Poet in English and first “criminal exile.”

While Wagner was eventually drawn in other directions, Mr. Ken McKay of Malden joined in with work behind the camera and in editing. Both were my teachers in bringing Thomas Morton to completion with the further generous support of Malden Public Access TV, and an out-of-pocket shoestring budget.

As Morton himself might have said: You have to be crazy to take on a project like this, and I’ll always be glad and grateful that we did!

Just below are three Excerpts from Thomas Morton.  Excerpt 1 presents the opening sequence from the whole film, and its wide range of participants and subjects.  In Excerpt 2, narrator Jack Dempsey (onsite at Maypole Hill in Quincy, Mass.) details who took part in the 1627 Maypole Revels and some of the aims within Thomas Morton's poetry---concluding with music and dances in both Native and Old English styles.  Excerpt 3 includes an extended interview with Plimoth Plantation's Captain Myles Standish (brilliantly played by interpreter David Walbridge) about "the Thomas Morton affair," and explores "gun-running" in early New England with the views of several professional scholars.

We hope you enjoy this page’s selection of clips from this historical production---with all its learners’ “frontier technical” aspects!


            Donald Daly as Thomas Morton; David Walbridge as Captain Myles Standish; Steve Smith and Wojtek Kotas as 17th-Century Gentlemen; Historical Interpreters at Salem Pioneer Village; Mike Tartaglio, Firearms Consultant; Laurie Cabot, the Witch of Salem; Nanepashemet, Native History Consultant at Plimoth Plantation; Martha Reardon; John Langstaff, founder of Revels Inc.; poet/historian Barbara Mor; Richard Drinnon, Professor of American History; Slow Turtle, Supreme Medicine Man of the Wampanoag Nation; Revels, Inc. performers at the 1991 Codman House Revel in Lincoln, Mass. (Patrick Swanson, Artistic Director); Powwow Dancers & Performers at Pratt Farm in Middleboro, Mass., including The Circle of Light Singers and Mixashawn; Carol Langstaff of Revels North and Citizens of Strafford, Vermont; Gae Sidhe & Flora Green of The Thomas Morton Alliance; C. Keith Wilbur; Linnae Himsl Petersen at The House of Seven Gables, Salem, Mass.; Paula Fisher, James Baker, and Jaimie Haines at Plimoth Plantation; Alison D’Amario at Salem Witch Museum; Lisa Feliciano at Globe Pequot Press; Meg Wichser; Jessica Lupien; and Mark Waterhouse.


Excerpt 1 from Thomas Morton

Excerpt 2 from Thomas Morton


Excerpt 3 from Thomas Morton



            Out-Takes from Thomas Morton (1992)


        Filmed at Myles Standish State Forest in Massachusetts---where today, you can see “The World’s Tallest Historical Monument” to the diminutive “Captain Shrimp.” These out-takes from the beginnings of Thomas Morton and the Maypole of Merrymount show how many times you have to get it wrong to get it right! Mark Wagner and Jack Dempsey (“historical field mice”) hope you find these worthwhile toward your own technical and historical processes of learning and creativity.





“Good Cheer, for All Comers of That Day”:

Clips from Revels 375

at Maypole Hill, Merrymount: May 2002

(Come and Join In Every May!)


Now Is The Month of Maying

Some musical warm-up’s before the festivities: The Village Circle Band, The Wolf Tail Singers Native Drum, and Thomas Morton’s Welcome


Prayer and Purifications

The Book of Common Prayer’s May Day Prayer for Blessings—and, a Purification with waters from the Spring of Weenasimute (or, Chelsea)!


Native Parties Grand Entry

The Native American guests arrive to begin Revels 375!  Drumming by the Wolf Tail Singers.


The Wolf Tail Singers open the Main Ceremonies

More great music from The Wolf Tail Singers.


Chief One Bear conducts Pipe Ceremony and Prayer

Chief One Bear of The Order for the Preservation of Indian Culture conducts a Pipe Ceremony and delivers his original Prayer to the Great Spirit.


Final Revels 375 Events

Two Matchlock Gun Salutes, Morton’s “Song” with a Circle Dance, and a final Native Round Dance with all participants!




Late Supreme Medicine Man of the Wampanoag Nation

Interviewed in 1991

Slow Turtle generously agreed to a first meeting and then to a recorded interview about Native American life, philosophy and history. This (in 4 parts) is the complete original 1991 interview conducted at the Boston office of the Massachusetts Council for Native American Awareness (NCNAA) office, which is excerpted in Thomas Morton (above).


Part 1

INCLUDES: How Slow Turtle got a message to return from a life in business to being Wampanoag Medicine Man, and Director of the Massachusetts Council for Native American Awareness (NCAA); his concern for ecology with a future-generational perspective; the stakes of crucial change that must come.


Part 2

INCLUDES: The first English encounters with Native New England people; Native social structure and initiating trading practices; the importance of respect in good relations; tribal authority, equality and special abilities in “the circle” vs. a social hierarchy; a leader’s duties and responsibilities; English colonial assumptions vs. the Native “sovereign being” and sociopolitical rights---and, a connection to the invasion of Iraq, begun that day of the interview.


Part 3

INCLUDES:  Nauset (Cape Cod) Indian experiences of Europeans, and the first recorded (Pilgrim) grave-robbery in 1620; Native reverence for relatives’ remains; Native American ceremony, citizenship and freedom (“we don’t call it religion”); Native and European similarities in ties to nature; Native view of all beings as equals; the “lesson” in each part of Creation; sharing oneself with others as “eternal life.”


Part 4

INCLUDES: Simplicity of Native ways based in observation of nature; symbolic vs. violent ways of Native warfare, resolution, and participation by consent; Native New England life after death; “Where is Heaven?”; effects of 1600s “plague” on Native people and relations with Europeans; descriptiveness of Algonquin language in the Native Northeast (for example, Slow Turtle’s name).


Part 5

INCLUDES: How Algonkian language works, efforts to erase indigenous languages, and Native views of English language; What is a tribe and what is an "Indian"; Native American creation stories; Love, the sovereign being, and a person's gifts and instructions from The Creator; Talking Stick traditions, equal respect in the circle, speaking and truly listening, honesty and liberation; Native American vs. European political and social values, and the problematics of freedom vs. control in the colonial period; United States neglect of spirituality and culture as a way of life.




NANI:  A Native New England Story

(2000: 1 hour)


In filming Thomas Morton, generous help came from Plimoth Plantation especially through their connection to their Native Programs Director at the time, Nanepashemet, or Anthony Pollard, of the Assonet Wampanoags. The first interview done with Nanepashemet is fully provided below---and his expertise was a major contribution to Native points of view in Morton’s story.

Soon at Brown University, I learned of Nanepashemet’s untimely passing, and I worried that the many scattered and sometimes-fragmentary recordings of Nanepashemet’s teachings might be lost with time. Every person who had known and learned from him was glad to talk about their experiences and their gratitude. He was a hands-on, original, no-nonsense but good-humored scholar who helped to shape the new era of Native representation at Plimoth, and influenced the works of Ph.D.s without having one himself. The Pollard family and Nanepashemet’s parents could not have been more open-minded and supportive with guidance and resources. This film, too, ends with a long list of thanks to people from Canada to Connecticut who made NANI possible.


Part 1 - The Land & the First People
Part 2 - The Land & the New People
Part 3 - Living History
Part 4 - Continuance



            Deirdre Almeida; Kenny Alves; Edith Andrews; James Baker; Chief Wind Song Blake; Jeff Boudreau; Jim Bradley; Kathleen Bragdon; Jean-Jacques Brevard; Terence G. Byrne; Carol City and Linda Coombs, of Plimoth Plantation; Star/Bruce Curliss; Connie Crosby; Carol DeFelice; Silent Drum; Thomas L. Doughton; Cathy Fairbanks; Great Moose/Russell Gardner; Rip Gerry; gkisedtanamoogk, Miigam’agan and family; Barbara Hail; Eleanor Hammond; Paula Dove Jennings; Rodney and Randy Joseph; Shepard Krech III; Joan Lester; Barbara Luedtke; Julie Marden; Ann McMullen; Mike McWade; Elena Moraza-Pollard; Steve Mrozowski; Tall Oak; Barry O’Connell; David Ostrowski; Burne Stanley Peters; Jim Peters; Ramona, Rusty & Shirley Peters; Slow Turtle/John Peters; Trudy Lamb Richmond; Sue Roderick; Patricia Rubertone; Neal Salisbury; Alan F. Smith; Jack Szelka; Joan Tavarez; Carolyn Freeman Travers; Chief One Bear/Raymond Tremblay and The Order for the Preservation of Indian Culture; Michael Volmar; David Wagner; Ruth Warfield; Lynne Williamson; Clarence Wixon and family of Chief Red Blanket; Ronald Perry; and The Iron River Singers: Mark DeLima, Nelson Araujo, Roy Sousa, John Lekom, Steve Ferreira, Jarod Teixeira, Jonathan Perry and Paul Levasseur.





Director of Native Programs at Plimoth Plantation

Interviewed in Winter 1991

(as Dempsey & Wagner learn to frame shots & questions)


Part 1

INCLUDES: Nanepashemet introduction; population, epidemics, and changes 1616-1618; how epidemics affected Native tribes and relations with colonists; why Massasoit aligned with Plimoth Plantation; Narragansett-Wampanoag rivalries; territorial rights and intermarriages, kinship bonds; lack of colonial intermarriage; contrasts between Thomas Morton's and Plimoth's Native relations; how Thomas Morton began Merrymount; why Plimoth built its stockade 1622-23; Morton's and Neponset Massachusetts' fur and gun trade.


Part 2

INCLUDES: response to historian Richard Drinnon, who says “So what?” about Thomas Morton’s gun trade; Bradford’s writing later conflates Morton with all gun trade; fur trade as central economy of all European colonies in the Northeast; similarities and differences between Native festivals and Morton’s 1627 Revels; shared festivals as statements of alliance; Morton’s relations to Native customs


Part 3

INCLUDES: Morton's ways of "civilizing" Natives including salt; Native women, Merrymount men, Native New England sexual morality; other examples from Maine to Rhode Island of cohabitation, through King Philip's War.


Part 4

INCLUDES: Native New England family structure, matrilineal clans; inherited traditions of their belief systems, reciprocity; difference and individual sovereignty; Native religions vs. European systems; complementarity, tolerance, manners; example of tribal rivalry (Massachusett vs. Narragansett); phases of settlement at Weymouth or Wessagusset.


Part 5

INCLUDES: Connecticut trade, conflict and interests leading to The Pequot War; aftermath of the War between Mohegan Uncas and Narragansett Miantonomo; English arrange Miantonomo's murder; Native casualties and resettlements; Nanepashemet's final estimates of Thomas Morton & Merrymount: "not much different from anybody else."




Director of Native Programs at Plimoth Plantation:

Complete Original Interview

 for Kevin Costner’s 500 Nations

December 3, 1993

Used with Permission from TIG Productions


Part 1

INCLUDES: Was Massasoit a practical man? Why the Wampanoags helped and engaged with Plimoth Plantation; why Plimoth’s settlers were simply “lucky”; the consequences of imposing English law in New England; laws on the Sabbath and alcohol


Part 2

INCLUDES: the causes of King Philip’s War in 1675; reasons for Native victories early in the war; the fortunes of various New England groups in “praying towns” during the war; Metacomet’s or “King Philip’s” backgrounds and his will to negotiate


Part 3

INCLUDES: Metacomet or “King Philip,” his family and the war; Native New England slavery begun after The Pequot War; Native people’s surrenders in King Philip’s War, indentured servitude, and being sold into West Indies slavery; beginnings of slave trade in Rhode Island colony; Montop as center of Wampanoag nation; dispersal and movements of Native villages mostly according to need for firewood.



Native Hunter, English Intruder:

Nanepashemet’s Opening Sequence from

the 1991 BBC documentary,

“Savagery and the American Indian Wilderness”




Nanepashemet’s Statement to the

Eastern States Archaeological Federation Conference

November 1994


            In the last year or so of Nanepashemet’s life, his family, Plimoth Plantation colleagues and friends noticed the decline in his health due to diabetes. Everyone interviewed for NANI: A Native New England Story agreed that Nanepashemet was no self-destructive “romantic.” Rather, he was just working harder than ever, as the onset of this disease became more difficult---working on scholarly articles (perhaps a book), new lectures and public events, music, and state-of-the-art museum presentations, which then were becoming the Plimoth exhibits called Irreconcilable Differences. But Nanepashemet, while taking his highly-regarded dancing that year to the Pequot Schemitzun Festival, collapsed into a coma and passed away soon after, surrounded by family and his closest friends.

            Nanepashemet videotaped this “Statement” because by this time he was too ill to attend the ESAF Conference. He speaks about the need to change assumptions that write History and the prejudices that divide it from “Prehistory”; about the importance of a serious and meaningful respect for Native peoples’ own knowledge of their past. A science whose methods anatomize the dead must respect and learn from their living descendants, in the Native Americans of today---their knowledge of ancient evidences, their inheritances of historical fact, and their choices about the future of their past.







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