Many of the facts are murky surrounding Alexander Quapish, a Native American and a Natick American Revolutionary War Veteran, given that he reportedly died at the age of 34 some 243 years ago. But representatives of the Wampanoag Confederacy as well Harvard University museum researchers have pulled enough evidence together to convince Natick officials that what are believed to be the remains of Mr. Quapish should be reinterred at the Natick Praying Indian Burial Ground at 29 1/2 Pond Street.
The Natick Select Board voted unanimously this week to allow the interment to proceed, pending Board of Health or other approvals. This matter was the only item on the board’s agenda on Nov. 23 during a meeting that lasted just 18 minutes, far shorter than the usual 2-plus hour discussions.
“It’s very fitting that we’re discussing this a few days before Thanksgiving and sitting on land that was of course originally of indigenous people’s origin…,” Select Board member Karen Adelman-Foster said. “I feel like it is an honor to be able to host these remains.”
In a memo shared by the Board citing research summarized in a Federal Register document, what are believed to be Mr. Quapish’s remains were removed from a location in Dedham (where he lived with this wife) and transferred to the Warren Anatomical Museum. There’s some uncertainty whether he was originally buried in Dedham in what’s now Needham, or in Natick, as the Natick Historical Society contends. Historian and author Robert D. Hall has also written of Mr. Quapish and his original burial in Natick, according to his sources.
Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), an inventory of the human remains under the control of the museum, was completed. The Museum determined, “by a preponderance of the evidence,” that the human remains are of the Native American individual Mr. Alexander Quapish. Where no direct lineal descendants can be identified, the remains were repatriated to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), Tribes that represent people of Wampanoag descent.”
Jim Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, said during the Board meeting: “We like to bring our ancestors back to their final resting places as much as possible and having it protected as well so they won’t be disturbed again.”
A date for the burial has not been set. Bettina Washington, tribal historic preservation officer, said it’s unusual to have an identity for a repatriation. “This is never an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary.”
The Select Board agreed.
“Mr. Quapish was not born here apparently, but he did end up here. It sounds like an odyssey of fact finding but there’s also the theme of respect for understanding and trying to find the right final resting place,” Select Board member Michael Hickey said. “So in a way, it seems like there’s an adopted home here in Natick.”