Wampanoag (language)

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Mon Nov 24 17:03:11 UTC 2003

Last fluent speaker of Wampanoag language dies; his life is celebrated

R.J. HALLIDAY                         ,
Gazette Staff Writer 11/23/2003
FREETOWN -- Hundreds of Native Americans traveled from across New England
to the Watuppa Wampanoag Reservation here Friday to celebrate the life of
Clinton Neakeahamuck Wixon (Lightning Foot), who passed away Nov. 9 at the
age of 72.

Known throughout the region as perhaps the last fluent speaker of the
native Wampanoag language, Wixon dedicated his life to educating Wampanoag
and Ponkapoag youths about tribal traditions, culture and language.

He also kept Native American awareness alive by organizing Pow Wows and
demonstrations throughout the state in towns such as Brockton, Lakeville,
Middleboro, New Bedford, Taunton, Mashpee and on the Boston Common.

>>From sunrise to sunset yesterday Native Americans from various tribes,
many dressed in full regalia, stood in a circle around a Vigil Fire that
had been burning in Wixon’s honor for four days. Women stood on one side,
men on the other, as they passed around a wooden talking pipe and each
eulogized Wixon.

Later, his ashes were spread over the Watuppa Reservation and at Ponkapoag
Indian Plantation in Canton, the homes of his beloved ancestors.

Wixon’s nephew, Darrel of the Nemasket Band, who led a procession of chants
and drumming in his uncle’s honor, called Wixon "a legend in his own time."

Darrel’s father, Wixon’s only brother, the late Clarence Wixon, Jr. (Chief
Red Blanket), was proclaimed by then-Gov. Michael Dukakis as "one of the
greatest losses amongst the Native American community in the last 50 years"
following his 1990 death.

Wind Song, chief of the Assonet Band, said he and Wixon worked to clean up
the Watuppa Reservation and make it a place again for Native American
services and celebrations.

"When this place was a dump, we cleaned it up," he recalled. "Now we have
someplace for our ceremonies."

Born in Middleboro in 1931, Wixon was an 11th generation direct descendent
of the powerful chieftain, Massasoit, the supreme sachem who befriended the
Pilgrims in 1620.

After serving in the Korean War, Wixon founded perhaps the first modern day
nonprofit Indian organization in Massachusetts, the Algonquin Indian
Association, anda few years later formed the United Indian Tribes of
America. During the 1960s Wixon joined forces with Indian tribes from Maine
to Florida to form the Federated Eastern Indian League.

Wixon was also a strong voice behind the organization of the National Day
of Mourning at Plymouth in 1970, which today is still a stage for Native
American awareness and unity during the Thanksgiving holiday.

"He was well-respected in his community for always standing his ground with
everyone about who he was and where he came from," said Maurice L. Foxx,
representative of the state Commission on Indian Affairs. "It’s always
tough to lose our elders because they are the ones who teach our culture
and language."

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