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“It’s Not Just Native History, it’s American History”

Larry Spotted Crow Mann in traditional Nipmuc dress




For hundreds of years misconceptions have plagued the Native American people. These misunderstandings have been passed down from colonial settlers and are still perpetuated today. Larry Spotted Crow Mann, a member of the Nipmuc tribe, has been working since he was a young man to help people come to grips with the ugly history of colonialism and its impact on the indigenous people of North America.

“I still come across people, regardless of their education level, that have a deep ignorance of Native American culture. It’s not out of malice, I’ve found, it’s just out of not having an understanding,” ventured Spotted Crow Mann.

Spotted Crow Mann grew up with his family being the only Native Americans in town. “It was very difficult to have people to identify with and I think that’s very important, especially as a kid,” he said.

He went on to say that because not many people were around who could share his life experiences, he had to research the history of his people on his own. Spotted Crow Mann elaborated, “I was compelled with the notion of just trying to understand my place in life and our tribe’s place in life.”

As he began to learn more about Native American culture, it may have raised more questions than answers. “I knew we were the original people. Just knowing that begged the question ‘Why are we the least understood?'”

This realization along with Spotted Crow Mann’s budding tribal pride led him to the path of environmental activism. He said he did not just want to learn about his culture, he also wanted to make a difference.

“One of the things I did early on was to fight to protect the land. I worked with US Fish and Wildlife [Service] to protect the indigenous fish of my people,” said Spotted Crow Mann. The Nipmuc, an Algonquian word for “fresh water people,” revere fish, so they believe it is especially important to protect them. “That’s where my activism comes from, trying to protect the land and environment,” he asserted.

Through social action Spotted Crow Mann became involved in writing, and would eventually become a respected author. He explained that he began with poetry as a young man when he was discovering his identity; he said he used it as a form of introspection. He recalled, “When I was writing letters to the government, one of my tribal members saw how eloquently I wrote and said, ‘Geesh, you should start writing poetry.'”

Perhaps inspired by the words of his tribal brother, Spotted Crow Mann has recently published his first book entitled Tales from The Whispering Basket. It is a collection of both poetry and short stories of different genres. “With this book I wanted to bring forth an understanding of the Eastern woodland tribal people,” explained Spotted Crow Mann. He went on to say, “Read for yourself; don’t listen to the Hollywood notions that you’ve been taught; engage in the culture. That’s what I did with this book.”

Spotted Crow Mann would like more people to gain a deeper understanding of his people’s culture. He had some advice for people who are trying to do this: “Come with the respect that the Native Americans are still here and they are people just like everybody else. Also, we have a deep and intricate history because it’s interwoven with American history.”

When asked about the controversial holiday Thanksgiving, Spotted Crow Mann explained that different tribes react differently. “Some tribes see it strictly as a day of mourning and refuse to celebrate it. Other tribes will do a harvest moon ceremony.”

Spotted Crow Mann has worked for over 20 years on behalf of the environment and for his people. He’s working towards a future where more people will have a deeper understanding of native culture as a whole. “There’s going to come a day when everyone has a basic understanding [of native culture] just like we have a basic understanding of American culture.”

Larry Spotted Crow Mann’s book is sold in some retailers but is also available at www.whisperingbasket.com