British Museum display fails to include the story of Sowams

The British Museum in London cares for around 90,000 contemporary, historical and archaeological objects that reflect the diversity of culture spanning more than 12,000 years across a third of the world’s landmass. Among its holding are the Rosetta Stonethe Elgin Marbles, and a head from Easter Island. The British Museum also holds thousands of objects from the Americas including the Native peoples of North America. Objects on display in Room 26 include two glass cases with items only identified as from the “Northeastern Woodlands.” Cultural items such as a wampum belt and small baskets are on display as well as a number of pipes, hatchets and war clubs, none of which are from tribes from Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut. While the population decline due to European diseases is noted, no other information about the effects of 17th century colonization is described in the exhibit. On-line at the Museum web site, the effects of the War of 1812 on indigenous populations are noted, but there is no reference to the conflict known as King Philip’s War, which arose from the colonization of what today is Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, largely from England, and devastated the population. Click here for a one-minute video of the Museum display.

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