Launching a Mishoon

Mishoon photo
The nearly complete mishoon on display at Australia Beach. Photo Credit: Emily Hutter

Saturday, August 8, will see the launching of a very rare vessel at Mystic Seaport: An authentic mishoon, or dugout canoe, built by members of the New England Wampanoag Tribe.

The mishoon is a project of the Pequot Museum and Research Center in nearby Mashantucket. The 30-foot dugout was constructed by carefully burning out the interior of a poplar log. The project of was led by Jonathan Perry and Darius Coombs, with assistance from members of several Native American communities. Both Perry and Coombs have extensive knowledge of the burning of mishoons. Perry, a former Plimoth Plantation staff member and current cultural officer at Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah Cultural Center, and Coombs, Plimoth Plantation’s director of Wampanoag and Algonkian Interpretive Training, learned their skills at Plimoth Plantation and continue to share their knowledge through experimental archaeology.

The mishoon will be on display at the Museum’s Australia Beach until Saturday, when New England tribal members will hold a traditional canoe blessing ceremony at 10:15 a.m. at Middle Wharf to celebrate the launch of the mishoon. Immediately following the ceremony, twelve New England Tribal members will embark on a six-mile round-trip row to the mouth of the Mystic River, stopping from 12:45 p.m.-4:30 p.m. at Mystic River Park and Seaport Marine in downtown Mystic for paddling demonstrations, an educational exhibition featuring Native artists, drummers and a team of archaeologists and experts answering questions and highlighting the historical significance of the area to the Native American community.

The mishoon then will return to Mystic Seaport and remain on display until mid-August when it is returned to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.