As many in the town debate whether the "Sachem" should continue to be the mascot or symbol of Winchester, important information can be found in historian Ellen Knight's essay "The Beginning of Winchester on Massachusetts Land". It is a revision of her article "The Sachems of Winchester" published in 1999 as a four-part series in the Daily Times Chronicle), which sought to correct some of the historical misinformation that has been generated through that enduring controversy. More information on the town's history (and on the adoption of the Sachem symbol) can be found on the Town of Winchester's Winchester History Online site.
Winchester's spring Town Meeting is set to begin on June 8, 2020. The format will be quite different from the past as the coronavirus pandemic moves activities online, but the nature and spirit will remain the same.
For more information about what Town Meeting is and how it works, view the video This Is Winchester: Town Meeting, a Cultural Council-sponsored project that is the first in a series of short videos about the town’s civic organizations.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council has instituted two new programs to assist artists and other cultural creators who have been hurt by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Relief Support for Individualsprovides grants of $1,000 to Massachusetts individual artists and independent teaching artists/humanists/scientists who have lost income derived from their work as a direct result of COVID-19 related cancellations and closures. Applications are accepted starting April 8 at 10 a.m.
Relief Support for Organizations offers a "Safe Harbor" that provides financial support for a few organizations and a program of free webinars and other instruction programs about assistance programs and effective management during the crisis, hosted by the MCC Cultural Investment Portfolio team.
There are lots of places to get information about the COVID-19 virus (for example, the town website: winchester.us/coronavirus, and the MCC resource page), but on this cultural website is a good place to showcase creative responses to the ongoing crisis. Those can include videos, songs, visual art, poems, essays, and more. We hope to grow this list as time goes by—please send us your discoveries and your creations!
The Winchester Cultural Council has awarded $9,567 in LCC grants to 16 individuals and organizations for 2020. Grant funding was significantly higher than in past years thanks in part to a meaningful commitment to the arts from the town of Winchester in the 2019–2020 budget. The funded projects expand cultural opportunities for Winchester’s students, help Winchester residents hear distinguished local performers, and use art to celebrate and strengthen our community.
Grant projects include Winchester's first-ever Porchfest (scheduled for June); the first major art exhibition in Winchester's new Cultural District; Chinese New Year celebrations and visits by Chinese dancing lions to all of Winchester's elementary schools; an "ecomusic" residency and concert celebrating a new Monarch butterfly waystation at the First Congregational Church; faculty concerts by the Winchester Community Music School; and a musical theater performance depicting the history of women's fight for equal rights in America. Grants also support several arts cultural enrichment programs for children, adults, and seniors.
On this Columbus Day, many are urging that we also remember America's indigenous people, the "Indians." Winchester has an explicit connection to the original residents of our area through our town nickname, the Sachems. A sachem (or sagamore) was a chief, leader, or king of the native peoples. Winchester's adoption of the name was particularly due to a woman, "Squaw Sachem," who was queen of the local indigenous tribes and the widow of Nanepashemet, who once ruled lands stretching from Weymouth north to Portsmouth, N.H., and as far west as Northfield. Sachem Nanepashemet was killed in 1619, in Medford, fighting Tarratines (Abnakis) who had invaded from Maine, leaving his wife, three sons, and a daughter.
Squaw Sachem and her sons were notably friendly with the English colonists and generally allied with them. Her people, however, were decimated by war and plagues mostly associated with the European settlers—including smallpox, which killed two of her sons, Sagamore John (Wonohaquaham) and Sagamore James (Montowampate) in 1633.
In 1638 Charlestown granted its citizens permission to settle land to the north, including Winchester, accelerating a movement that had already been occurring. Around that time Squaw Sachem sold her land in and around Winchester to settlers, reserving the right for her people to live, hunt and fish there during her lifetime. The sale is memorialized by the WPA mural above the circulation desk in the Winchester Public Library.
Squaw Sachem's favorite residence was probably on the west side of Upper Mystic Lake, near Winchester Country Club, where there was a "Squaw Sachem spring" that was visited by her people for many years after her death. Herbert Meyer Brook on Myopia Hill was originally known as "Squaw Sachem stream."
The story of Squaw Sachem is a great lesson in local history, and is one illustration of the complex interactions between the native inhabitants and the immigrants who went on to create our modern landscape—laying the groundwork for the many new immigrants who continue to arrive here. It is interesting, too, to note that Winchester's "native American" nickname memorializes a relationship with a particular individual, a relationship that was notable for peace and friendship. Finally, in this day and age, it is worth celebrating that that individual was a woman—one of power, grace and fortitude.
More information about Squaw Sachem and the selection of the "Sachems" nickname (which dates only from the early 1950s) can be found in the article "The Beginning of Winchester on Massachusetts Land" by Ellen Knight (a revision of her article "The Sachems of Winchester" published in 1999 in the Daily Times Chronicle). See also the Winchester History Online page on the town website.
The Winchester Cultural Council is in need of new members for the coming year. Cultural Council members are volunteers who are appointed by the town's Select Board; love of the arts is important, but no special skills are required. The Council meets monthly, gives cultural grants annually, and provides many opportunities to enrich our town. To apply, send a letter stating your interest to the Select Board at Town Hall.