The Wampanoag Experience will lead the burning-out of a mishoon (traditional wooden canoe) in Westport, commencing May 13, 2023 and concluding May 19th. In keeping with Wampanoag custom, the burn will proceed 24/7 until completed. 

The public are invited to observe the burn with educational programming between noon – 2:00 pm, and share in traditionally prepared food around mid-day. The final cooking demonstration will be on Friday, May 19th at noon.

The burn will be held at the Westport Town Farm, 830 Drift Road, Westport, MA.

“Fire is a symbol of eternal spirit,” explains burn leader Annawon Weeden. “The Wampanoag Experience welcomes you to warm your spirit by joining ours at our fire, as we camp, cook, carve our canoe and warm ourselves while sharing stories. The vessel we create will carry us all down our journey together for future generations along the Westport River.”

Andre, Annawon, and Hartmann stand in front of a finished mishoon. Photo courtesy Scott Strong Hawk Foster

The Wampanoag Experience, led by Annawon Weeden, is partnering with the Westport Land Conservation Trust, The Trustees, and the Westport River Watershed Alliance, to host the mishoon burn. Annawon, a member of the Wampanoag Nation, is also partnering with experienced mishoon burn tradition-bearers Andre “StrongBearHeart” Gaines, from the Nipmuc Nation, and fellow Wampanoag Hartman Deetz, to conduct the burn. This method of taking a single large tree trunk and hallowing and shaping the wood into a seaworthy vessel has been used by people all over the world. Remnants of ancient dugout canoes have turned up in far-reaching locations such as Thailand, Columbia, Germany, and England. However, in most places, the ancient skills and knowledge of how to produce these vessels has been lost to the generations. Fortunately for the people of the South Coast–an area with a steeped boat-building history–mishoon burning is an ancient tradition that Wampanoag and other Woodlands Native peoples have kept alive.

Come witness these ancient methods at work as Annawon Weeden, Andre Gaines and Hartman Deetz apply fire and water to hollow-out a new mishoon. The dedication of the finished mishoon will be celebrated during the annual Westport River Day, June 24 at the Head of Westport River. 

Visitors are welcome!! Due to limited parking, we kindly request that you please pre-register if you want to take part in the daily cultural programming. Click here to register for free!

Photo courtesy Scott Strong Hawk Foster, September 2022

This event is made possible by the generosity of L. Knife & Son, LLC., a division of Sheehan Family Companies, the Helen Ellis Charitable Trust through the Town of Westport Cultural Council, The Trustees, and the many supporters of WLCT and WRWA.