Celebrate Native American Heritage Month in the Berkshires

By Berkshire Family Hikes November 1, 2023

November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to pay tribute and celebrate the rich ancestry, history, and traditions of the first people on this soil. Through dance, family traditions, and music, we can learn the diverse stories and long history of Indigenous people across the United States. Here are a few ways you can honor Native American culture this November. 

The story of Thanksgiving will be reenacted and celebrated across the country on November 23. But many Native Americans actually consider it a "Day of Mourning," and the real story overlooks the tragedy indigenous communities would face with the introduction of European settlers. It is for this reason, some Native American groups and allies are calling on Americans to "decolonize" their Thanksgiving celebrations. Some ways of doing this include no longer decorating with Native American stereotypes, introducing native dishes to the dinner table and engaging in conversations about the real stories of Native American history with dinner guests.

Attend the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Film Festival at Images Cinema in Williamstown, November 10-12th. The festival is presented on the traditional territories of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, and is produced by Images Cinema in collaboration with Stockbridge-Munsee Community Cultural Affairs and the students of HIST 276.

Black Friday is just one day after Thanksgiving. Instead of spending all your money on Amazon, consider spending some at native-owned businesses or even donating to charities. It's a great way to support native communities' economic well-being, as well as contribute to worthwhile social causes. Check out this Virtual Cultural Survival Bazaar or the Inspired Natives Project

Berkshire County is rich in Indigenous history, and discovering the cultural heritage of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans is one way to The Native American Heritage Trail exists to provide accurate information about the Indigenous people of the region and to enable visitors to explore the Housatonic River Valley while viewing it through a Native American prism. The mission of the Upper Housatonic Valley Heritage group is to heighten appreciation of the region, preserve its natural and historical resources, and improve the quality of life and economy of the area. In partnership with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a band of Mohicans, the Native American Heritage Trail introduces visitors to the deep and vibrant histories of the region’s indigenous communities. A network of tribal representatives, diverse historical organizations, other cultural institutions, and the local heritage area, provides multi-perspective views of regional histories. Through authentic, interpretive experiences the initiative shares stories, promotes open discussion and erases long-held stereotypes so that visitors understand the native communities as living people with thriving cultures as well as rich past.

Important Sites on the Native American Heritage Trail:

  1. Stockbridge Main Street District- A self-guided walking tour of historic Indiantown.
  2. Bidwell House & Grounds- A self-guided woodland walk that illustrates Native practices around farming, hunting, and land management. Visitors can also explore a wigwam reconstruction on the grounds and roam a heritage vegetable and herb garden.
  3. Konkapot River- This 22-mile long watercourse (running through Monterey, New Marlborough, & Sheffield, Massachusetts and North Canaan Connecticut) was named after the Stockbridge Mohican sachem, Captain John Konkapot.
  4. Umpachene Falls- Named after sachem Aaron Umpachene, today the falls are the site of a small park and swimming hole. There are trails to walk and rocks to sit on while imagining how rich with life this place was in the early 1700s, particularly in summer when it is likely that Umpachene and others made summer camps in the meadows alongside the river.
  5. Kampoosa Bog- Native American archaeological site. The bog is best viewed from RT. 7, north of Stockbridge, and from the edge of the parking lot on Eden Hill.
  6. Monument Mountain- Formerly a sacred offering place, Monument Mountain is open to the public as a 503-acre property of the Trustees of Reservations. Hiking trails lead to the summit where there are excellent views of the Upper Housatonic River Valley, the Berkshires, the Taconic Mountains, and the Catskill Mountains of New York; there you can think back thousands of years, to when Native peoples would climb to the exposed rocky peak and view the length and breadth of their extensive homeland.
  7. Site of Captain Jacob - Once the scene of diplomatic engagement, today, the expansive meadow where an important meeting took place is a cornfield, located southeast of the Green River bridge on Route 23, on the road to Egremont.
  8. Skatekook- Once home to a small village of Native Americans, part of this land can be hiked at Jug End Wildlife Refuge in South Egremont.

For more information on these sites or to take a virtual tour of the Stockbridge Main Street District, click HERE

Visit Berkshire Family Hikes for a list of Native American historical hikes in Berkshire County. 

When you return home, try your hand at making this traditional Native American Fry Bread recipe: 

2 ¼ cups AP flour

⅔ cup milk

1 ½ tsps. baking powder

¼ cup corn oil

1 tsp. sugar

Cooking oil for frying

Confectioner’s sugar and/or cinnamon

  • Place dry ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
  • Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and oil.
  •  Mix thoroughly with your hands to form a ball of dough.
  • Cover and let stand for 1 hour. 
  • Uncover the dough, sprinkle your hands with flour and divide and shape the dough into 8 round, flat discs. 
  • Heat cooking oil up to 2 inches deep in a heavy pan. The oil must be very hot,. Cook the discs one at a time, turning once. Fry about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. 
  • Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. 
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm.