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New Interpretive Trail Honors Nipmuc Land Relationship

March 29, 2024
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in the forest in early spring stands a white trail sign with black text that asks several questions including "are you a visitor, or are you home?"

The first new interpretive trail in almost a decade is now open to the public at Harvard Forest. The trail, called Manchage Manexit (place of marveling, place of departure), was created by Harvard students Tyler White (Graduate School of Design) and Kashish Bastola (Harvard College '26), with research and advising by Nia Holley (Nipmuc). It occupies the same space as an interpretive trail installed in the late 1990s, which focused solely on the colonial history and values for the land.

Image shows one of the new Manchage Manexit trail signs.

The new work began in earnest with a winter internship in 2023, during which student-designers White and Bastola worked with Nipmuc community members to explore themes of Indigenous land kinship and recognition. Throughout 2023, White and Holley facilitated discussions by dozens of Nipmuc community members, conservation practitioners, and Harvard University students, while working through multiple iterations of the designs.

The final signs now installed along the 1/2-mile trail reflect Nipmuc language and ideas, symbols of eastern woodlands tribal knowledge systems, and questions that invite all visitors to reflect on the experiences of the land and of themselves, their intentions in visiting, and the ideas they will take back home.

The signs are meant to be explored as a "living document." We welcome feedback and expect that the signs may change as time goes on.

The project was funded by a 2022 grant from the Harvard Culture Lab Innovation Fund, in a proposal led by Shersingh Joseph Tumber-Dávila (a post-doctoral fellow at the time, now faculty at Dartmouth College) and Clarisse Hart. The implementation of the work would not have been possible without additional support from the Harvard Forest Woods Crew, for which we are grateful.

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