Moshup

Dive into the the legend of Wampanoag folklore hero, Moshup, in his whale form with artist Andromeda Lisle's public art mural outside the Harvard Ed Portal! Painted with an array of blues and greens in Lisle's colorful style, this mural of Moshup aims to highlight the importance of preserving the cultural significance of animals in the Americas as well as the Indigenous stories that surround them.

Andromeda Lisle posing in front of her mural, Moshup
Muralist Andromeda Lisle with her painting in-progress. Photo by Mel Taing (Instagram: @m.ltaing)

A Whale of a Tale: Mythology of Moshup

Moshup is not a name many would recognize, nor his story and relevance to the very land they stand upon. A cultural folklore hero to the Wampanoag and nearby coastal tribes, Moshup was a benevolent giant that lived peacefully with the first peoples. In particular Moshup was important to the Wampanoag of Noepe (Martha's Vineyard), as he helped shape the land itself of Noepe, Nantucket, and other features of Cape Cod.

Moshup wanted the humans he lived alongside to thrive, and so taught them many skills related to the sea. Most important was his knowledge on whales, of which he knew everything about and could even transform into on a whim. Often he would pluck whales from the sea to give directly to the tribes as gifts, laying them on the beach to be utilized for a myriad of important purposes. When Moshup decided he had taught all he could, it was said he transformed into a great white whale and disappeared into the ocean for a final time, secure that his teachings would see the first peoples through.

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Unlike the European sailors who came later, the Wampanoag practiced drift-whaling, which is the hunting or harvesting of beached whales already dead or close to death. The Wampanoag still retain the right to do so to this day. Whales provided a vast bounty, not only gifting high-energy meat and fuel, but huge bones carved into everything from tools to jewelry. All whales are greatly respected by the coastal tribes, and thanks were given to them whenever one was taken. Early Wampanoag whalers working with colonists often attributed their success to the tribe's positive relationship with the whales and were valued crew members aboard colonist whaling ships.

Moshup and his strong connection to whales and the land is why Andromeda chose his story for this mural, the form of the humpback whale being an especially beloved animal by those in Massachusetts. Both Indigenous legends and whales need preservation, and Andromeda hopes her work draws attention to both.

Stan Murphy's mural of Native American folklore hero, Moshup, in Martha’s Vineyard.
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

    Moshup mural painting process
  • Behind the Scenes: Creating Moshup

Color-in-Art

Download, print, and color your own mural of Moshup!

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Recommended printer settings: Landscape orientation

Meet the Artist

Photo by Mel Taing (Instagram: @m.ltaing)
 

Visit Andromeda Lisle's Website

Andromeda Lisle

Andromeda Lisle is a multi-medium artist residing in Cambridge, MA since childhood. Brought up by her mother with their rich mixed-heritage of Black, Native, and Irish, Andromeda grew up with a great love of story and the natural world. By the time she received her BS in Fine Art from Skidmore College, most of Andromeda's art focused on animals in myth and legend, mainly those from her Indigenous heritage. Now it is her drive and passion, with preservation and education of the cultural significance of animals in the Americas on the forefront of her mind.

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Andromeda's works are comprised of her deeply personal beliefs which have shaped her adult life. Two key concepts have come together to drive most of her work: the beliefs, stories, and legends that shaped the human race for millennia, and her own eclectic identity as a multi-racial and disabled woman growing and learning through her connection to her diverse heritage.

Andromeda's fascination with the figures and feelings of ancient stories led her to dive into those of her unique ancestry, with Native American, African, and Celtic stories and beliefs capturing her heart the most. The tales and figures of Native Americans drew her in the most powerfully, and she could not bear for them to be forgotten or ignored in the very lands they originate from. She feels a deep drive to preserve the spiritual and cultural importance of animals and the natural world of the Americas at large, and hopes to bring attention to them through her art.

Dive Deeper

Whether you want to explore the ocean depths or you're looking for classroom resources, we've compiled information about whales, the Wampanoag tribe, local museums and attractions, and fun activities for all!

Whales

Project CETI is applying advanced machine learning and gentle robotics to decipher the communication of one of the world's most enigmatic ocean species: the sperm whale.

This nonprofit grew out of a series of meetings among scholars from various fields that began at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2017. The researchers—a collection of biologists, cryptographers, linguistics, computer scientists, and robotics experts—will begin by gathering the whales' sounds and observing their patterns of behavior. In their final phase, they hope to play taped vocalizations back to the animals and record how they respond.

Explore More at Harvard

Wampanoag Tribe

For over ten thousand years the Wampanoag have inhabited the island of Noepe (Martha's Vineyard), and once encompassed over 67 distinct tribal communities across Southeastern Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island. Their deep history, legends, and customs continue to be preserved by tribe members—including land and resource management, traditional arts, and the Wampanoag language—and their influence is felt island-wide.

Today, Wampanoag environmental practices and values still help inform and maintain the island's beauty; island roads follow paths once worn smooth by their ancestors; and Wampanoag place names pay homage to the earth's bounty.

Explore Local Resources

Explore the history and customs of the Wampanoag through these local resources:

Explore More at Harvard

  • Harvard University's Native American Program aims to bring together Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students—as well as interested individuals from the Harvard community—for the purpose of advancing the well-being of Indigenous peoples through self-determination, academic achievement, and community service.
  • The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology's online exhibition, Listening to Wampanoag Voices: Beyond 1620, asked Wampanoag tribal members to share memories, thoughts, and reflections about collection items made by their ancestors and relatives. Learn how Wampanoag life and culture continues to flourish today.

Local Attractions

Explore the rich history and culture of the Wampanoag at several local museums and historical parks! You'll learn about the practice of drift-whaling, discover ancient artifacts and heirlooms, view dioramas that depict typical scenes of an early Wampanoag settlement, and uncover the history of the lands where tribes have lived for centuries.

Explore More at Harvard

  • When visiting Harvard Yard, be sure to stop by Matthews Hall to view a plaque which reflects on the Harvard Indian College, established to educate Native American students.
  • Explore Harvard's In Focus feature for Native American Heritage Month, which highlights Native American resources on campus, the history of tribal sovereignty, traditional Wampanoag recipes, stories and accomplishments from Native alumni, and much more.
  • This selection of objects from the Harvard Art Museums' collections, which was assembled by the Ho Family Student Guides in collaboration with the Harvard University Native American Program (HUNAP), aims to elevate the voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples in the modern United States.

 

Activities for Youth

Learn about the Wampanoag's history and culture with these family-friendly resources!

The Wampanoag were there when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and they are still there today. Learn about their lives long ago by meeting two modern-day Wampanoag girls.