At its October 11, 2022 meeting, the Board of the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership voted unanimously (19-0) to change its name from the “Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership” to the “Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts,” for the purposes of regular business. This discussion can be viewed in the video above, beginning at around minute 11:30. The Board vote acknowledged that this change likely requires state legislative action in order to be established legally, and includes a request for the Commonwealth to endorse the new name.
The name change discussion recognized that while the use of the Mohawk Trail highway in the original Partnership name may have been chosen as a way to connect Berkshire and Franklin Counties, there are a number of reasons why the name change makes sense at this phase of the Partnership.
“There has been a bit of discomfort mentioned by several members of the Board about the appropriation of the name Mohawk Trail in the name of the public body,” said Board Chair Henry W. Art of Williamstown. “Upon reflection on the situation, I brought up to the August and September Executive Committee meetings the suggestion that we propose to the Board that we change our name to one more fitting to our mission and geography.”
Motivation for the name change includes the following reasons discussed by the Board:
1. The Partnership has received feedback from some local Indigenous Peoples representatives who would prefer the Partnership not use the appropriated name of an Indigenous group.
2. The Mohawk tribe – unlike the Mohican, Pocumtuck, Abenaki, and Nipmuc tribes – did not live for long periods in the Partnership’s geographic boundaries, although they moved through the region on a footpath. Thus, the former Partnership name may have contributed to masking or making more invisible the presence of Mohican, Pocumtuck, Abenaki, and Nipmuc Peoples who still live in the area.
3. The highway that uses the name Mohawk Trail (MA-Route 2) is situated in only a third of the municipalities in the current Partnership boundaries.
4. In the future, the Partnership may wish to extend its boundaries south and east to include more municipalities that are located even further away from the MA-Route 2 corridor.
5. A woodlands partnership devoted to forest conservation and sustainable natural resource-based economic development may want to distance itself from association with a State highway, with which it might be confused to have a relationship.
Below is the text of the Board resolution approved on October 11, 2022:
“The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership,” a public body established by Massachusetts House Bill No. 4835 filed on 26 July 2018 and signed into law on 31 October 2018, will conduct its work known as "The Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts," and change its bylaws to reflect said change in name …
We furthermore request that the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the U.S Department of Agriculture - U.S. Forest Service officially establish and recognize the name of the public body formerly known as "The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership" as being henceforth the “Woodlands Partnership of Northwest Massachusetts.”
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