Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck

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In 1665, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University.

Cheeshahteaumuck, of the Wampanoag tribe, came from Martha's Vineyard and attended a preparatory school in Roxbury. At Harvard, he lived and studied in the Indian College, Harvard's first brick building, with a fellow Wampanoag, Joel Iacoomes.

Cheeshahteaumuck died of tuberculosis in Watertown, Massachusetts less than a year after graduation.[1][2][3]

Apart from Cheeshahteaumuck and Iacoomes, at least two other Native American students attended the Indian College at this time. Eleazar died before graduating and John Wampus left to become a mariner. Iacoomes was lost in a shipwreck a few months prior to graduation, while returning to Harvard from Martha's Vineyard. Cheeshahteaumuck is believed to have been the only Native American to have graduated from the Indian College during its years of operation. These first students studied in an educational system that emphasized Greek, Latin, and religious instruction.[1][3][4]

On December 16, 2010, a portrait of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, commissioned by the Harvard Foundation, was unveiled in the University's famous Annenberg Hall. A part of the Harvard Foundation Portraiture Project diversity initiative, it was painted by the alumnus Stephen E. Coit. He conducted careful historical research and consulted with members of the Wampanoag. Rev. Peter J. Gomes chaired the project and attended with Harvard President Drew Faust and members of the Harvard Native American Program to commemorate the day.[5]

Representation in other media[edit]

In 2011, the novel Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks included a version of Cheeshahteaumuck's time at Harvard.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Remembering Native Sons", Harvard University Gazette, May 1, 1997.
  2. ^ "Harvard Honors First Native American Students", Susan Peterson, Harvard University Gazette, May 8, 1997.
  3. ^ a b "The Ancient Proprietors: Wampanoags", Part I: Nantucket's First Peoples of Color, The Other Islanders, Frances Ruley Karttunen, Nantucket, Massachusetts: Nantucket Historical Association, 2002. Accessed on line October 22, 2007. This online book has also been issued in a print edition (New Bedford, Massachusetts: Spinner Publications, Inc., 2005, ISBN 0-932027-93-8.)
  4. ^ "Ceremony Honors Early Indian Students", Mass Moments (a newsletter of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities), May 3, 1997. Accessed on line October 22, 2007.
  5. ^ Native American Honored, Harvard University Gazette, December 17, 2010. Accessed online December 18, 2010
  6. ^ Staff (July–August 2011), "Enjoy the Summer's Hottest Read", AARP The Magazine, Washington, D.C., p. 10, ISSN 1541-9894