It was a Day of Learning and so much more

We are deeply grateful to the 150+ people who came last Saturday to our Day of Learning with Indigenous Authors, Educators, and Artists. We were moved to see so many new and returning faces coming out to support our Native elders here in New England and our indigenous brothers and sisters in the Americas and beyond.

We began the day with a screening and discussion of the documentary film “Mashpee 9,” which chronicles the 1976 trial and acquittal of the eight Wampanoag and one non-Native friend arrested while drumming one summer night. The film was presented by Hana Bernadette, the niece of filmmaker Paula Peters, and Bruzzy Hendricks, one of the Wampanoag men involved. After we watched the film together, Hana and Bruzzy shared about the relationship between native communities and police today and the impacts the events of 1976 continue to have on the community.

Bruzzy Hendricks and Hana Bernadette presenting the film “Mashpee 9”

Next, we heard from Oscar Montero, a leader and human rights activist from the Kankuamo community in the Cauca region of northern Colombia. Oscar is on a two week tour of the United States raising awareness of ongoing violence and indigenous resistance in Cauca, and we are so grateful that he took time from his busy schedule to share his wisdom and experiences with us. Oscar spoke about the Kankuamo worldview and how his people transmit their knowledge through oral history and weavings. He also discussed the impact of migration to urban areas and how indigenous cultures in Colombia are adapting to city life.

During lunch break, participants had the opportunity to browse the arts & crafts fair featuring Wampanoag artist Deborah Spears Moorehead, Mohegan chef Rachel Sayet, Mi’Kmaq artist Kenny Aluk, and Save Our Schools Network representing indigenous communities of the Philippines presented by Cristina Rey.

Deborah Spears Moorehead arranging her artwork
Kenny Aluk with his artwork

In addition, we offered tours of the Mobile Museum of Andean Symbols for the museum’s second public debut.

After lunch, Abenaki expressive arts therapist Suzanne Rancourt and Mohegan chef Rachel Sayet led concurrent workshops. Suzanne’s session explored the use of expressive arts methods to support personal and cultural histories.

Suzanne Rancourt leading a workshop using expressive arts methods

Rachel’s presentation discussed how the Mohegan people preserve their wisdom and traditions with a focus on Native foods of New England.

Rachel Sayet presenting about Native Foods of New England

Her session included a taste of a modern Mohegan dessert, ice cream sweetened with a traditional traveling food made of corn, known in Mohegan as yokeag.

In the final session of the day, Hana Bernadette, Deborah Spears Moorehead, and Suzanne Rancourt shared their life experiences and honored the elders who raised and educated them. They also discussed topics such as cultural appropriation and how non-Native people of New England can be in reciprocity with Native communities.

From left to right: panelists Deborah Spears Moorehead, Hana Bernadette, and Suzanne Rancourt, with moderators Fhatima Paulino and Carlos Saavedra

We are sending deep love and appreciation to the native presenters and elders who made this event possible by sharing their stories, wisdom, and experiences: Kenny Aluk, Hana Bernadette, Bruzzy Hendricks, Oscar Montero, Suzanne Rancourt, Rachel Sayet, Deborah Spears Moorehead, and Julian Visxkwe. We also want to honor our indigenous elders in Latin America who continue to guide and support us in moving forward a vision of reciprocity: Alejandrina Calancha, Alberto Manqueriapa, Zadir Milla, and Jose Huaman Turpo.

We are so excited to continue the many conversations begun at this event during the Our Voices Community Gathering, Thursday April 18, 6–8pm at the Ayni Office in Maverick Square, East Boston. Will you join us?