By Rama K. Ramaswamy
Recently, the World of Wellesley (WOW) organized three very successful free events that were open to the public in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day.
An Indigenous Peoples Day Land Clean Up, co-sponsored by Sustainable Wellesley, took place on Saturday, October 12. The event saw Wellesley residents meeting at Longfellow Pond to clean it. “At the land clean-up on Saturday, we opened the holiday weekend in ceremony by forming a circle on the land and honoring the Massachusett people, who are the original caretakers of this land where our town is located,” explained Joan Aandeg of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Lake Superior Anishinaabeg. “It was a festive three-day holiday weekend of honoring and respecting the presence, resilience, and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples,” she added.
Sunday, October 13, was reserved for “First Light Flashback: A Performance by Annawon Weeden.”
“Wampanoag means ‘People of the First Light’ due to our geographic location as the furthest eastern tribe,” explained Weeden. Born and raised in the tribal community of Charlestown, RI, among relatives of both Narragansett/Pequot lineage through his father, Annawon now resides in his mother’s Wampanoag community in Mashpee. Following in his father’s footsteps, Annawon began sharing the culture of his tribes with his family during public programs and performances at a young age. As an adult, Annawon’s passion for preserving the culture has been clear throughout decades spent working at Plimoth Plantation as a museum interpreter and outreach educator, as well as the Boston Children’s Museum as a Native program specialist. He has also been invited to visit Wellesley Public Schools over 20 times.
“His [Weeden’s] performance brought the audience into a twilight space at the dawn of time and back to the beginning of the Wampanoag and Pequot peoples’ first interactions with settler colonialists,” explained Joan Aandeg, who was in attendance. “He took us through time toward the present, touching lightly upon the many attempts at genocide and forced assimilation, and showed us that despite everything, his people and ancestral knowledge have survived. He demonstrated great generosity of spirit in sharing his stories and culture so openly with all who came.”
Finally, an Indigenous Peoples Day children and family event was held at Schofield Elementary School on Monday, October 14. Professional educator Claudia Fox Tree, M.Ed. (Arawak/ Yurumein), led with a presentation centered on Native American (First Nations People) identity, culture, and history. Indigenous food options and pizza were served. “There were 65-85 participants,” explained Aandeg. “She began by offering a smudging ceremony to those who wished to participate. Then she led a drumming and singing circle while her daughter, Savannah, demonstrated and taught several different dances. It was powerful and heartening to feel Indigenous presence on the land, and to make the connection to the ancestors and spirits of this land through Indigenous ceremony of smudging, drumming, singing, dancing and prayer. This was an important reminder that human society and interactions with the living elements of this land did not begin in 1492 or 1620, but goes back since time immemorial, as expressed in the oral traditions of the hundreds of Indigenous nations who continue to exist and continue to resist the dominating colonial settler paradigm."