Brookline celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday with an event showcasing indigenous artists, advocate groups and speakers at the Brookline Town Hall.
The event was organized and hosted by the Brookline Indigenous Peoples Celebration Committee along with the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations. The purpose of the event was to “commemorate the shared history and culture of Indigenous Peoples,” according to an event flyer.
Felina Silver, the chair of the Indigenous Peoples Celebration Committee, emphasized the importance of bringing awareness to hardships of indigenous peoples.
“It’s important to educate people who are unaware of the sufferings of indigenous people and who they are as people and where they come from,” Silver said. “It’s important to educate as many people so the ignorance disappears.”
The event began with opening remarks followed by a poetry reading by Silver. Later in the event, a land acknowledgement was delivered to recognize the Massachusetts Tribe at Ponkapoag who once called the Greater Boston area home.
The importance of educating people, especially the youth, on indigenous history and experiences was echoed in the event. A group of high school students from Brookline High School went to the Town Hall for a racial awareness class to learn and hear from the indigenous community.
Rep. Tommy Vitolo highlighted the importance of creating a space for conversation and celebration surrounding indigenous culture.
“Show up and listen,” Vitolo said. “The indigenous communities are so fractured and, in most parts of America, so small, that if you’re not intentional about having a conversation, you’re not likely to have one.”
Silver also said there was a need for people to put effort into understanding and supporting the indigenous community.
“It’s a problem when people say they want to know but they don’t make an effort to come to learn and understand,” she said.
Nayana LaFond, an indigenous artist who highlights the ongoing epidemic in the indigenous community of missing and murdered women and girls, spoke at the event and told the crowd to support their indigenous community members.
“Support us in a way that listens, hear what we have to say … show that you care,” LaFond said. “Just see us as human beings.”
LaFond also said it is important to realize that indigenous people are a part of modern society and many of the problems facing indigenous communities are similar to most people.
“Indigenous people are modern people,” LaFond said. “We’re just like everybody else in that way. We’re here at the grocery store with you, we’re just also complaining that milk is expensive. I think the issues that are facing us these days here are related to economics and just struggling to be heard, to be seen.”
Vitolo said this event is a place to support indigenous voices and called for more events like this.
“There are so many stories not yet told or, more specific, maybe more reasonably not yet listened to,” Vitolo said. “If this is where your heart brings you, come and listen, and make some friends, then grab some books and do some reading.”