Ashfield church events to explore Indigenous history, culture

  • On Sunday, Nov. 20, Nolumbeka Project President David Brule, pictured in June, will speak at the First Congregational Church of Ashfield about the history of Indigenous land, including locally in western Massachusetts. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2022 4:30:11 PM

ASHFIELD — The First Congregational Church of Ashfield and St. John’s Episcopal Church are holding independent talks in November to explore Indigenous people’s history and culture.

“The stories and rituals around Thanksgiving confront us this month,” said the Rev. David Jones from First Congregational. “We want our congregations to engage and listen, and be open and willing to learn from these teachers and artists who know what too many of us do not.”

On Sunday, Nov. 6, at 3 p.m., the Ann Hutt Browning Poetry Series will feature Larry Spotted Crow Mann, founder and co-director of Ohketeau Cultural Center, at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“Larry Spotted Crow Mann is a citizen of the Nipmuc tribe” said the Rev. Vicki Ix from St. John’s. “He’s also an award-winning poet and cultural educator. We have so much to learn from Native voices and spirituality.”

Later in the month, on Sunday, Nov. 20, at 11:30 a.m., Nolumbeka Project President David Brule will speak at the First Congregational Church about the history of Indigenous land, including locally in western Massachusetts. Brule, of Narragansett and Nehantic descent, recently contributed an essay to Sandra Matthews’ photography book, “Occupying Massachusetts: Layers of History on Indigenous Land.”

St. John’s has developed a land acknowledgment that recognizes the Indigenous history of Ashfield. In the same vein, the First Congregational Church is embarking on an educational series, beginning with Brule’s presentation, to increase awareness about Indigenous history.

“We want to look at this history and understand our role to be more aware so we can take accountability,” explained Annie Cheatham, a member of both Ashfield churches. “We often co-sponsor events, but in this case we are sponsoring things separately.”

“Though our churches are working independently on this,” Jones said, “this work is a priority in our spiritual development. We hope that our churches can serve as resources and be seen as good partners to the Indigenous-led organizations right here in Franklin County.”

Both events are free and open to the public.

Bella Levavi can be reached at or 413-930-4579.


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