Tribal reps call for healing, forgiveness with annual Day of Remembrance in Turners Falls

  • Nolumbeka Project President David Brule addresses a small crowd during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Nipmuc Tribal Council member Liz “Coldwind” Santana-Kiser at an Indigenous art stand during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Keynote speaker Doug Harris, a former Narragansett deputy tribal historic preservation officer speaks during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Keynote speaker Doug Harris, a former Narragansett deputy tribal historic preservation officer, speaks during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Nolumbeka Project President David Brule addresses a small crowd during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Mashpee Wampanoag artist Robert Peters speaks during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Nipmuc Tribal Council member Liz “Coldwind” Santana-Kiser during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The Day of Remembrance was held Saturday at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Tribal educator Rich Holschuh speaks during Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Elnu Abenaki Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan performs a song of welcome early into Saturday’s Day of Remembrance at the Great Falls Discovery Center. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 5/22/2022 12:34:39 PM
Modified: 5/22/2022 12:32:44 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Representatives from the region’s surrounding tribes joined what keynote speaker Doug Harris deemed “a multitude of spirits” for Turners Falls’ annual Day of Remembrance Saturday afternoon.

Organized by the Nolumbeka Project, a local nonprofit Indigenous history and culture preservation organization, the event commemorated the 346th anniversary of the Great Falls Massacre, a mass slaying of Native Americans that is considered the major turning point of King Philip’s War. The massacre, previously described as a “relatively unknown occurrence” by Nolumbeka Project President David Brule, was primarily addressed in the context of healing and reconciliation, rather than remembered through collective sadness on Saturday as five speakers joined a small crowd behind the Great Falls Discovery Center.

Following a 10 a.m. film screening, Indigenous artists and vendors created a perimeter around a tent-shaded audience and tree-shrouded podium on land once predominantly native.

“This place has a lot of memories,” Harris, a former Narragansett deputy tribal historic preservation officer who claims multiple tribes, said in his introduction. “Some are mine and some are memories that precede me.”

“Their voices are still here in the air we breathe,” Brule said, referring to Indigenous ancestors. “They are not gone.”

According to the Nolumbeka Project, 300 women, children and elders were killed during the Great Falls Massacre, a surprise attack by Capt. William Turner and colonial militiamen on May 19, 1676 that occurred in modern-day Turners Falls and Gill.

While insistent on refraining from dwelling in sadness, each speaker at the Day of Remembrance made it clear the magnitude of the tragedy being remembered.

“I’ve often tried to think of what it takes to use a sword to kill a youngster in the arms of an elder,” Harris said.

“In my heart, I can feel that these are my people,” Nipmuc Tribal Council member Liz “Coldwind” Santana-Kiser said. “These are the people I loved.”

In addition to warding off grief, the speakers made an effort to ward off guilt potentially looming over non-tribal people acknowledging the massacre.

“Tribal people must never be too resistant to forgiving and non-tribal people must never be too resistant to asking for forgiveness,” Harris said.

When asked by a non-tribal audience member how one should look to make amends and give back to Indigenous peoples, Harris provided simple advice.

“The humble act of saying ‘thank you’ is sufficient,” he said.

Santana-Kiser similarly embraced the call for forgiveness on the condition that future generations do their part to know what the land has seen before they took to it.

“We have a younger generation, and if they learn about their history … then there’s no shame,” she said.

“We have a lot of things that we need to put back together,” added tribal educator Rich Holschuh, “… but we still have the future to walk into.”

Reach Julian Mendoza
at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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