Shelburne Falls Historical Society to host inaugural Indigenous Peoples Celebration 

  • Assistant Curator Piper Pachette says the Shelburne Historical Society hopes its inaugural Indigenous People’s Celebration on Sunday will grow in scope to embrace more artists and performers from Amerindian groups and nations. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The Shelburne Historical Society Musuem will hold its inaugural Indigenous People’s Celebration on Sunday.

  • The Shelburne Historical Society Musuem will hold its inaugural Indigenous People’s Celebration on Sunday.

  • The Shelburne Historical Society Musuem will hold its inaugural Indigenous People’s Celebration on Sunday.

  • The Shelburne Historical Society Musuem will hold its inaugural Indigenous People’s Celebration on Sunday.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/7/2021 5:02:24 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS – The Shelburne Historical Society will hold its inaugural Indigenous People’s Celebration on Sunday to recognize the Native history and modern presence throughout the valley.

Held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event is free to attend at the Shelburne Historical Society Museum at 33 Severance St., on the corner of Maple and Church streets. 

The museum has on display an early 19th century Abenaki-Penobscott, Indigenous Peoples’ Exhibit. The surrounding grounds will host crafter tents and a wigwam.

Organizer Piper Pichette, the acting assistant curator and archive librarian with the Shelburne Falls Historical Society, said they hope the day will launch an annual event which will grow in scope to embrace more artists and performers from Amerindian groups and nations.

Attending artisans and presenters will represent a number of nations, Pichette said, including those that can trace their peoples’ ancestry to the Pocumtuc Nation. They include: Nipmuc (Pocumtuc); Iñupiaq-Athabascan; Wendat Huron (Pocumtuc); Mashpee Wampanoag; Abenaki (Pocumtuc); and Lakota.

Pichette said the event was inspired in part by an investigation into her own ancestry. Her father’s side of the family has Native ancestry from the Abenaki and Huron nations, “confirmed by a distant cousin” who will be attending the celebration. In her research to discover more about her heritage, Pichette said she has grown particularly interested in the linguistics of Native nations “that lived, and still live, in our area.”

Her mother, Reba-Jean, has been a curator at the museum since 2018. Since getting more involved with the museum over the last few years herself, Pichette felt there was a lack of representation of local indigenous groups.

“Having grown up in the area, I’ve loved visiting the potholes, and the history and legends around the falls as being a place of peace where Native nations and families that lived in the area would travel miles to fish and to hunt in peace …” Pichette  said.

The Mohawk Trail is rich with Native communities, “and should be rich with representation,” Pichette argued. She said a lack of representation is not the fault of local historical societies, but Native history has been “buried under years of colonial representation and history.”

Pichette created the current exhibit at the museum highlighting the history of local indigenous groups who lived along Mohawk Trail.  The museum received a mural from the Mohawk Trail Trading Post from the artist’s family for preservation, which is on display with other items from gift shops that were created along the Mohawk Trail and Route 2 to benefit from the tourism in the area. 

More traditional and historic items include woven baskets from tribes of the Abenaki-Penobscot and Odanak-Wabanaki nations, which migrated north toward Quebec in the late 17th century to seek refuge and security when indigenous nations were engaged in a conflict with the colonies of New England.

She said the project has been “healing” because it has helped her gain a greater connection and understanding of her own ancestry. She has continued to be in contact with a number of location groups to continue building stronger representation in Shelburne, “of all places, the home of the Salmon Falls and Mohawk Trail.”

Local organizations and indigenous groups that Pichette has connected with include the Nolumbeka Project, as well as members of the Nipmuc, Mohegan, Wampanoag and Abenaki nations. Pichette said the Oct. 10 event will celebrate the traditions of all nations that gathered in Pioneer Valley for centuries “to celebrate the time of the harvest.”

The day will be filled with interactive activities and demonstrations at the museum, including traditional dances and drum circles, which attendees will be welcomed to join.

Organizers are seeking up to four volunteers and docents to help during the event, and year round. The Arms Academy building will have entrances on Severance and Maple street open for constant air flow, and most of the event is scheduled outdoors. Attendees are asked to wear masks while inside the museum.

Volunteers who are into crafts will enjoy helping out at the museum's sponsored take-and-make stations. The Shelburne Historical Society is sponsoring activities, including finger-weaving and Native herbals lessons, throughout the event. These activities compliment those offered by the Amerindian artisans who are the focus of the day.

Those interested in volunteering are asked to call 413-625-6150 or email shelburnehistoricalsociety@gmail.com.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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