A strong working relationship involving towns and tribes

  • BRULE

Published: 4/25/2019 11:04:39 AM

I was absolutely dumb-founded by Chris Pinardi’s opinions (April 20, “Begin the process of education) on the local efforts by many of us to educate our students and the general public about Native American issues in our region.

Is it possible that Pinardi has kept his head buried in the sand all this time, ignoring all the activities involving our citizens and the region’s tribes going on right under his nose?

Isn’t it time to give it a rest, Mr. Pinardi?

Here are some hard facts he has chosen to ignore:

1. Pinardi’s own town of Montague has been sponsoring the National Park Service’s study of the 1676 massacre at the falls for the past five years. This effort involves major cooperation between tribes and towns: four tribes and the historical commissioners of five Valley towns meet every month to oversee the archaeologists and anthropologists hired by the town to research that event. Local historians, Native representatives and interested citizens consistently attend these open, and posted meetings. We have presented seven public informational meetings at Turners Falls High School about the progress and results over those years. Updates on this study are regularly printed in the Montague Reporter and The Greenfield Recorder.

2. At the Discovery Center in Mr. Pinardi’s town, the Nolumbeka Project has offered four events per year during which representatives of the Native Nations have presented their history, language, culture, cuisine, and shared the socio-political problems facing their peoples.

3. There have been annual Days of Remembrance to commemorate the victims of the 1676 massacre. The region’s Native Nations have been represented at these events, as well as other tribal and non-tribal people of good will. In spite of a standing personal written invitation, Mr. Pinardi has never deigned to attend. That annual commemoration will be again celebrated on May 18 this year. Let’s see if he can make it.

4. The Nolumbeka Project will partner with Nipmuc and Abenaki story-tellers, Turners Falls resident and local hero Tom Sullivan’s Pollinators Welcome organization to conduct workshops in seven local schools. We will introduce local tribal lore that connects the human and non-human world in the effort to provide our students with the opportunity to get involved in community service pollinator projects, with an indigenous theme.

5. We will meet with Gill-Montague social studies teachers this month to discuss means and content of Native American units of study in the middle and high schools. We will also meet with social studies teachers of the Greenfield School System at the invitation of the superintendent.

6. The Sixth Annual Pocumtuck Homelands Festival at Unity Park will expand to two days this year, Aug. 3 and 4. This free event has brought to Montague Indigenous musicians, historians, craftspeople from more than 12 Native Nations over the years. Contrary to opinion, there are now more “Indians” at the falls than since the darkest days of 1676.

We welcome more than 2,000 visitors a year from all over New England to this free event.

7. We have planned a 2020 River Walk series of Indigenous teach-ins along the river offered by representatives from the Abenaki, Nipmuck, Wampanoag and Narragansett Nations, starting at Dartmouth College, then Brattleboro, Northfield, Montague, Deerfield/ Sunderland, Agawam, and ending at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, CT.

8. We will be presenting a Powerpoint discussion entitled “Archaeology and Healing at The Falls — Life, Loss and Renewal at Peskeompskut” at the Greenfield Savings Bank on May 11. I would be honored if Mr. Pinardi were to attend.

The above partial list of initiatives gives lie to the suggestion in the April 20 My Turn that engaged citizens have “moved on” and disappeared, that nothing is happening here at the falls. There already is a strong working relationship involving towns and tribes. The “ruin” perceived by the author of the My Turn does not exist. It would be a considerable breakthrough if Mr. Pinardi could put his considerable talents to good use in helping these efforts.

David Brule is chairman of the Nolumbeka Project, Inc. and project coordinator of the NPS Battlefield study at Peskeompskut-Wissatinnewag.

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