Tag Archives: Native American

Side-by-side headshots of Claudia Fox Tree (Arawak/Yurumein) and Richard Holschuh (Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Elnu Abenaki Tribe)

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month in the U.S., a time to celebrate the contributions, history, and culture of Indigenous Americans and an opportunity to elevate the voices of contemporary Native people. Mass Audubon is committed to taking action to support Indigenous rights and to work in partnership with Indigenous communities, and one key component of that is promoting and raising awareness of Indigenous-led events, speaking engagements, and resources for working toward equity and justice for Indigenous communities.

To that end, here are some great upcoming programs and resources featuring Indigenous leaders so that everyone can get involved and learn from the wisdom of Native peoples:

Indigenous Perspectives with Claudia Fox Tree

Organized by the Sharon Racial Equity Alliance, Mass Audubon is co-sponsoring a talk by professional educator Claudia Fox Tree, M.Ed. (Arawak/Yurumein) on November 2 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. This free online presentation, titled Settler-Colonist Ties to Thanksgiving and Columbus: The Indigenous Perspective, will dispel inaccurate information, address the myths surrounding Thanksgiving and Columbus, and provide missing historical facts from the Indigenous perspective.

A headshot of Richard Holschuh outdoors, with green forest and mountains behind him.
Rich Holschuh, founder and director of the Atowi Project

Relationship, Reciprocity, and Responsibility to the Land with Richard Holshuch

Richard Holschuh is kicking off the next On Belonging in Outdoor Spaces series (organized and funded by a group of Lincoln-based nonprofit organizations that includes Mass Audubon) on November 10 at 7:00 pm with a virtual presentation called N’Sibo: the River to Which I Belong. Rich is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Elnu Abenaki Tribe and an independent historic and cultural researcher, and his work draws upon indigenous history, linguistics, geography, and culture to share beneficial ways of seeing and being in relationship with place. Learn more and register on the On Belonging website.

Learn the Truth About Thanksgiving at Felix Neck

Aquinnah Wampanoag Elder David Two Arrows Vanderhoop (founder of Sassafras Earth Education) and other Wampanoag guest speakers invite the community to bring a chair and a blanket and sit by the fire with them at a free outdoor event at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday, November 18 from 4:00–5:30 pm. Their talk, “The Ungrateful Taking: The Truth About Thanksgiving” will reveal the true story of the Thanksgiving holiday and the origin myth of the United States. Registration is required for this free, outdoor event.

An illustrated graphic with various vegetables, including corn, acorns, and pumpkins, and red text that reads, "The 'Ungrateful Taking': The Truth About Thanksgiving"

Explore the Indigenous Practice of Gathering Wild Edibles

Foraging and gathering were a way of survival for Indigenous peoples and continue to be food security today. Kristina Hook, an Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribal Elder born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, works to share her knowledge from growing up gathering wild foods and encourage everyone to keep the tradition going for future generations. Join her on Friday, November 26 at Felix Neck in Edgartown for one of two Gathering Wild Edibles programs—the first from 10:00 to 11:00 am and the second from noon to 1:00 pm (registration required). Check out a video from Sustainable Martha’s Vineyard to see a small preview of her vast knowledge.

Attend a Local Powwow

The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness maintains a list of local powwows and special events hosted by tribal communities, many of which are open to the public. The last of the year, the Honoring the Veterans Powwow, takes place on November 13 at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center in Ledyard, CT, but check back to the MCNAA website regularly as new events are added for the coming year.

Read, Listen, Watch, and Learn

If you’re looking for resources to advance your understanding of Native American history, culture, and social justice issues, check out the 21-Day Racial Equity Indigenous Challenge curated by Eddie Moore, Jr., Debby Irving, Marguerite Penick-Parks, and Claudia A. Fox Tree (Arawak/Yurumein). The extensive guide includes dozens of resources to read, listen, and watch, along with ways to engage, reflect, and act on Indigenous racial equity.

Reflections at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk © Mass Audubon

Reflection and Acknowledgment on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Reflections at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk © Mass Audubon
Reflections at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk

Over the course of Mass Audubon’s 125 years of conservation work in Massachusetts, the organization has grown to be the largest private landowner in the state. As such, it is incumbent upon us to take a thoughtful look at what it means to be a modern-day steward of the land. This is especially pertinent as we observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day and reflect on the history of the original people who stewarded the land for thousands of years before us.

To that end, we acknowledge that Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries are located on the traditional, contemporary, and unceded territories of several Indigenous nations, including the Massachusett, Mohican, Nauset, Nipmuc, Pennacook, Pocomtuc, Wabanaki, and Wampanoag. These lands were taken from the Indigenous people, creating a legacy of trauma that persists to this day.

We acknowledge that Indigenous stewardship of the land we now call Massachusetts kept its ecological communities vibrant, strong, and interconnected for thousands of years, but far from being relics of the past, Indigenous peoples, including the 37,000 individuals who currently reside in Massachusetts, are still at the forefront of environmental protection, ecological stewardship, and climate mitigation.

Mass Audubon deeply values the relationships that we have built with Indigenous people to date, but we also recognize that there is much work still to be done. Acknowledging Indigenous sovereignty and the ongoing trauma of colonialism is only the first step—and an imperfect one at that. Mass Audubon is committed to the work of learning, listening, and evolving so that we may live in “right relationship” (an Indigenous concept rooted in sustainability and respect) with the land and the people who have been its rightful stewards for thousands of years. We know this work will take persistence and time. We know we won’t get everything right on the first try, and we are open to constructive criticism. This message is more than an acknowledgment; it’s an invitation to respectful, open dialogue.

Mass Audubon was founded 125 years ago by two strong women, Minna Hall and Harriet Hemenway, who believed in speaking up for what is right, stepping up to make change happen, and initiating uncomfortable conversations—in short, they believed in making “good trouble.” Now we’re challenging ourselves to look at our work with the same critical lens so that we can do what’s right to protect the nature of Massachusetts for ALL people. It’s not only our responsibility to do this work, but our legacy.

We know that words can feel empty unless accompanied by action. Therefore, we are committed to taking the following actions to support Indigenous rights and to work in partnership with Indigenous communities:

  • Recognizing that the field of outdoor education is rife with cultural practices appropriated from Indigenous people and often lacking in authentic Indigenous representation, we commit to evaluating all our education, camp, and visitor programs for culturally appropriative practices; removing activities when necessary; and providing context and history to highlight the integral role Indigenous people play in environmental education.
  • Recognizing the loss of land experienced by Indigenous peoples, we commit to providing greater access to the lands we currently steward by offering free admission to Mass Audubon sanctuaries for all Indigenous peoples in the state.
  • Knowing that Indigenous voices, experiences, and history have too often been ignored or erased, we commit to performing scholarly research into the pre-colonial history of the lands we currently steward, with the goal of sharing this rich history with the world.

We are committed to addressing the greatest threats to nature today—habitat loss, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. The solutions to all these challenges are available to us, but we need everyone to have a seat at the table to succeed. This acknowledgment is not only a call to action; it’s a call to unity. We hope that you will join us.