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Southern Berkshire Indigenous Peoples’ Day Event Series Starts Thursday

A group of people follow an older Indigenous man carrying a staff in nature.
Alliance For A Viable Future
A scene from the 2020 Alliance For A Viable Future Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration.

A series of events centered on Indigenous Peoples’ Day are scheduled in Southern Berkshire County.

A series of events centered on Indigenous Peoples’ Day are scheduled in Southern Berkshire County. WAMC Berkshire Bureau Chief Josh Landes has this preview.

Lev Natan, founding director of the environmental nonprofit Alliance For A Viable Future, is the organizer behind the four happenings.

The first is a gathering for a meal around a campfire at April Hill Education and Conservation Center in South Egremont Thursday night. Natan says it’s designed to build community before the day itself.

“There's going to be food provided by the Berkshire Food Co-op, a nice stew and cornbread to honor the corns, beans and squash, the native cuisine," he told WAMC. "And then people are welcome to bring food as well as a potluck and to share. And it's going to be the opening to really get grounded, why is this important to you to be involved in Indigenous Peoples' Day as a something to observe, but really, in bringing the Indigenous voice into our mainstream world – In particular, in our response to the climate crisis, and to center Indigenous people and their wisdom in our response and our approach to our collective future.”

The second event is focused on education. It takes the form of a talk with four indigenous community leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Housatonic on October 1st.

“Bonnie Hartley will be speaking about the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, the work that she does with cultural heritage preservation," said Natan. "And also Shawn Stevens is also a ceremonialist from the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans. He's traveling all the way from Wisconsin for Indigenous Peoples' Day itself. And then Chief Jake Singer is a Navajo medicine man, he lives in Pennsylvania. He's my adopted grandfather, so I have that personal relationship with him. And he's just brings a lot of wisdom from his traditions and cultures. And then Carol Dana is a Penobscot language master. She's an elder from Maine, Penobscot Tribe of Maine. So the four of them are going to be speaking about Indigenous Peoples’ Day, why it's important, and why indigenous perspectives are really valuable for all of us moving forward at this time.”

The third event is geared towards creating a transformative shared experience. It will take place on the day itself – October 11that the gazebo behind the Great Barrington town hall.

“You’ll know where it is because you'll hear a big pow wow drum right at 11 o'clock," said Natan. "And so you can come gather around at the gazebo, and we're going to start there with Indigenous community leaders sharing their thoughts and their feelings about the importance of this day. And then we're going to walk all together from the gazebo down Main Street over to where the post offices and then across down Dresser Avenue all the way to the Riverwalk. And then we're going to end at Memorial Park, the big baseball field below the Berkshire Food Co-op. And then there'll be some refreshments served at 2 o'clock at the basketball court on Railroad Street Youth Project.”

The fourth event – scheduled for the Unitarian Universalist Church in Housatonic on October 17thwill take stock of the cumulative experience and look forward.

“That last event is really for people who have been committed, and said, hey, I want to be a part of this," explained Natan. "And so then they come to that last event to really experience an opportunity to share with each other, what was that like for me to be part of this momentous experience? That's really the first time at this scale that the Berkshires and Great Barrington has participated at this level in Indigenous Peoples’ Day. And then we'll be thinking about next steps. We at Alliance For A Viable Future are committed to this being an annual event. So as we're moving forward throughout the year- How can we continue to build community and build relationships so that we continue to be resilient as a community and connect to this new version of reality, in a sense. To tell a new story of our history allows us to move into the future whole and connected.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day coincides with the existing Columbus Day holiday on October 11th.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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