Community gathers to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day



Many visited this year’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration and learned about Indigenous crafts.

On Oct. 9, the Florida Ruffin Ridley School hosted an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration organized by the town’s Indigenous People Celebration Committee in conjunction with the Native American Indian Center of Boston and the Brookline Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations.

This celebration featured the handmade art of many Indigenous artists, both local and out-of-state. Participants of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Celebration gathered to share their culture through their art and bring awareness to larger issues still plaguing Indigenous communities.

Upon entering the Ridley cafeteria, one was instantly met with the aroma of various essential oils, perfumes, and candles. Food from the Manoa Poke Shop was being served and lively conversations could be overheard from the clusters of visitors around each table.

DebRa Deep, a Cherokee woman from Florida, said she sells crystals and essential oils to connect herself and other people to nature. Deep said such products reconnect people to the Earth from which they came.

“This type of society has pulled us away from being our natural selves and enjoying the outdoors that speak to us,” Deep said. “I sell crystals and gemstones and essential oils to bring that light into my life and other people’s because people have gotten away from it.”

Brookline resident and Abenaki tribe member Regina Frawley sold aprons, pillows and quilts at the celebration. Frawley said she has sold her hand-sewn items for 25 years, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, would do so at a craft show. Frawley was introduced to working with fabric through family traditions.

According to Frawley, the Abenaki tribe—or the “People of the White Pines”—speak the Algonquin language, which she knows fragments of. Frawley said that she thinks most of the vendors at the celebration are indigenous and that the indigenous population is very diverse.

Also from the Greater Boston area, wellness consultant Sister Releigh sold magnet rods to improve individuals’ health, and homemade cotton Dahomey wraps that are meant to be worn over the hair in a specific style.

“Magnets to me are the most thrilling breakthroughs that I know that help serve people in a positive way; they help remove toxins that build up and improve blood circulation,” Releigh said.

Aside from these goods, a spirit stick lay across Releigh’s table that took her three weeks to make and featured feathers she had hunted herself and a cowhide handle. Releigh said she would be gifting this spirit stick for Jean-Luc Pierite, the president of the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB).

“He’s done some outstanding work this year during COVID-19 with all the challenges we’ve had and I wanted to give thanks for all this work he’s done,” Releigh said.

Releigh said that she and Pierite are from the same tribe in Mississippi, the name of which she wishes to not enclose for its protection.

“We’re still under threat in many ways and you don’t want anything to happen to your tribe just because you said something you shouldn’t have,” Releigh said. “That’s really what it’s about to me.”

Felina Silver Robinson, a member of the Indigenous People Celebration Committee, said she participates and organizes these events to raise awareness for important pieces of legislation that will help support Indigenous people in Brookline and Massachusetts.

One element of Brookline legislation that has been an object of discussion at Town Meeting since 2017 is Warrant Article 11: A Land Acknowledgement statement that the Indigenous People Celebration Committee has requested be read at the beginning of any annual or special Town Meeting.

Deep said she hopes events such as this one will help educate people about Indigenous cultures, and by extension bring awareness to the ongoing violence against them.

“It means so much on so many levels, just to bring awareness to so many people, especially Europeans, a lot of them don’t know about any other culture, so having an Indigenous Day here is really grand. It’s really wonderful because we need to know about each other’s cultures,” Deep said.