Community gathers to honor Indigenous Peoples Day



Crystal Johnson, town resident, presented an indigenous chant at the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration on Monday, Oct. 10.

Community members gathered at the Brookline Health Building for the town’s fifth Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday, Oct. 10, to attend a celebration organized by the Brookline Indigenous People Celebration Committee.

The event included an array of tables with local Indigenous artwork, decorations and food, along with information about indigenous history and current political and social justice initiatives. Speakers, including First Parish Church member Ann Gilmore and Chair of Indigenous People Celebration Committee Felina Silver Robinson, spoke about indigenous history and the celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day. Town resident Crystal Johnson shared a chant, while her son Aspen Johnson, ninth grader at the Roxbury Latin School, presented an original poem.

Gilmore, who is connected to the Cape Cod Mashpee Wampanoag tribe through marriage, said the church has had to consider how to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day while residing in a town on stolen land.

“One answer we came up with at First Parish [Church] is a resolution committing us to continue to learn about, acknowledge and work to repair the historic and ongoing harm done to both black and indigenous people and communities and to be guided by and in relationship with the leadership of black and indigenous organizations and individuals,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore also announced the launch of the “Footprints” podcast, which tells the story of Susanna Backus, an indigenous woman buried in Walnut Street Cemetery. The podcast is a part of First Parish’s reparations efforts.

Aspen Johnson’s poem, entitled “Talc White,” is based on accounts of native youth from Canada losing connection with their culture and families, and a young child trying to reconnect with an elder in his community. Aspen Johnson said the poem is a “hopeful calling” for indigenous communities in the Americas.

Emphasizing the importance of connecting with one’s past, Robinson said discrimination should not be a barrier in anyone’s path.

“You should be [able to be] who you want to be without prejudice,” Robinson said.

Crystal Johnson shared a vibrational chant in the indigenous language Tsalagi, which she said is meant for healing.

George Pradt, an indigenous artist from New Mexico, shared his abstract paintings at the celebration. (ANYA RAO/SAGAMORE STAFF)

Artist George Pradt, a Native American from New Mexico, set up a booth with his sister to display his paintings. Pradt, who lives in Central Square in Cambridge, said he values the supportive environment for local artists in the area.

Aspen Johnson said he hopes more people take initiative to learn about and understand native history, as it is inherently a key aspect of the country’s past.

“Native history is so intertwined with just American history. We need to start educating ourselves,” Aspen Johnson said. “There’re so many aspects of native history that are really beautiful and interesting that are passed over, especially in the school system.”