Felina Silver Robinson reflects on her experience being Indigenous in Brookline



Having lived in the town for most of her life, Felina Silver Robin- son fights for the indigenous community’s recognition. She played a pivotal role in advocating for the land acknowledgement to be read before every town meeting.

Felina Silver Robinson, town resident, town meeting member and Acting Chair of the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Committee, has lived in Brookline for most of her life yet still feels isolated as an Indigenous person. Robinson, after learning about the town’s Indigenous history, was one of the leaders in advocating for a land acknowledgement to be read before every town meeting that was approved October 2021.

What is the community of Indigenous peoples like in Brookline?
No one has come forth to me as being Native, so it’s very difficult for me. I feel like I don’t particularly have an Indigenous community. We need people who are willing to get into things. It’s really hard when you try to put the message out for people to come forth and tell us who they are, and people don’t do that, so I will try to find a different connection to get people and try to find a different way to make people feel more comfortable. We need people to feel comfortable to be a part of their own community. Because it is theirs, it belongs to them.

How long have you lived in the town?
I’ve lived here since I was three and I’m 59. Outside of my siblings, I feel alone. That’s a long time to live in a place and not have people that are the same as you. It’s really hard to not be accepted in places and in ways and to be told that I’m not something. It’s so sad to see that Indigenous peoples in Brookline don’t feel at home in their own place. That’s how I feel and I’ve lived here my whole life.

Do you think it would have been easier for you to find a community in another town?
I don’t know if that would have made a difference. I learned that the community where our people were was in Cherokee Nation in North Carolina. That’s where my family grew up. We visited there when I was a kid and I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t have wanted to be there. I didn’t even visit there later on. Brookline is my home.

How did you initially react to learning more about the town’s past of disrespecting Indigenous peoples?
I was very angry because I feel hurt about a lot of things; I feel like our people have been enslaved and no one acknowledged that. [Town members] didn’t even want to put that in the acknowledgement. They were trying to say that that didn’t mean anything, that it didn’t matter. But it did.

Why is it important to recognize and make change in light of the town’s Indigenous history?
It’s important to be aware of the need to fight for change. It’s not right to take things from people, to steal civil rights or to have treated people in the way that they didn’t deserve to be treated. It’s important to change the behavior.

What was your experience advocating for the land acknowledgement during town meetings?
Being Native American and knowing that the land was stolen, and then when town members didn’t want to give it back at first, I was very upset. In the first town meeting when they responded, everyone was very against wanting to give it back. We had to go before town meeting several times before they were willing to give it back. I was really upset about having to go back and forth so many times.

Knowing that people that I live in a town with have the attitude of not wanting to give the land back and I had to live in the same place as these people, that hurt. But then I got people who were coming to me afterwards telling me how proud they were for putting up the fight. In the end, that made me feel better about having fought for it.

Why does the town need to know about Native Americans in the town’s past?
Because Native Americans don’t feel as though they have a presence here. They need to feel like they have a place as well. They need to feel like they can stand out as much as everyone else. They need to be able to feel like they have a mark. They’re just as important. My children feel like they’re not important. They walk the streets, and they feel like no one sees themselves. They feel invisible. That is not right. They want to feel like when they leave here that they’ve meant something, they work just as hard as everyone else, they want to feel like they’re just as important, that their opinion means just as much as anyone else’s.