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National Indigenous People Heritage Month

In recognition of National Indigenous People Heritage month, Falmouth Academy's Students for Social Justice invited David Weeden, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO)/Director of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to join them over Zoom on November 18 to provide an indigenous person's perspective on Columbus Day and as well as some thoughts on the land acknowledgment movement. Weeden encouraged the students to think critically about the impact of Columbus’s arrival on Native American peoples, urging them to consult a range of primary sources written from a variety of perspectives before embracing broadly accepted versions of topics in history.  He challenged students to consider the implications of celebrating a historical figure who directly and indirectly slaughtered or enslaved indigenous people.

On the topic of land acknowledgments, Wheeden again urged students to do their homework, suggesting to them that much of Wampanoag land was forcefully taken, but even land that was acquitted by treaty was done so under false pretenses.  To the Wampanoag, Wheeden suggested, the land belonged to everyone and the concept of it being bought, sold, owned or traded simply defied that cultural understanding.   Selena Mills, an Indigenous writer from Canada, explains what these are in her article, "
Land Acknowledgments and Why Do They Matter?" According to Mills, land acknowledgments are public declarations that honestly and accurately recognize the "traditional First Nations, Métis and/or Inuit territories of a place." They can take many forms such as commemorative signage, a respectful greeting, or something more elaborate such as the Wampanoag site at Plimoth Plantation.

Regardless of the medium, the goal is to honor the fundamental kinship to the land of Indigenous people. "Sovereign land," according to a letter by Plimoth Plantation in support of the Mashpee Wampanoag Community dated March 31, 2020, "provides an essential basis for self-government, a connection with the ancestors, and a lifeline to preserving cultural heritage."  The letter continues by affirming that we are all connected by the land we share which provides for us, roots us, and shapes us regardless of how we identify. It concludes with a call to action to learn from history in order to be better equipped to engage the challenges of our times. And, really, aren't we all just guests on this land we inhabit together?
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