Indigenous Peoples’ Day Gathers Community
by Danielle Campbell, The Arts Paper, Oct. 14, 2022
Rachel Massaro stepped forward, her purple hair and clothing vibrant in the afternoon light. She took in the circle of people around her, the ground firm beneath her feet. The smell of sage hung low in the air, sweetgrass and turkey feathers laid out nearby. Sentence by sentence, she wove through a history of residential schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women, of children fleeing with their parents. A history that had yet to be taught—and learned from—in Connecticut and across the country.
A member of the Northern Cheyenne and Saponi tribes, Massaro was one of roughly 30 people to attend an observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Wednesday afternoon, held on the New Haven Green now annually. As in previous years, it was organized by Norman Momowetu Clement, a New Haven member of the Penobscot nation and a confederate member of the Quinnipiac tribe.
He said he’d chosen Wednesday—rather than Monday—because many still observe Oct. 12 as Columbus Day. It marks the day in 1492 when Columbus landed in what is now recognized as the Caribbean, beginning the mass rape and murder of Indigenous Taíno people.
“We’re trying to do away with Columbus,” he said. “So, unless you’re fighting to get that change to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day, then you shouldn’t be celebrating that day. One has to cancel out the other. We’re not going to be canceled out. We fought too hard to be canceled.”
For Clement, that fight is personal. Decades ago, his own father was adopted by a white family ostensibly trying to “better” Indigenous children, he said. In his father’s case, that meant hiding his culture and history from him. Growing up in that environment, Clement did not know he was Indigenous until he was 35 years old. His father never spoke of it because he was taught not to. He didn’t know what tribe his father was from until he started searching for answers.
[Entire article can be read at www.newhavenarts.org/arts-paper/articles/indigenous-peoples-day-gathers-community]