Shelburne Falls event to celebrate Indigenous peoples 

A drumming group at the Indigenous Peoples Celebration at the Shelburne Historical Society in 2022.

A drumming group at the Indigenous Peoples Celebration at the Shelburne Historical Society in 2022. STAFF FILE PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI


Staff Writer

Published: 10-13-2023 8:32 PM

The public is invited to join together in a tribute to Native American culture and history in the Shelburne area on Sunday.

The Shelburne Historical Society will host its third annual Indigenous Peoples Celebration on Sunday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arms Academy building at 33 Severance St. in Shelburne Falls.

“We have always lived in a ‘contested area,’” Piper Pichette, event coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples Celebration, wrote in an email. “Long before the period we call First Contact, this land had been shared (or fought over) by many nations between the seasons and over the years. Waterfalls, however, like Shelburne’s were peaceful community gathering places for generations. We hope to recreate such a gathering, where representatives of nations could continue to educate and connect with the public in a positive atmosphere.”

Artisans and performers from local Indigenous tribes will come together for the day of celebration.

Confirmed artisans and presenters include Trace Lara Hentz of Blue Hand Books, Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition and the Nolumbeka Project, among others. The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) sponsored this year’s event. This is the first year the Nolumbeka Project and PVMA will participate.

PVMA’s Museum Curator Ray Radigan loaned the Shelburne Historical Society its collection of circa 1970s educational paintings on local Indigenous people. The exhibit will include commentary addressing better understandings achieved through intertribal communications over the last 50 years.

“This year, our celebration is planned to be both intimate and engaging,” wrote Pichette, a descendant of Roch Manitouabeouich (Huron-Wendat/Algonquin-Canadian First Peoples).

Within the museum, visitors may learn to play a Native American flute with Helen’s Willow Winds, connect with local author and researcher Trace Lara Hentz of Blue Hand Books, and learn about the Indian Adoption history and the latest in genealogical research. Outside there will be community drumming with the Visioning BEAR Circle Intertribal Coalition.

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The museum will have expanded exhibits of Indigenous people’s maps, histories, art and artifacts on display in the main hall. The Arms Academy Agricultural Room in the basement will be open, as they continue renovations. Families will be able to engage with interactive stations and get involved with the continuing renovation and reimagining of the Mohawk Trail Mural by artist Bob Eaton.

“We are especially honored to have the Nolumbeka Project with their wealth of information and research,” Pichette continued. They will have a fundraising raffle in which people can win a number of art pieces by modern and local Native American artists.

This year, the date for the event was changed to the week after Indigenous Peoples Day (Oct. 9), to accommodate the schedules of the Indigenous presenters who were busy appearing at other area events around the weekend of the holiday.

The new date commemorates the passage of Proclamation 4468, which was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976. The proclamation made this week in October “American Indian Awareness Week,” marking the first national recognition of the culture and history of Indigenous peoples since the founding of the United States of America.

“The past two years we have done this event, people have told us how much fun they had visiting, how much they have learned what they did not know they were missing before,” Pichette wrote. “There were also comments of how much it meant that the Historical Society was taking that step forward to highlight important Indigenous history in the valley as well as including local nations’ representatives today.”