Written by WHS Student (Class of 2023) Adah Nordan
For the past 6 months, I have worked with Winchester Student Allies for Native Mascot Change (WSANMC), a group of high school allies aiming to remove and change the Sachem mascot. On Thursday, July 16th, I attended a rally organized by Mass Peace Action, United American Indians of New England, North American Indian Center of Boston, and the MA Indigenous Agenda at the State House along with several other members of WSANMC.
The rally was in support of legislation that was part of the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda, specifically bills that would:
- create a five-person commission to investigate and make recommendations for changing the current state flag and seal, which depict a Native person standing beneath a Colonial broadsword,
- ban the use of Native mascots in Massachusetts public schools, and
- penalize publicly-funded entities that tamper with any Native American sacred and funerary objects, human remains, sacred objects, or objects to the tribal communities of origin, as well as deter auction houses from being able to obtain such items.
Shortly after we arrived at the state house, one of the Native speakers asked any high school students to stand on the steps behind her. From the steps, I could see the whole crowd of people who came together in support of indigenous rights. It was truly inspiring.
Faries Gray, the Sagamore (or paramount chief) of the Massachusett Tribe spoke first. During his speech, a crowd of counter-protesters arrived. Their numbers increased as more speakers, including Senator Jason Lewis, said their pieces. They shouted disrespectful remarks at the Native speakers and then approached the steps to be in front of the news cameras. I was very nervous and caught off-guard when this happened, not knowing how to respond. But everyone who came to support the rally remained peaceful and calm, ignoring counter-protesters even when they seemed agitated, even aggressive. A memorable and moving moment that touched me was when I saw Native people waving feathers with incense over the counter-protesters, a peaceful, cleansing process.
I learned a lot from observation, and the experience of attending the rally has motivated me even more to continue practicing allyship and educating myself on indigenous issues. It was amazing to hear what the Native speakers had to say, and I am so grateful to have experienced such a powerful rally.