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Celebrating Native American Culture and Voices in Marlborough

The latest episode of Marlborough Minute on WMCT-TV featured an insightful roundtable discussion highlighting how the city serves its diverse residents through education and cultural programming focused on Native American communities.

Guests included Scott Strong Hawk Foster, a photographer from the local Nipmuck tribe whose powerful exhibit "Ways of My Ancestors - We Are Still Here" is on display at the Marlborough Public Library until March 31st. His stark black backdrop portraits beautifully capture the regalia and spirit of Eastern Woodland Native Americans.

Scott was joined by Andre StrongBearHeart Gaines Jr., creative director of the cultural revitalization non-profit No Loose Braids, and Sara Belisle, director of the Marlborough Public Library. The conversation explored the importance of providing space for underrepresented voices and uplifting indigenous cultures.

As Andre powerfully stated, "It wasn't even legal for us to speak our language until 1978." He discussed harsh truths like the genocide endured by Native populations in Massachusetts, and the deep significance of being able to openly teach traditions like social dances in public spaces like libraries today.

Sara highlighted the library's commitment to ensuring all community members feel welcomed and represented through diverse programming and cultural events. However, she acknowledged the challenges of conducting effective outreach to connect with various groups.

Both Scott and Andre emphasized the need to counter pervasive misconceptions that Native Americans no longer exist in modern society in authentic ways. As Scott shared, "We don't dress like this every day, but this is how our ancestors dressed and we're honoring our ancestors."

The insightful discussion highlighted many upcoming exhibits and events celebrating local Native cultures, including the "Manumuniohtu (To Create)" show at Bunker Hill Community College and a powerful installation recreating a traditional Nipmuck homesite in Worcester's Elm Park.

By providing vital platforms for indigenous voices and stories, institutions like WMCT-TV and the Marlborough Public Library play a crucial role in promoting understanding, representation and respect for the rich diversity of Native American communities. As the roundtable affirmed, these are perspectives that have been far too long suppressed, ignored or romanticized. Continuing to amplify them is essential to an inclusive, educated society.


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