MIDDLEBORO, MA–Neither the 8’ high snow banks that constricted parking at the Middleboro, MA VFW Function Hall nor the forecasts for yet more snow could keep hundreds of people from attending the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) Mid-winter Social.
Traditional Mi’kmaq dancer Don Barnaby of Hull, who brought his made-to-order moose stew for the potluck feast said, “There wasn’t any room left on the dance floor because of so many dancers! A big thanks to Burne Stanley for her dedication and love for our Native brothers and sisters.”
MCNAA was founded in 1989 by Burne Stanley-Peters and her late husband Slow Turtle (Cjegktoonuppa), Supreme Medicine Man of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and first Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs (1974-1997).
Slow Turtle, in addition to many other activities, pushed for laws that affected Native Americans throughout the country such as the Native American Graves Repatriation, the American Religious Freedom, and the Indian Child Welfare Acts.
The non-profit’s mission is to develop and implement programs that serve the spiritual and cultural needs of Massachusetts’ Native Americans, to increase public understanding, awareness and appreciation about Native Americans, and to preserve cultural, spiritual and traditional ways of Native Americans.
There is a general membership of over 2500 people from numerous states and countries; several tribes are represented on its leadership and advisory teams and all of those people reside in Massachusetts.
The organization holds socials such as this Mid-Winter, as well as sponsors the long-standing pow wow at Plug Pond in Haverhill, MA, (2011 will be its 23rd year) and the annual Spring Planting Moon Pow Wow at Marshfield Fairgrounds.
A new annual pow wow for Native American Heritage at nearby Bridewater State University that ethnic studies coordinator Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson, Wampanoag, Assistant Professor of English, helped plan, is now added to its roster.
MCNAA also has a social assistance/needy fund and a fuel/emergency food and scholarship fund. The assistance is paid directly to vendors and the organization’s various fundraisers support the members’ needs.
MCNAA also supports a quarterly newsletter, Turtle Talk, that records their events as well as informs the public.
People supported the organization’s efforts at the social by contributing to the small silent auction and 50/50 raffle.
The impressive gathering also provided community-wide recognition of a singular, highly regarded Elder and dancer, Lee Edmonds, as it was his birthday.
“We see him dancing at all of the socials and many pow wows. He is very friendly and respected by many,” noted Mary Anne Hendricks, Sachem, Natick Nipmuc Indians.
Lee and his brother Harry are both admired dancers in the greater New England area; other dancers know that when the two are in the circle, their own steps will be more assured, and the public will be smiling. The two have danced for years in the area, always transcending politics and disappointments to bring a smile to the people’s faces.
At MCNAA’s first annual golf tournament held in Brockton last summer at White Pines Golf Course, Harry was the longest drive winner. In addition, one way that the tournament celebrated traditional ways was to have Harry smudge the players before tee time.
Other notable people at the event included Mashpee Wampanoag Chairman Cedric Cromwell and his wife Cheryl Frye-Cromwell, Health Liaison with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
Recently, the US Mint commemorated a Wampanoag-colonial era treaty on the back of the dollar coin (the front is the familiar Sacajawea image).
Cromwell stated in a press release that “We are honored that the US Mint has chosen to acknowledge our great Sachem Ousamequin and the significance of the 1621 Treaty” with Plymouth Colonial Governor John Carver.
Also attending was Cedric Woods, interim director, Institute for New England Native American Studies (INENAS) at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Eastern Medicine Singers, one of several drums who came out to support MCNAA, travels throughout New England on the pow wow trail. They write their own Eastern Woodland songs and sing old Eastern Woodland music.
Their home page gives thanks to Strong Woman, Professor Julieann Jennings (Nottoway Cheroenhaka), adjunct professor at Eastern Connecticut State and Pima and Quinebaug Community Colleges. Jennings “contributed to the Algonquin sound and gave (them) permission to play some of the songs.”
Eastern Suns (Cape Cod), and Iron River Singers (northern style, with over twenty years on the New England circuit), and Black Hawk Singers kept the dancers moving. George Lone-Wolf Thomas, Narragansett, directed the floor.