By Nick Kolev
Boston University News Service
Indigenous Peoples Day Newton, an entirely volunteer-run committee, held its second annual celebration of the holiday Monday at Albemarle Park. In spite of the overcast weather, attendees watched performances, browsed vendors and gathered as a community to celebrate the distinct Indigenous cultures of America.
A press release from the IPDN Committee described the event as an outdoor, family-orientated celebration of the spirituality and cultures of Indigenous groups. Over 40 artists, vendors, speakers, performers and community organizations attended the celebration, according to the group.
Robert “Coyokitzli” Quesada, the event and fundraising coordinator for the IPDNC, said he was very pleased with the turnout this year as a frequent attendee of ceremonies and Native events throughout the year.
“I’ve seen so much willingness and open-mindedness to learn,” Quesada said. “And I think that with us presenting many different cultures here we provide a really good connection to the community to be able to learn in a safe place.”
He noted the event is run entirely through volunteers who have also set up fundraisers throughout the year, including an Indigenous food demo, an August Moon Gathering and a movie screening.
“No member of the committee gets paid for any of their work, it’s all completely volunteer time,” Quesada said. “Every member of the committee also is a parent and has children in the Newton schools. So aside from the time with our families, aside from the time from work, we also make time to continue this work throughout the year.”
According to the press release, the event was also funded by grants from the Mass Cultural Council, Newton Cultural Council, The Harmony Foundation, local businesses and individual donations.
Erin McCormack, an attendee, said she was motivated to come to the event in support of her Native American friends. She also particularly enjoyed the music this year.
“I love the drum, I just love it. it speaks to me, it drives me, I feel like dancing when I hear it,” she said. “And I love learning too. I mean, I think I know quite a bit but I always learn more.”
Jailah Fernandez said she came out to the event to learn more about her culture and enjoy the dance performances.
One improvement from last year’s event, Quesada said, was the increase in the number of artists and vendors.
“We have twice as many artisans than we did last year,” he said. “And we’ve also kind of really curated the format of the presentations and the ceremonies and the speakers to really entice our community and engage on themes that are very relevant.
Quesada noted among the speakers present were elders from the Narragansett tribe in Rhode Island, Mexica people who live in Newton, as well as from other cultures who have connections to the community.
An important issue for the IPDNC, Quesada noted, was the push for the holiday to be officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts. While over 20 cities — including Boston and Newton — recognize the holiday, it is yet to receive statewide recognition.
Quesada said one step they are taking is starting a school program within the district to implement better education about the Indigenous residents of the land, with other additional efforts.
“[We hope] also to continue to push the envelope with actions, marches and other fundraising events to really build positive conversations about why it is important to make it statewide,” Quesada said.
Quesada added that all their efforts have been focused on this year’s celebration, but they already have ideas and plans for fundraisers and outreach efforts for the 2023 event.
“I’m sure that we’re going to top it in a way that we have not yet,” he said.
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