Watching attendees at the Barnstable County Human Rights Awards Breakfast, Sheila Lyons said the county “collectively recognizes that Cape Cod occupies the ancestral, traditional and contemporary lands of the Wampanoag tribe.”
The land reconnaissance is the first of its kind in the county’s history, she said.
“We recognize, support and defend the sovereignty of these indigenous communities,” said Lyons, member of the Barnstable County Regional Commissioners Council and Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Committee liaison. “We assert Indigenous sovereignty and will work to make Barnstable County more accountable for the needs of all Indigenous peoples. “
Lyons’ comments kicked off the county’s annual human rights breakfast, this year titled Honor the Wampanoag Nation – Guardians of the Earth. Approximately 150 people attended the virtual event on the Zoom teleconference Friday morning.
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The keynote speaker was Jonathan Perry, city councilor for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), who spoke about the history of Wampanoag, which spans “at least” 20,000 years, he said. The past 400 years have posed challenges for tribal entities across the region, but learning from these difficulties brings the capacity “to create a better world for all,” he said.
“We can collectively work together to deal with the changes forced upon us due to imbalances such as climate change and super storms, and the erosion of the lands we hold dear,” said Perry. “We collectively are to be those good stewards that our ancestors were trained and nurtured for – thousands of years ago.”
State Senator Susan Moran, D-Falmouth, who spoke throughout the program, said she was moved by Perry’s comments.
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“The Wampanoag Nation is consistency, respect for the land, respect for women and respect for elders,” said Moran. “I am incredibly impressed with the opportunity to continue working with the Wampanoag Tribe.”
U.S. Representative William Keating, D-Mass., Spoke about the Wampanoag youth who won Unsung Hero Awards over breakfast. The recipients included Jayden Murray, 16; 7-year-old Fionna Gately; Ava Hannigan, 9 years old; Ayanee M., 7 years old; and Waanutam M., 9, all from the Herring Pond Wampanoag tribe, and Isaiah Peters, 14; and Storam Pauline Coombs of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The winners were recognized for their activities related to the preservation of the environment, cultural enrichment and respect and honor for elders and ancestors.
The youth of Wampanoag are constantly working to “restore and preserve the environment and the cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of the region,” said Keating. Youth activism is “the key to improving the environmental aspects of climate change”.
“The Wampanoags have been careful stewards of the land for tens of thousands of years, long before the arrival of European settlers,” Keating said. “The impact of centuries and increasing population and too frequent disregard for the air, water and land around us is an embarrassment for our generation. “
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Speaking of the young winners, State Representative David Vieira R-Falmouth said it was “good medicine” to see a young generation “engaged in the future of their tribe”.
“Not just the future of their culture, but the future of the shared vision of working together,” Vieira said. “Together, we will be able to overcome challenges, right the wrongs and create a larger vision for the future of those who were here before us and all of us who are here today.”
As President of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe, Melissa Ferretti shone as she spoke of the tribe’s youth, who “strengthen each other and work as a team.”
“Our tribal youth are paramount, and we still have an inherent need to share the strength and resilience necessary to promote youth advancement, build self-confidence and encourage leadership,” Ferretti said. “We are committed to empowering and educating them on these values to ensure that they are prepared for a strong future as self-determined citizens of the Herring Pond Wampanoag Tribe and the Wampanoag Nation as a whole. “
Although Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, president of the Wampanoag tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), did not choose specific winners for the tribe’s youth, she said she recognized “all Wampanoag youth” and promoted them. ability to “maintain connectivity”. with each other. “
“They are the bearers of the culture of our future and our present – they have collectively demonstrated what it is to be a tribal community by staying together,” she said. “We applaud you and appreciate you all. “
As the awards breakfast lineup continued, others received quotes including John Reed, president of the Cape Cod chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and co-founder and president of the Zion Union Heritage Museum in Hyannis, which won the Rosenthal Community Award. Champion Award; William Mills, former Cornerstone Award winning Cape Cod Times editorial page editor; and Sandra Faiman-Silva, author of The Courage to Connect, which won the Tim McCarthy Award.
Patricia Oshman, of the Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission, called Reed a member of the community committed to “promoting and supporting human rights, concepts and ideals.” Because Oshman and Reed together started the Academy of Human Rights, Oshman gave it credit for bringing black history and literature to area schools; the establishment of the Zion Union Heritage Museum; and provide bilingual education at American Red Cross sites in Massachusetts, including CPR and first aid training.
“He is a leader – not just for people of color, but for all who need advocacy and their rights,” she said. “He changed my life. He changed everyone’s life.
Although his contributions to the Cape Town community were numerous, Reed was humble, yet emotional during his acceptance speech.
“I did a lot of activities and mentored a lot of people, but it was done for a reason,” he said. “And it is so that people can find a way to work together, to live together and, more importantly, to act in the best interests of the beloved community. These are the things that I have tried to do over the years and will likely continue to do.
A former student of Reed, State Representative Kip Diggs, in D-Osterville, shared memories of Reed when he was just 5 years old. Reed taught Diggs throughout his elementary and high school years, along with all of his siblings.
“Everything he did taught me to stand up – he taught me respect, honor and always looked out for us,” he said. “He showed me how we all have gifts and how to show those gifts.”
At the end of the line-up, Jeanne Morrison, a member of the Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission, said that it is thanks to all of the winners and the Wampanoag tribe that the fight for the rights of the man continues.
“As far as I know, this is the first time the county has brought tribes to the fore like this,” she said. “It has been a great platform for awareness, teaching moments and honor and respect. Let’s amplify ourselves. We know what we need and are clear on the way forward to lead us to justice. “