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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A New Type of Thanksgiving Hits UMass-Boston Early

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Where the old student-owned café once stood, sounds of heavy drum beatings could be heard on November 16, 2007, which I would later learn were from the Mi’kmaq First Nation tribe’s Red Horse Drum group. For the first time since its closure, student-run Wit’s End Café embodied the student spirit once again, if only for a six-hour span that Friday. The spirit renewed itself in the form of “A Day for Gathering,” a Native American Student Society sponsored event focusing on bringing tribe nations across Massachusetts together to join in celebrating Native American Heritage Month.

Through the continued activism of NASS and their advisor, Anthropology Professor Den Ouden, UMass Boston has risen through the ranks within the Boston college community to become a strong figurehead in promoting diversity, especially the appreciation of Native American culture.

Despite the horrific history of injustices done to the Native Americans, in their case there is no question to the age-old adage of “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Marge Bruchac, of the Abenaki tribal nation, relayed the importance of coming together in the form of Samoset’s story of hospitality.

The event itself was the epitome of coming together, as Natives of many tribal nations, including the Mi’kmaq First Nation, Abenaki, Navajo, Mashpee Wampanoag, Pockanoket, and Blackfoot, showed their support for NASS by attending, participating in, or by showcasing and selling traditional merchandise at the event.

Not everyone was a first-time attendee. Take for instance Leslie Tuplin and her husband, Don Barnaby, who have been more than just familiar faces since their first NASS collaboration in Spring 2006 at the Winona LaDuke event. Bringing about awareness of Native Americans and their beautifully handcrafted bracelets is not the only reason why Tuplin and her husband attend; it is because of the “[NASS] students who are not only intelligent and energetic, but culturally diverse and just as empowering as Professor Den Ouden.”

The event was more than just a celebration of native culture, it was a joyous occasion for people of all ages, Native or not. Mi’kmaq First Nation Elder, Don Caplin, who traveled more than 10 hours to participate in the event, made it clear at his closing that there were too many serious people around to enjoy the simple fact that “life is wonderful,” and even if there is a rough day, it is important to be thankful.

Typically, when people think of Thanksgiving, what comes to mind is Native Americans and Colonialists harmoniously feasting on wild game and other native produce. Besides bringing home with me a newfound appreciation for moose stew, I realized that there truly is a silver lining in every cloud, and how important it is to stay positive and thankful for just being, all the while lending support to each other.