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Community, town must engage in dialogue for healing cultural violence

By Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019 Letters 2

To the editor:

The town of Great Barrington took a notable step forward in October in passing a proclamation that “. . . shall recognize the indigenous people on this land on Indigenous Peoples’ Day . . .” Since then, there have been a myriad of community responses. Selectboard member Kate Burke’s letter lays out one vision: “In signing this proclamation (presented by the Du Bois Legacy Committee), not only did the Selectboard take a step toward social equity in our community but it also set in motion what can become a real honest healing.”

If the Selectboard and greater Great Barrington community wish to follow through on a vision for social equity and honest healing in celebrating Indigenous People’s Day, then community members and the town must steward and engage in a dialogue around the next steps for the second Monday of October. The work of healing and rectifying cultural and systemic violence must be continuous. As a community, we must ask ourselves how we plan to engage in education, dialogue and accountable action.

It is necessary that we start by examining how we work to understand the legacy of colonialism and center the voices of — while working alongside — Indigenous people in our community and in the displaced Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation to build a vision for healing. We teach our children a false history that doesn’t dig into the complexity and severity of what took place; we have erased Mohican people, physically by force and through white-washing our collective local history. But this town, like so many others, is founded on stolen Mohican land and the violence of colonialism has left deep marks on the places that were settled.

As the Thanksgiving holiday passes, may we use this as an opportunity — while also recognizing Thanksgiving time is not our only opportunity — to dig deep and spend time with our families and community learning relevant cultural and historical contexts. Reflecting on, learning about, reckoning with and repairing this country’s colonialist and genocidal legacy is hard, uncomfortable, invaluable work that we must engage in by following the leadership of those most deeply impacted.

With over a decade of organizing and advocacy, BRIDGE has worked to cultivate authentic relationships and support for Indigenous community members and communities. As members of the White Caucus for Racial Justice, one of several caucus groups of BRIDGE’s Towards Racial Justice and Equity in the Berkshires campaign, we seek to follow BRIDGE’s lead in building relationships with Indigenous communities. As a caucus, we are committed to naming, exploring and unpacking our collective and individual responsibilities for upholding white supremacy and its impacts. We want to invite community members and the Town of Great Barrington to step into joining spaces for this intentional dialogue, and to begin the long-term work of building authentic relationships and creating avenues for impactful repair with the people who our land was taken from. Continuing this dialogue throughout the year will be a challenge AND an immense opportunity to stand rooted in the values that many of us hold and to make our town a place that is more welcoming, safe and inclusive for all people. Thank you for engaging in this crucial work.

Sincerely,

Lily Swartz, Ari Cameron, Tim Likarish, Jeff Lowenstein, Curtis W. Mraz and Carrieanne Petrik

The writers are members of BRIDGE’s White Caucus for Racial Justice as part of Towards Racial Justice and Equity In the Berkshires