Kids Teaching Kids
Picture this: children, elders, and other members from the Wampanoag Tribe teaching non-indigenous children and adults about their traditional food, music, dancing, and crafts. Sound inspiring? Educators at the Waquoit Bay Reserve thought so, too. In July, they worked with the newly formed group, L.I.N.K. (Linking Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledge), and the Wampanoag Education Department to bring together Wampanoag and non-Wampanoag children so that the latter could learn more about local indigenous culture.
The L.I.N.K. group, which formed during the pandemic to foster understanding and reciprocity between the non-Native community and the Wampanoag Nation, came to Joan Muller, the Reserve’s education coordinator, with an idea. L.I.N.K. wanted to do an event where Wampanoag children would teach about their culture. The Reserve was the perfect host because they have a Weety8 (traditional dwelling) and mush8n (traditional canoe) and have been working with members of the Tribe on educational programs since the Reserve’s inception.
The Reserve has hosted the Wampanoag Singers and Dancers many times during their Evenings on the Bluff series, the Education Coordinator has worked with one of the Tribe’s educators to plan and present Teachers on the Estuary and the Wampanoag Circle of Life workshops for several years, and recently the Reserve hosted and helped facilitate the Tribe’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge workshops for educators. For many years, the Reserve was also one of the scientific institutions that participated in the Tribe’s “Preserving our Homelands” program which pairs scientists and elders as teachers for Tribal youth.
“The Reserve is pleased to be working with L.I.N.K. and Wampanoag educators,” says Muller. “We jumped at the opportunity when L.I.N.K. approached us with this idea.”
This summer, Muller and Reserve Events and Volunteer Coordinator Laurie Tompkins, worked with L.I.N.K. and members of the Tribe including Kitty Hendricks, Cameron Greendeer, Darius Coombs, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Education Department, to bring in Wampanoag singers, drummers, dancers, food, and crafts. Two-hundred and fifty people attended the event. Attendees learned about traditional ways at the weety8 (traditional dwelling), participated in the muhsh8n burning to help make a traditional canoe, and learned how to make corn husk dolls. Two of the youth Herring Ambassadors gave a presentation about their activism to protect herring.
“The corn husk doll has no face,” says Toodie Coombs from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, who taught participants how to make the corn husk dolls. “This teaches our children the valuable lesson of acceptance without judgment. That it doesn’t matter what a person’s race is or what they look like, and that he or she is no better than the people they may meet. It’s the Spirit within themselves that makes the difference and matters the most.”
“The energy on the bluff was truly sacred as children of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe danced with children and adult spectators, to the drumbeat of the Neesh-la Singers and Dancers and the Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers,” says Rachael Hicks from L.I.N.K. “It kept with our mission to raise awareness in our community of the true history and culture of the Wampanoag people. Thank you to WBNERR and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe for this collaboration.”
“A lot of the Reserves are on or adjacent to tribal lands and this is just one great example of the ways Reserves work with their local tribes,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “The System is made so much stronger from this type of collaboration. Not only did the attendees learn a lot, but it can serve as a model for other Reserves to host similar events in their respective regions.”