On Tuesday morning, October 12, the day after Indigenous Peoples’ Day, members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe drummed while students, parents and educators gathered beneath three shiny new flagpoles to see the Mashpee Wampanoag tribal flag raised outside Quashnet School for the first time.
Previously, only the US flag waved over the elementary school. As of Tuesday morning, however, the Massachusetts flag, the US flag and the tribal flag each have a place near the school’s entrance.
“A flag to me is sort of this nonverbal communication of honoring, acknowledging and respecting the people whom the flag represents,” Mashpee Public Schools Superintendent Patricia M. DeBoer said at the event. “This school was built in 1978, I believe it opened in 1980, so we’re talking about 41 years of only having one flagpole with the United States flag. These two additional flagpoles are long overdue.”
Students in grades 3 to 6 came outside with their classes to see the flag raising. Sixth graders Kira and Emma Duvall sang the national anthem as the US flag rose on the center pole.
Members of the 6th grade student council took turns pulling the rope that lifted the US and Massachusetts flags.
After the first two flags were raised school committee chairwoman Nicole D. Bartlett addressed the students in the crowd, telling them to be aware and to draw strength from knowing the Wampanoag people were on Mashpee’s land for thousands of years and that they are still here today.
“I want to remind you students that this flag is really a symbol,” Ms. Bartlett said. “I like to think about it when I’m walking around Mashpee, that Mashpee Wampanoag people walked these lands for thousands of years and they stewarded this land so we can be here today.”
Tribe members performed traditional songs and said prayers before their flag was also raised as the school community watched.
Members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council invited Native students in the crowd to come up and join them during this section of the ceremony. Tribal youth sang the “Good morning song” and an “I love you song” in their native language.
“Unity is something we live by in our community—the word ‘unity’ is in ‘community’—and it is this community that we’re thankful for,” Tribal Council Chairman Brian M. Weeden said. “We’re thankful for everyone who has been here, all our ancestors who paved the way for us to be here.”
Amiyah Peters, Mashpee Wampanoag Youth Council chairwoman, led a prayer in the Wampanoag language and then recited it in English.
“Creator and ancestors, I thank you for all things. I thank you for the sky; I thank you for the stars; I thank you for the land; I thank you for the rivers; I thank you for the oceans; I thank you for all creatures; I thank you for all my relations. Help us to see only what is good; help us to only do what is right,” she said.
Tribal youth raised the Mashpee Wampanoag flag together. As the sun broke through the clouds on a misty Tuesday morning, all three flags waved together in front of the school.
Although the Quashnet School was the first to put up the flagpoles, Ms. DeBoer said the other Mashpee public schools will soon have their own tributes to the United States, Massachusetts and the Wampanoag tribe.