Hundreds gathered on Albemarle Field in Newton Monday to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in a town where the holiday is officially designated — unlike at the state level in Massachusetts.

Performers and speakers from several Indigenous communities called for legislative action, shared poignant historical reflections and celebrated with intertribal dances.

For local vendors, it was a chance to sell their clothing, jewelry, tote bags and more.

“I think it's a great event. I think we should have more things like this, especially in the Boston area. We have a big Native population that people don't know about,” said Taylor Stasis, whose sister Micaih runs Red Rock Designs.

The pair returned to the event for a second year after Newton first celebrated last year.

“My sister is a wampum artist. We are from the Herring Pond Wampanoag community — born in Plymouth,” Stasis said. “She also does birch bark work, quilt work, copper work. Pretty much anything traditional, we've got.”

Philip-Earl Cash, who’s part of the Mashpee Wampanoag and also the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island, came to the event to sell clothing from his new brand IndigenoUS, which just launched in August.

“It's really about breaking down the barriers. It's a Native brand created for everyone,” Cash said. “It’s not just about just tribal unity but community.”

A reusable tote bag parodies the style of "THANK YOU" takeout bags, reading "NATIVE LAND" over and over. At the bottom, it says “Tlazocamati • Ahéhee • Wopila • Hahom”
Vendors like Yaoxochitl sold items like bags, clothing and jewelry at the Newton celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day Monday.
Hannah Reale GBH News

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller was on hand for the second annual event as well. “It is wonderful to lift up the fact that...we’re on Massachusett land," she said. "The Indigenous people are our forebearers and play such an important part in our community and our lives."

In the commonwealth, the second Monday of October is still officially celebrated as Columbus Day — something Liz Cold Wind Santana-Kiser wants to see changed. The councilwoman on the Chaubunagungamaug Band of Nipmuc Indians put forward five specific legislative asks for the Massachusetts State House when it reconvenes in 2023.

Santana-Kiser shared the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda when she addressed the crowd, pausing between each item while the audience applauded.

“Number one: remove the racist mascots,” Santana-Kiser said. “Number two: honor Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus. Three: celebrate and teach Native American culture and history. Four: protect Native American heritage. And five: support the education and the future of Native youth.

“If we urge our representatives to pass these bills, we will have taken great steps to begin the healing process,” she said.

The celebration came days after Mayor Michelle Wu declared Monday to be Italian American Heritage Day in Boston — which will be honored today and every second Monday in October going forward. Last year, former acting Mayor Kim Janey declared the same date to be Indigenous Peoples Day in Boston.

Danielle DeLuca, a member of Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day, spoke with GBH News at the Newton event. She said that Christopher Columbus should no longer be held up to represent Italian American heritage.

“Our feeling on Italian Heritage Day is that it cannot coexist with Indigenous Peoples Day,” DeLuca said. “We feel that it's not respectful to celebrate both a perpetrator of genocide and the victims of genocide on the same day.”

“We can find alternative ways to celebrate our heritage,” she added.

Santana-Kiser, as a member of a Nipmuc council, underscored the importance of the event being held in Newton.

“There's so many of these going on everywhere. So I chose here because I know Newton is one of our homelands. I thought it was important to come here and to announce that,” Santana-Kiser said. “And announce the bills that hopefully we get passed and make some changes and do some healing. We just need to do some healing.”