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Wampanoag Activist Shares 500 Years of History

Annawon Weeden walked members of the Emerson College community through 500 years of Native American history on Friday, November 18, in the Bill Bordy Theater.

Weeden, who is a Wampanoag artist and activist, talked about the culture and customs of Native Americans, as well as the modern Native American experience. The event was organized by International Student Affairs with the Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement, as part of International Education Week, a nationwide initiative sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

He said the Emerson audience was warm and welcoming.

“I have performed this piece enough times to know that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “Usually that is dictated by the participation by the audience…here the school, the kids, the students, they are involved. They want to be involved. Particularly, today’s piece wouldn’t have been successful if there wasn’t this involvement from the audience. Personally, I can’t thank them enough.”

Weeden started the story of Native Americans in 1491. His performance entailed various traditions of the Wampanoag tribe, such as giving thanks to the four corners of every room and welcoming guests by dancing in a circle.

His interactive piece then moved to 1606 and 1675, when Native Americans were tried by the Europeans for their way of life. He demonstrated the pain and humiliation that the tribe had to go through to stay in their homes.

During the performance, he changed his attire from a traditional tribal outfit to more Westernized 19th-century clothes to T-shirt and jeans, signifying a similar transition that the native people had to go through to adapt to the new America.

The visual elements of Weeden’s piece particularly interested some of the students.

“He gave the whole performance as a visual, and it was very impactful,” said Andreina Aparicio, a Communication Management graduate student from Venezuela.

The audience’s attention was captured by Weeden’s breakaway from the traditional lecture format.

“The way he presented is really interesting,” said Nyan Lynn, a Journalism graduate student from Myanmar. “All the guests were absorbed in his presentation. We had a chance to learn [the history of Native Americans] and their emotions.”

After a harvest feast organized for the audience, Weeden also conducted a Q&A during which he talked about being accepted in society as a Wampanoag and bringing his culture into the mainstream.

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