“When we talk about land, land is part of who we are. It’s a mixture of our blood, our past, our current, and our future.
We carry our ancestors in us, and they’re around us. As you all do.” —Mary Lyons (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe)
The Burlington Players reside on the ancestral and unceded lands of the Massachusett people, whose name was appropriated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The Burlington Players acknowledge that the land on which our theater is built is the ancestral homeland of the Patuxet, Massachusett, and Nipmuc tribal nations. We honor these communities and the elders of these nations—past, present, and future—whose practices and spiritualities are tied to the land. We recognize the enduring relationships between Indigenous communities and the traditional territories our site occupies.
We believe it is our obligation to accurately and responsibly acknowledge the unceded land our institution is built upon. We recognize that American Indian, Native American, Indigenous, First Peoples, First Nations, and Aboriginal communities are present and alive today, and are not relics of history.
The Burlington Players is committed to using its institutional positionality to amplify the histories and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, and to work toward dismantling the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism.
What Land Do You Occupy?
Individually, you can take your first steps in honoring indigenous and native lands by learning more about the land you currently live on and occupy. Take this step by visiting Native Land Digital’s interactive Native Land map. The map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any indigenous nations, and is an ongoing project.
What are the names of past and present Indigenous people connected to the land you reside on and occupy? What are the correct pronunciations for tribal names and places in your area? What is the history of the land?
How do you make meaning of your place within this history? How can you honor indigenous communities?
Historical Villages of Massachusetts Nation ( http://massachusetttribe.org/our-history )
MASS Center for Native American Awareness ( https://www.mcnaa.org/ )
North American Indian Center of Boston ( Home (naicob.org) )
Headquartered in Cambridge since 1972, Cultural Survival has partnered with indigenous communities to advance Indigenous peoples' rights and cultures worldwide. The core of its efforts rests on the principles of supporting and amplifying efforts to raise awareness of self-determination for indigenous communities. Cultural Survival participants and members employ a participatory, rights-based approach to their relationships that respect and strengthen indigenous rights while honoring traditional indigenous worldviews and lifeways.
Claudia A. Fox Tree (she/ her/ hers) has been a middle school special education teacher for over 30 years. During this time, she has also taught professional development, social justice courses at the college level for Initiatives for Developing Equity and Achievement for all Students (IDEAS), as well as presenting at numerous national and local conferences and events. Claudia earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts (Boston), teaching certification in elementary and special education from Fitchburg State College, and a Master’s Degree in Education from Northeastern University with a focus on educational research. She is currently a doctoral student at Lesley University. Claudia is also a polymer clay artist, blogger, and mother to five young adults (and four cats).
Claudia has been on the board of the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (www.mcnaa.org) for over 20 years. MCNAA’s mission is to preserve Native American cultural traditions; to assist Native American residents with basic needs and educational expenses; to advance public knowledge and understanding in order to dispel inaccurate information about Native People; and to work towards racial equality by addressing inequities across the region.
Claudia is a tribal member of the Iukaieke Guainia Taino Tribe and a Massachusetts liaison for the United Confederation Of Taino People headquartered in New York (http://uctp.blogspot.com/). UCTP spans the Greater and Lesser Antilles as well as the United States and beyond. The UCTP is dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights, cultural heritage, and spiritual traditions of the Taíno and other Caribbean Indigenous Peoples for present and future generations, and endeavors to assist its citizens in their social, economic, educational, cultural and spiritual development. Claudia is multiracial German and Arawak (First Nations) and currently lives on unceded, unsurrendered Pawtucket territory of the Pennacook (in Massachusetts).
Johnny Cole MODERATOR (He/Him/His) is currently the Director of Equity & Student Supports for the Lexington Public Schools, as well as an instructor, facilitator, and consultant with Initiatives for Developing Equity and Achievement for all Students (IDEAS). Johnny is a proud member of an interracial family, built with love with his husband and their two adopted children. Prior to becoming a public school administrator, he spent more than a dozen years as a high school English teacher, working in the Boston area first at Medford High School and later Concord-Carlisle High School. He then spent four years as an Assistant Principal at Needham High School prior to his current role in Lexington. His family’s experiences have been featured with the Huffington Post and the Outspoken Voices podcast, among others. His published work includes “‘He Can’t Be Your Dad!’: The Intersection of Race, Adoption, and Gay Marriage,” a chapter in the book Adoption Matters: Teacher Educators Share Their Stories and Strategies for Adoption-Inclusive Curriculum and Pedagogy. His newest endeavor is beginning a doctoral studies program at Lesley University this summer. He can be found on Twitter at @LexingtonDEI.
Jennifer Wolfrum (she/ her/ hers) has been a health educator for over 45 years and recently retired from the Lexington Public Schools after 22 years in a variety of roles including Coordinator of Health Education K - 12 and Health Education teacher at the high school. She is currently an IDEAS Instructor and has been providing anti-racist professional development for over 30 years after having taken her first IDEAS course with Claudia as her Instructor. Jennifer earned her bachelor’s degree in Government and Philosophy from Skidmore College and her Master of Education in Community Health Education from the University of Texas at Austin. She has taught a variety of graduate courses at Cambridge College, Lesley University, and Framingham State University.
Jennifer is currently a member of the Pigsgusset Initiative which seeks to increase communication and promote collaboration among Watertown residents to undo the erasure of Indigenous Peoples from the place now called Watertown and to promote inclusive historical narratives. Pigsgusset, meaning meadows at the widening of the river, represents the colonial settlers' interpretation of the Native name for the area that we now call Watertown. She is also on the Steering Committee of the Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment.
Jennifer is a white, Irish-American settler currently living on the lands of the Pequosette Band of the Massachusetts Tribe. She is the mother of twin, adult daughters and is committed to social justice activism.
Heather Leavell (she/her/hers) is a second-generation Italian American and co-founder of Italian Americans for Indigenous Peoples Day, a Massachusetts-based group supporting Indigenous-led efforts to rename Columbus Day across the state. She is a co-founder of two successful Indigenous Peoples Day campaigns, first in her former city of Melrose, Mass. and more recently in Bedford, Mass. where she currently resides. Both communities are located on the unceded, ancestral lands of the Massachusett Tribe. Heather also assists the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda committee in advancing anti-racist legislation that would abolish Native mascots, establish Indigenous People’s Day, teach Native American history and culture, protect Native American heritage, and support the education and futures of Native youth. Heather is a museum director and curator in the Boston area and a mother of two.
Rebecca Smoler (she/ her/ hers) has been working in education for 15 years. She has taught middle and high school English Language Arts and professional development and courses on anti-racist teaching practices for educators and school leaders. She is currently the English Language Arts Coordinator in grades 6-12 for Sharon Public Schools and an instructor at Initiatives for Developing Equity and Achievement for Students (IDEAS). Rebecca earned her Bachelor’s degree in English and Cinema Studies from Northeastern University and a Masters degree in Teaching and Educational Leadership from Simmons College. She lives on Pawtucket land, also known as Metrowest Boston, with her husband and two daughters.