Cultural Club Takes Education Outside Schools

            Agenda-driven, social-media platforms may have hope of a future that includes civil discourse on controversial matters, thanks to a generation of students who are practicing good listening habits as members of their high schools’ chapters in the Cultural Clubs of America, Inc. (CCA.) Old Rochester Regional High School chapter founder Eddie Gonet, now an ORR senior, says the local chapter has come a long way in a short time.

            “We’ve definitely grown a lot, not only reaching more people but grown in what we’re learning,” said Gonet. “We’re having much deeper conversations, learning how to respectively discuss.”

            Last week, the ORR Cultural Club took part in a Zoom-style conference titled “Know Your Roots” together with chapters representing Tabor Academy, Fairhaven, Dartmouth and Nipmuc (Mendon-Upton.)

            The virtual conference aimed at raising awareness of local Native American history and culture featured Cora Peirce, an “historic preservationist” and member of the Pocasset Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

            A controversial subject in many high schools has been mascot logos and names, and it so happens Dartmouth High School’s mascot is the Indians and Nipmuc’s is the Braves.

            Noting that Peirce said she is offended by the use of Native American names as sports mascots, Gonet was interested to learn that Dartmouth representatives reported support from Native Americans who have said they feel honored by it.

            “It’s something we’ve really been aiming to a point where we can have discussions. It’s all about open discussion,” said Gonet.

            Peirce’s words were nonetheless compelling.

            “She was so detail oriented I could actually see in my mind every place she referenced,” said CCA Board member and Old Rochester teacher Michael Nailor in a press release from ORR.

            Nailor noted in the release how the event helped students learn about local Native American landmarks and some that have been desecrated by construction. Many students, he said, realized that they had passed by such landmarks without realizing their significance. He said that ORR student Isabella Hunter was surprised to learn that a rock bearing a handprint she had visited at her grandparent’s house is a sacred Native American stone.

            “The stuff we learned you just don’t learn in the textbooks,” said Gonet, who founded ORR’s chapter as a junior and early on helped arrange for a guest speaker from El Salvador. “It was good to open eyes and open minds to other experiences out there. It equips people with a toolbox to go out into the world.”

            The latest conference on local Native American heritage confronted students with information that a waste-collection area on Tinkham Lane was built at the site of a native burial ground.

            Each school’s representatives shared information about their own school culture and atmosphere. In the spring, Nipmuc holds a “Wellness Week” that culminates in a weekend devoid of homework. Fairhaven students discussed their social justice course and the historic architecture of their school. ORR students talked about “kindness week” and pep rallies, and Dartmouth representatives discussed their “Dartmouth’s Finest” talent competition.

            ORR Principal Mike Devoll said in the press release that while neighboring schools are accustomed to “locking horns in debate teams or sports games,” their participation in Cultural Club “was a great opportunity for schools to share-out, connect and learn from one another.”

By Mick Colageo

Leave A Comment...