This summer I have embarked on my internship experience at the North American Indian Center of Boston. As the oldest urban Native American center in Massachusetts, NAICOB exists to empower the diverse indigenous community here through social services and community events. So far, I have been assigned three major responsibilities: receptionist, office assistant, and researcher. My station as office intern and receptionist has gifted me the greatest insight into the inner workings of a non-profit organization and just how much effort it takes to run. It also enabled me to add my own creative contribution to many of the initiatives NAICOB strives to accomplish. The first order of business is building up the local Native Americans Veterans community. On September 11 we are inviting all Native American Veterans and first responders to the center to join in a “talking circle” in order to foster connections to community, services, and networking opportunities. This week, I finished designing a flyer for the event and will assist in reaching out to as many Native veterans we can find.
Many other projects come across my desk, namely an ongoing research project for the Boston Public Schools. Every day I uncover videos, articles, books, movies, and other materials that can be utilized to build a well-rounded Native American history curriculum for the students of the Greater Boston Area. This will allow future generations to learn about indigenous history as it truly is: a vibrant culture with a sorrowful past, yet resilient and very much alive.
Through only a few weeks working here, I have come to realize just how important the existence of a center such as this is to the local indigenous community. Invisibility and marginality within the United States is one of the defining obstacles NAICOB and the tribes it represents face. This struggle is even more palpable in Boston, a city that prides itself as the birthplace of its nation. Yet, it rarely recognizes what it took away to become the thriving country it is today.
For the rest of my time here, I am determined to be a part of the efforts to educate the public about history through the indigenous lens, to reconcile my part in the marginalization of indigenous folk, and to earn the privilege of becoming an informed ally in the quest to remind the world that Native Americans do not exist in the past tense.
– Paige Hildebrand