Still Here – Native American Awareness Organization Seeks to Engage and Educate

Every month, the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) hosts a series of powwows throughout the state of Massachusetts, including the Merrimack Valley. These powwows, along with dances and feasts the organization sponsors, aim to encourage the public to engage with important aspects of Native American culture. 

Local Native Americans, hailing from various nations, dress in their traditional regalia to perform time-honored dances. The costumes often feature a variety of feathers, symbolizing cherished attributes such as honor, wisdom and strength. Dance is a cornerstone of Native American tradition and holds sacred value. Each dance has a particular purpose such as celebrating marriage or promoting bountiful harvests. Photos by John Andrews.

The events feature colorful feathered regalia, dance circles, basket weaving and traditional food. While family friendly and fun, these gatherings serve an important purpose, providing an educational experience for attendees.

“The powwows are an opportunity for the public, as well as the native people, to immerse themselves in Native American culture,” says Anthony Silva, who has been an MCNAA board member since 2005. “We want the general public to have a truer understanding about our cultures. Native Americans are still here. We are still engaging in our cultural activities, and the powwows are the best ways for us to express that.”

Burne Stanley-Peters founded the nonprofit organization in 1989 with help from her late husband, John Slow Turtle Peters. They started MCNAA to help Native Americans pursue an education and meet basic financial needs, and also to increase the public’s understanding of native culture. 

Upper left: A young girl making a corn husk doll at one of MCNAA’s many powwows. Along with craft tables, powwowgoers will find expert craftspeople creating traditional tools, pottery and artwork. Below: Internationally known artists attend these powwows and present their work to the public. The woman in the photo above is assembling a basket out of tree bark, a very difficult task. Such craftsmanship embodies a Native American tradition that has been passed down for centuries. Photos by John Andrews.

Beyond its events, the MCNAA offers social assistance, and scholarship and cultural arts programs. The organization also advocates for political positions important to the Native American community and endorses speakers available for engagements and workshops.

The MCNAA’s many activities focus on increasing awareness of Native American history and culture in a way that might be eye-opening to many. “People will be able to get a better understanding of native culture,” Silva says, “not from history books, television and the movies but from Native Americans and the descendants of natives themselves.”  

To learn more and to see a schedule of upcoming powwows, visit


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