Event Recap

A Compelling Conversation with Larry Spotted Crow Mann

Thursday, October 14, 2021

On Tuesday, October 5, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) Compelling Conversations Speaker Series welcomed resident artist Larry Spotted Crow Mann for an open dialogue about the state of Indigenous communities across the United States. Sponsored by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in collaboration with the Mary L. Fifield Art Gallery’s BHCC Distinguished Artist Scholar in Residency Program, Mann will lead BHCC through virtual professional development workshops about Native American history, culture, and storytelling during the 2021-2022 academic year.

“We are all experiencing this in this time together,” Larry Spotted Crow Mann reminds participants. The award-winning author of The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving, Native American Cultural Educator and Traditional Storyteller has a humble spirit that radiates beyond the tiny square Zoom image of him on the screen. 

He began to speak about the history of his mother and hers before as farmers of tobacco. Like many Native families, his maternal family lived off the land - growing and hunting food and sourcing resources to meet their needs by hand. Today, Mann travels the world to share stories of his family and their community, building a platform that allows him to share music, culture, and heritage that has been widely erased. His work encourages humanity to look toward the land holistically and gives voice to a history of abuse and genocide openly ignored for centuries. 

As a first-generation “city kid,” the trauma he faced as a Pre-K through elementary and middle school student shaped Mann’s view of the education system in our country as a place for him to go to be abused. He and his peers endured vile epithets and assault and regular occurrences of abuse.  Black and brown kids who were bussed to white schools were all enrolled in the same class, denied access to simple humanity like addressing teachers by name and walking in the halls during the school day.

Amid these failed attempts at de-segregation, Mann recalls how he was not once exposed to a Native educator in the school setting. Experiencing Native culture at school was often mockery. Mistral-like mascots, painted faces, and other misrepresentations of cultural norms were present where representation was not. The coursework did not include the contributions of Native communities to the industrialization of America. Rubber and petroleum were native. Agricultural influences are present in the foods we eat today. Per population, indigenous people enroll in the military more than other races of people. Still, we do not include them in our narrative of wars. Much of today’s curriculum still exclude this part of our history.

After a thoughtful presentation, Mann engaged attendees and responded to their questions with generous insights. His invitation to all of us was to look at holidays like Indigenous Peoples Day as an opportunity to make fundamental shifts in education instead of choosing celebration. “Think about the children. Think about the land,” he offered. “It’s a time for reconciliation.”

Mann shared a platform for others who are in support of Human Rights being returned to indigenous people. For example, reaching out directly to the people of the Massachusetts tribe, whose land we occupy today to provide resources and support. Legislative support is also a need for this community. There are currently five bills in legislation that address racist mascots, insensitive and racist holidays, and other injustices. Visit massindigenousagenda.org to support bills and learn about other opportunities for allyship.

Join us on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at 6 p.m. for the next Compelling Conversations Speaker Series event featuring Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother and social changemaker. Learn more at bhcc.edu/cc