Monday marked the second year that Sassafras Earth Education, an Aquinnah-based nonprofit, led an Indigenous Peoples Day event at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. A strong sense of local history was omnipresent as local Wampanoag leaders spoke of the painful history of colonialism and genocide that the tribe has endured.

Recently, a national movement to honor indigenous people on the second Monday of October has taken hold as an alternative to Columbus Day. David Two Arrows Vanderhoop, co-founder of Sassafras Earth Education, said a correction to the narrative of the discovery of America was needed. He and others at the microphone and in the audience called for abolishing “C-Day.”

“Indigenous people lived in balance with the earth,” he said. “Thousands of generations were on this land before the so-called discovery of America.”

David Two Arrows Vanderhoop, co-founder of Sassafras Earth Eduction. — Jonathan Fleischmann

“We’re not going to glorify the terrorist,” Mr. Vanderhoop continued. “Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates the people instead of someone who caused the genocide.”

Speakers and musicians at the event were all rooted in the Vineyard’s Wampanoag tribes. Durwood (Woody) Vanderhoop spoke of the joys and challenges of raising young sons who face cultural insensitivities — intentional or unconscious — as they navigate school and baseball. Retired U.S. Army sergeant Kevin Devine thanked audience members for attending, saying that “showing up means you are acknowledging us as a people.”

For Camille Madison, just showing up is not enough. Ms. Madison, who teaches the Wompanaak language in Mashpee, noted, “Many people love our culture and what we stand for but they do not respect our people. What will you do? What can be done?”

NaDaizja Bolling, director of the Aquinnah Cultural Center, asked the audience to think critically about the actions of non-Wampanoags on the Vineyard. She spoke with force about land reclamation, stating that Aquinnah Wampanoags own only one per cent of the Island’s land, and expressed frustration with high taxation on land stolen from her ancestors.

Event included a drum circle. — Jonathan Fleischmann

Sassafras co-founder Saskia Vanderhoop asked attendees to not just contemplate centering the needs of indigenous communities but to commit to action. To begin that process, she asked everyone to speak for two minutes with the person next to them and make a concrete, stated commitment to supporting indigenous people. Responses included no longer using Christopher Columbus’ name, re-framing the history of Martha’s Vineyard to begin with the Wampanoags and not Bartholomew Gosnold and supporting local Wampanoag-owned businesses.

A frequently-heard refrain throughout the event was the hope that children today will learn a history different from what has traditionally been taught. The thoughts were expressed as children played tag and laughed in the fields at Felix Neck, or sat quietly while listening and holding the hand of a parent.