On Indigenous Peoples Day, Kathy Pollard said she would like to focus on the future, while Ashley Smith came with a message about the past.

Pollard, who is of Cherokee descent, joined her daughter Ann Pollard-Ranco and Karyn Marden on a tour of a planting field at Sweet Land Farm, owned by Jay Robinson, in Starks on a day highlighting the history of native people in the area and the work they are doing now.

Robinson is letting their nonprofit, Gedakina, practice on his fields indigenous farming traditions that Pollard said are more sustainable than the monoculture methods used today.

Using the Three Sisters method, indigenous people planted squash, corn and beans together in mounds, taking up less acreage and allowing a synergy to form between the three vegetables.

“It’s a way of farming that, yeah, you don’t have as high a yield per acre, but that’s not always the goal,” said Pollard, who writes grants and works on development for Gedakina. “The goal in native culture has always been and always will be sustainability and being stewards of the environment.”

Much of the food will go to indigenous communities or those in need in local communities. Eventually, the nonprofit hopes to have native youths sell the produce at stands to get them engaged with the traditions.

“I think most of us like to focus on what’s possible and hope for the future instead of constantly dwelling on the past,” Pollard said in a phone interview Monday. “What are we bequeathing to our children and grandchildren?”

Pollard said she was watching her daughter walk through the fields and “when she put her hands in the soil for the first time this year, she could feel that connection, she could just feel that connection and that she belonged.”

At the Town Meeting in March, residents of Starks voted to no longer observe Columbus Day, 32-2. The small Somerset County town of 640 joins a growing number of municipalities in Maine and beyond that now celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

To celebrate the day, the public was invited to attend a tour of the planting field, a potluck supper and a presentation by Smith, an instructor in Native American studies and environmental justice at Hampshire College. The Starks Historical Society and the Starks Enrichment and Education Society sponsored the events.

Smith, 31, graduated from Madison Area Memorial High School in 2004 and is of Franco-Wabanaki descent. She decided to study and teach about Native American history because of her own interests in her ancestors. The area of Norridgewock Village was very important to her family, she said, and she spent time studying the effects of violence and erasure on both the French and indigenous peoples during Colonial-era wars while in high school and college.

As a scholar, Smith said she sees the second Monday in October as a day to push back on damaging narratives and acknowledge history.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: madelinestamour