OCCUPATION: Assistant director, Tomaquag Museum.
BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: Charlestown, right on the border of our tribal reservation.
RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Preparing for our Tomaquag Museum Indigenous Author Book Club.
I AM COPING WITH LIFE IN THE AGE OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC BY: Focusing on family. I’m homeschooling my two youngest children and I’ve created my own challenge, "100 days of family dinners," to encourage us to revel in the ceremony of eating together as a family.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Having my paintings displayed in an art show the Tomaquag Museum did in partnership with RISCA (Rhode Island State Council on the Arts). I never thought I was any good at art until some young tribal interns at the museum encouraged me to keep creating. They really pumped me up. Kids are amazing.
TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: To become a published author. I write and I’ve shared stories for the tribal community and at Tomaquag. One day I hope to be published!
I ALWAYS CARRY: A book to read. I never go anywhere without one.
WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: A forest ranger. I thought all they did was hike and take care of nature. I’ve always loved things that grow. It’s one of the things I like teaching about most at Tomaquag, traditional ecological knowledge.
MY HEROES ARE: My father, the late Rev. Roland Mars — he never said no to helping anyone and always did so with a genuine smile.
FAVORITE AUTHORS: Lucy Maud Montgomery is an all-time favorite of mine since I was a child. Timeless classics. But right now, I’m totally enamored with the Indigenous author Robin Wall Kimmerer, who wrote "Braiding Sweetgrass." We’ve been discussing it at Tomaquag’s book club. I’ve never read anything like it and it feeds my soul. I love to read!
BOOKS ON MY NIGHT STAND: I’ve been focusing on reading Indigenous authors as part of the museum’s book club, so right now I have "Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer and "Son of a Trickster" by Eden Robinson on my night stand. But you’ll also find "Lord of the Rings" there too. Even though I’ve read it before, every now and then we need a little Tolkien for when life gets dull.
TOP THREE SONGS ON MY PLAYLIST: The only playlist I have is a Christmas playlist. I’m a little obsessed with Christmas. There are lots of songs, but most notably "Red Christmas — A Round Dance Christmas Celebration," by Warscout. Nothing like Indigenous Christmas music! And of course "The Charlie Brown Christmas" album, my all-time favorite. I listen to it all year round.
LAST THREE SONGS I SELECTED ON SPOTIFY: "Anything for You," by Ledisi; "Ropa Cara," by Camilo; and "The Lookout," by Laura Veirs. I have really varied taste in music. I love everything.
FAVORITE THREE MOVIES OF ALL TIME: LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY!!! Plus "Anne of Green Gables" with Megan Follows (and the sequel) and "Journey to the Center of the Earth" from 1959. I don’t even know why but I’ve loved it since I was a kid and I never get tired of watching it. Exploring the unknown is so exciting!
FAVORITE TV SHOWS: Now in the world of streaming services, I haven’t watched TV in ages. But if I was to sit down and flick through, I’d probably stop at "Little House on the Prairie," "Golden Girls" or "Law and Order."
FAVORITE RADIO STATION/SHOWS: WNPE 102.7 FM, The Public’s Radio, that’s the one I’m always listening to when I’m driving.
TOP COMFORT FOOD: Blueberry Slump, basically sweet blueberry stew with dumplings. My mother makes the best. Slump is like a colonized version of a traditional Native dish called nasaump. Nasaump was kind of like a corn meal porridge that you could add different things to. No matter how you make it now, you must use wild blueberries. My other go-to is my mother’s wild grape jelly. Ask anyone, it’s amazing! You’ll never eat Concord again.
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES I USE MOSTLY: Facebook. I can’t delete it because I’m also connected to the Tomaquag Facebook page, which I manage, but I can lose too much time scrolling through memes and funny animal videos.
TRAITS I MOST ADMIRE: Motivation. I wish I was a motivated person. I’m in awe at Tomaquag’s director Lorén Spears and the way she tirelessly moves us forward from project to project … and successfully! I don’t know where she gets her energy but I could use a little.
PET PEEVES: The sound of other people chewing. *winces
FAVORITE QUOTATION: “As long as one person is still speaking one word, we have not lost our language.” Dr. Ella Sekatau, Narragansett tribal elder, said these words, and they are so incredibly empowering for me. It speaks to our resiliency as a people and our ability to reclaim our heritage and culture and never let anyone take that away from us.
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: This is my home, the home of my parents, grandparents, great grandparents, going back as far as I can imagine. I originated in this place and it’s as much a part of me as I am a part of it.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Books ... they are an essential escape from the mundane.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I serve on the Charlestown Conservation Commission. I just started in January and I’m loving it. We care for the hiking trails around Charlestown, so in a way, I’m finally realizing my childhood dream, lol!
BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: My grandmother, Grace Brown Spears (we called her Gigi), used to say, “some people are more to be pitied than censured.” I love that. It reminds me not to judge others but extend them some grace, we don’t always know a person’s life. She lived up to her name. She was one of the most loving and welcoming people I’ve ever known.
ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: I don’t really give advice. I just try to be a good listener. Most people just need someone to talk to, they usually know what to do themselves and just need your support.
IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: I don’t even want to rule the world. I can’t even imagine such a thing. It’s like giving a hobbit the ring of power. What would I ever even do with it? LOL!
IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: Pay off my bills, lol, and then donate to the Tomaquag Museum so we can realize our dream of building the new museum!
I DRIVE AN: Older Silver Dodge Caravan, maybe 2012. It’s not impressive enough for me to keep track of, but it holds a lot of kids and gets us where we need to go safely.
I WISH I DROVE A: Toyota Sienna. I used to have one and I just loved that van. There was room for everyone to stretch.
ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Butter. Butter makes everything better.
IF I COULD INVITE ONE SPECIAL PERSON TO JOIN ME FOR DINNER AND CONVERSATION, I WOULD INVITE: I wish I could have dinner with my father again. I miss him terribly.
— Interview arranged and edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro