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Leading in Central MA: Cheryll Toney Holley, Chief, Nipmuc Nation

Monday, January 20, 2014

 

Cheryll Toney Holley, Chief/Sachem of the Nipmuc Nation.

Cheryll Toney Holley is the current Chief/Sachem of the Nipmuc Nation, a state-recognized tribe in Massachusetts. She also directs the Hassanamisco Indian Museum located on the Hassanamesit Reservation in Grafton, Massachusetts. She was a co-founder and director of the Nipmuc Indian Development Corporation, a Native Community Development Corporation and served on the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs for ten years.

A Conversation with Cheryll Toney Holley

SW: You have an unusual dual career as a nurse and the chief of the Nipmuc nation. When did you take office as Chief? How did that come about?

CH: Chief Walter Vickers resigned in May of 2013. He is able to choose 3 possible successors and then the choice passes to our Elders Council. I was selected by our Elders Council to succeed him. The transfer occurred at our annual pau wau in July of 2013.

SW: What are your responsibilities?

CH: My main responsibility is to serve the Nipmuc people and to maintain and safeguard the Reservation. In addition to my responsibilities as Chief, I am also a Nipmuc tradition-keeper. A tradition-keeper works diligently to aid in the continuation of Nipmuc traditions and culture and to ensure the transference of that knowledge to subsequent generations.

SW: What do you do in your other career?

CH: I am the clinical supervisor of the dermatology clinic at UMass Memorial Medical Center and the proprietor of PastTense Genealogy where I am a professional researcher and writer specializing in Native American and African-American peoples in New England. For over ten years, I have compiled genealogies and written family histories for descendants of New England's communities of color.

SW: Can you describe a day in your life?

CH: No, not really. I have no typical days. I have a family – three generations of us live under one roof. I work full-time at UMass Memorial Medical Center, I have a genealogy research business PLUS my tribal responsibilities. My life is pretty full!!

SW: Who or what has had the greatest influence on your life?

Many, many people have influenced my life but I think my mom has been the biggest influence. Her connections in our community are astounding – she knows everyone! It’s because of her and through her memories and knowledge that I’ve developed my love for my community.

SW: Your favorite quote?

That’s a tough one. Right now it’s “A leader is a dealer in hope.”, Napoleon Bonaparte

SW: What is the something that few people know about you?

I can’t sing – oh, wait, actually most people do know that.

SW: How do you spend your free time?

With my daughters and grandchildren or beading.

SW: What is on the drawing board for your life and for your nation in 2014?

Unity and forward motion. Working on unifying our people and on our own internal processes to insure our culture is passed on through the generations. We want to survive, progress and move forward in the future together. To be who we are only better!

 

GoLocalWorcester presents Leading in Central Ma, a weekly profile of an outstanding community or business leader. Join us every Monday for an inspiring look at the careers and lifestyles of Central Massachusetts’s most influential citizens.

Susan D. Wagner is president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity.

If you have suggestions for a profile, please email [email protected].

 

Related Slideshow: 14 To Watch in Central Mass in 2014

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Eric Dickson

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Lynette Paczkowski

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