Matriarchal Strength: stories of Indigenous separation and border crossing

Rachael Devaney
Maxwell Library, 2nd and 3rd floor
November 07 - January 16, 2020


Bridgewater State University will host an opening reception for “Matriarchal Strength: stories of Indigenous separation and border crossing,” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 at Bridgewater State University’s Maxwell Library. The project, which was composed by freelance reporter and photo journalist Rachael Devaney and curated by Jay Block, associate director of collections and exhibitions for Bridgewater State, is in partnership with the Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective, and will be on display in the balcony areas of the library until January and is free and open to the public.

“Matriarchal Strength,” will feature 11 portrait images of Devaney’s birth family, who hail from El Salvador. The photos, which will be paired with shared stories and written content, will help audiences make connections between South, Central, and North American Tribal communities, and their struggles with family separation and immigration. For Devaney’s Indigenous family – and many others within Turtle Island - the border crisis began when Columbus arrived in 1492, bringing genocide, and extermination to Indigenous communities, while simultaneously taking possession of lands, wealth, and resources. For centuries since, first world powers, including the United States government, have not only funded civil wars throughout independent countries in the Americas, but readily participated in the continued extermination of Native people by creating gaps between Tribal communities.

The exhibit and opening reception will also address Devaney’s thoughts on her adoption from El Salvador in 1978, and how the reunification with her birth family impacted her connection to who she is as an Indigenous woman living in America.

Rachael Devaney is a freelance reporter and photojournalist for multiple publications on Cape Cod, the South Shore, and New York City. Devaney grew up in Centerville, MA, attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, double majoring in Journalism and Social Thought and Political Economy. Upon graduation in 2001, Devaney moved to the New York City, living in Harlem, where she contributed to nationally distributed magazines like “XXL,” and “The Ave Magazine,” and worked for social justice organizations like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), which is now based in Washington, D.C.; and the National chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). After moving back to Massachusetts in 2010, Devaney worked for several immigration law firms as a paralegal, but eventually became a regular business and entertainment contributing writer and photographer for the "Cape Cod Times," "The Barnstable Patriot,” “Cape Cod Life,” Falmouth Magazine,” “Southern New England Weddings Magazine,” “Wicked Local," and lifestyle guide "Madame Noire." Devaney also co-founded the Adoption Circle for Women of Color (ACFWC) in 2010, which continues to hold support groups in the Tri-State and New England area. Most recently, in April of 2018, Devaney, who was adopted from El Salvador in 1978, was re-united with her birth family, after being separated for 40 years. Devaney currently resides in Onset, MA, with her daughter Fressia Jones and her partner Juarez Stanley, and can be contacted at