New DYS facility named for former Nipmuc chief


Westborough – A brand new Department of Youth Services (DYS) facility for teenage girls opened on the grounds of Westborough State Hospital in June. The facility was named the Zara Cisco Brough "Little Whiteflower" facility in honor of a former chief of the Nipmuc people. Brough was chief of the Nipmuc Nation from 1959 to 1982, and she passed away is 1988.

The new $20 million center will house up to 40 girls awaiting evaluation and permanent assignment to other facilities within the DYS system.

Walter Vickers, the current chief of the Nipmuc Nation, said that he had been approached by state officials seeking to name the facility after a prominent Native American woman since the center for girls was built on property once owned by the Nipmucs.

"They had asked me a couple of years ago if I knew of any Native American women that the state could name it after," Vickers said. "I right away said, 'Zara Cisco Brough, Princess Whiteflower,' since she's done a lot for everybody."

Apparently, Brough was a popular choice.

According to Vickers, the director at the time had responded, "You're the fourth person to have mentioned her name."

Last year, area lawmakers State Sen. Karyn E. Polito, R-Shrewsbury; State Sen. Pamela P. Resor, D-Acton; State Rep. George N. Peterson Jr., R-Grafton; and State Rep. Paul J.P. Loscosso, R-Holliston, cosponsored legislation to officially designate the facility as the Zara Cisco Brough "Little Whiteflower" facility.

According to Vickers, Brough was born on the Hassanamesit Reservation in Grafton in 1919. Her maternal grandfather, James Lemuel Cisco, and mother, Sarah Cisco Sullivan, also served as chiefs of the Nipmuc Nation. Vickers said that she graduated from Grafton High School during World War II and attended colleges in Washington, DC, and at New York University. During her 20s and 30s she lived in New York and Washington, working as a draftsperson, designer, technical writer and supervisor of government projects. He said that Brough was also co-owner of a textile printing company. After returning to Massachusetts in late 1950s, Brough became a vice president of a local consulting firm.

Brough was active on local planning boards in her native Grafton and in Native American aff airs until her death in 1988. In addition to serving as the chief of the Nipmuc Nation, Brough was a founding member of the Commission on Indian Aff airs in 1974 and served on that board for 10 years.

"She did a lot for a lot of young people," Vickers said. "She used her own money and time to do all these things. She always welcomed people up at the reservation, to look around, and give suggestions to what people would like to see. She was quite a lady."

He said that nearly 300 people attended the official dedication ceremony in her honor June 5, including one of her direct descendants. The day before, Vickers performed a smudging ceremony on the new facility.

According to the official Nipmuc Web site, www.nipmucnation. org, a smudging ceremony is a Native American ritual which "cleanses individuals of any ill feelings or evil spirits. It cleanses buildings and surrounding areas of evil spirits and is meant to bring a sense of peace and intent to do no harm."