Sacred Places: Indigenous Pictographs in Canada Being Vandalized

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Vandals are destroying ancient indigenous pictographs throughout Canada at an alarming rate and activists are trying to call attention to the desecration and its consequences.

As of late July vandals had defaced, and in some cases destroyed, indigenous pictographs in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Montreal in the last six years including some recent dramatic incidents.

“We are talking about indigenous heritage, oral traditions, cultural memory,” [Zawadzska] told CBC. “The sites are associated with sacred places, traditional territories, and traditional knowledge. They are living sites.”

Read the article in Indian Country Today.

TF School Board Creates Task Force for Mascot Decision

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The decision on a new mascot for Turners Falls High School will be made with the help of a community task force created by the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee.

The School Committee discussed the mascot selection process for about an hour and a half during its Tuesday night meeting, where it landed on the creation of an advisory task force that would be a mix of students, high school staff and community members — without district administration or School Committee members.

The task force will include up to eight students, four staff members and six community members: three from Montague, two from Gill and one from Erving.

Read the full article by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

Separating the Penobscot From Their River

Penobscot-Indian-Nation-Rally-June-30-2017-–-Courtesy-Penobscot-Indian-Nation

On June 30, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that severs the Penobscot Indian Nation  from the waters of the Penobscot River, a ruling that Penobscot Indian Nation Chief Kirk Francis says is reminiscent of federal termination policy—or worse.

“The river and our relationship to it and the 200 islands [that form the reservation] are the core of our cultural identity. If our ability to protect the river is taken away, we lose a big part of who we are,” Francis told ICMN.

Read the full story by Tanya Lee in Indian Country Today.

Vermont’s Legacy of Colonization and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

eugenics diagram american philosophical societyevent details legacy of colonization dorothy canfield fisher award vermont

August 11, 2017 at the Root Social Justice Center, 28 Williams St., Brattleboro, VT

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In the larger struggle against racism, we invite Judy Dow, an Abenaki educator, artist, and researcher to discuss the VT Eugenics Survey and it’s connection to the Dorthy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. She will be joined by local librarians and teachers to reflect on the legacy of colonialism in our society today.

Join Brattleboro Solidarity in supporting the struggle led by Judy Dow to change the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award. This last minute event is very time sensitive as the Vermont Department of Libraries will be deciding any day now whether or not to change the name. Please come to show your support.

Following the talk there will be light refreshments and actions steps to be taken. Free Admission.

Turners Indian Advocate Suggests Keeping Logo with Modifications

William Turner Monument Gill MA

An unfortunate turn of events.

At Tuesday night’s Gill-Montague School Committee meeting, Chris Pinardi unveiled a plan to involve Native American tribes and groups in a process that would allow the school to keep its previous mascot, the Indian, while adjusting the mascot to create an accurate and respectful representation.

Pinardi, who is a graduate of the school and has been running a group in support of retaining the former mascot, spoke at the beginning of the meeting and delivered a packet with letters from tribal leaders from Vermont and Lowell. He asked the district to consider keeping the name while adjusting the representation with assistance from the tribes.

Pinardi asked the board to listen with an open mind and consider suspending the current process to select a new mascot.“I respectfully request that the logo process be tabled and this process be explored fully,” he said.

The committee discussed the issue later in the evening, making no clear decision on the issue, and opting to delay discussion of the mascot selection process because of how late it was in the night.

Read the full article by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

Hartford Historical Society to Honor Abenaki Tribe

historic french depiction abenaki couple

After a year’s hiatus, Abenaki and Indigenous Peoples Day is returning to White River Junction. The celebration, hosted by the Hartford Historical Society, aims to honor Vermont’s earliest known residents who lived in the area well before Vermont, or the United States for that matter, was ever thought of. It will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction. Admission is free.

Among the attendees will be Jeanne Brink, whom Martha Knapp, director of the Hartford Historical Society Museum, described as “a respected elder,” of the Abenaki tribe. Brink also teaches the Abenaki language. “The language is really getting big now that the Abenaki are starting to come out and get recognized,” Knapp said. Brink also teaches basket-making, and three of her students, Emily, Megan and Valerie Boles, will be there with her to demonstrate their skills.

Read the full story by Liz Sauchelli in the Valley News.

The River In Us

I was asked by someone recently what is it that makes the Kwenitekw, n’sibo, our river, sacred. Is it the traditional fishing places? Is it the burials of the ancestors? What follows is my reply:

Thank you for asking; these are understandings that are foundational and go below the surface of things. I hope we have a chance to speak together again some day, for it is simpler to express these things in person. But I will share a few things:
  • It is important to remember that words have power and they derive from our worldview, which is expressed in the cultural tool we call language. There are many languages, and many ways of seeing the world. They differ dramatically, and the use of a word, or concept, can mean very different things to different people. Thus, “sacred.” When speaking of Abenaki cultural concepts, one cannot look at it through a Western religious lens. The dictionary definitions that fit “sacred” best are (from Merriam-Webster): 1) entitled to reverence and respect and 2) highly valued and important, as in “a sacred responsibility.” It is not a religious designation, but rather a spiritual recognition.
  • So, with regard to your questions of the river’s significance regarding fishing locations or burial grounds, the answer is yes, all of that, and much more. The reason being that we are all related, all equally significant, and part of the same great circle of Creation. Time does not exist in a linear sense, but is a continuum, constantly changing but all part of the same. Thus, we as human beings (in common with, say, plant beings, fish beings, stone beings, wind beings) have a ongoing responsibility to honor these relationships. We cannot act to harm the River, as it is as deserving of respect as anyone else, and in fact, we derive our very life from it – it would be very shortsighted to do otherwise..
  • As indigenous people (defined as the original people of a distinct place), we so identify with our homelands that we see ourselves as part of it, inseparable and continuous. For example, when an Abenaki person identifies him- or herself, they would not say “My name is so-and-so and I live in Brattleboro.” They would state “… I am Brattleboro.” Consequently, one’s attitudes and actions toward the River, are as unto one’s very self and one’s family, because it is exactly that. We (most of us!) consider human life to be sacred. So is the river.
  • You have heard the expression, especially this past year with the action at Standing Rock, that “Water Is Life.” This plays out clearly in the Abenaki language, which by nature embodies its cultural worldview. Let me explain that, in a Native sense, the well-known term “medicine” means anything that promotes or sustains health and vitality – this makes complete sense, but in our Western way of thinking it has been separated and limited into a drug that addresses (often only symptomatically) sickness. It has got the relationship backwards and misses most of the bigger picture of the interconnectedness of life. The word for water in Abenaki is “nebi”; the word for medicine in Abenaki is “nebizon.” So, you can see, that water is at the heart of life. The River is our great provider, for which we can only be grateful.
  • To learn that burials are often at the edge of the River is no coincidence. I don’t think I even need to explain that one! It is a place where strong connections have always been made, and where they can be accessed over and over. We go there to pay our respects to our ancestors, to say thank you to the water, and to pray for the same blessings for the generations to come. It is our “church.” There are certainly other places that are important as well, but the River is at the heart of them all. It unifies and connects – think in terms of a watershed – a flowing cradle, a web, an endless cycle enveloping the people.