Brattleboro Reformer Letter: Erasure, Celebration, Respect

My letter to the Editor at the Brattleboro Reformer, under the headline “Letter: Do not erase, but do not celebrate or emulate either”, posted 2:36 pm on May 1, 2017 and ran today, May 2, 2017.

Editor of the Reformer:

Last week, following a unanimous vote by the members of Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting, the Select Board officially adopted a resolution to make a change in observance from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. I’d like to offer a short explanation toward understanding why this is both appropriate and timely, and partly in response to Mr. Nickerson’s countering letter this week.

The process of adopting this change has been straightforward, thorough, and widely supported, and I am grateful for that public validation. Following direction from the Board last year, a petition was utilized to gather the requisite 5 percent of the Town’s registered voters’ signatures. With help from several friends, about 450 names were collected in short order, and presented to the Town Clerk, who vetted them and certified the threshold had been met. The petition was presented to the Select Board, who ultimately placed it on the Warning for the 2017 RTM. In the time that I was personally collecting signatures last autumn (on the sidewalk), only one person voiced their disagreement.

Why take this action? While we are all simply human beings, the basic meaning of “indigenous people” are those that are the earliest inhabitants of a place, usually over a very long period of time. It is roughly synonymous with the terms aboriginal and autochthonous. Indigenous people have maintained longstanding relationships with nearly all land masses on Mother Earth. Most indigenous groups have been exploited and/or displaced by later arrivals, usually through the ongoing process known as colonization, and they continue to deal with the drastic impacts of that dominant structure. The introduction of that system to the Western Hemisphere was marked by the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Yes, it was an epochal event and, yes, it is an ongoing reality.

History is not simply a set of facts. It is a story told by an individual, or group of individuals, to give voice to a worldview, of which there are many. People are, if anything, complex, and many stories have been told, often with an intent to assure a shared set of values and assuage fears of others that may be different. We know where those fears have led, and continue to lead, humanity. With a move toward understanding and mutual respect, we can make a little progress toward a better life for all — by this I mean all, human and other-than-human. We can recognize that Columbus was a person whose actions were significant, and lasting, such that they cannot be erased, but he and his legacy are no longer to be celebrated or emulated. Rather, the people who have been most deeply affected by his (symbolic) arrival are worthy of recognition, respect, and restoration for who they are and what they contribute.

Rich Holschuh,

Brattleboro, April 26

Goodbye, Columbus. Hello, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

commons indigenous peoples day brattleboro

The [Brattleboro] Selectboard unanimously voted to approve a resolution proclaiming the second Monday in October of each year be named “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

During Representative Town Meeting in March, the body unanimously voted to recommend the Selectboard approve the proclamation.

At the April 18 regular Selectboard meeting, Board Chair Kate O’Connor read the document — written by Town Attorney Bob Fisher with edits by Rich Holschuh — into the record.

In addition to setting the date of the day, the proclamation says the Selectboard “heeds said advice and desires to recognize the Indigenous People of Wantastegok in Sokwakik — the immediate area now known as Brattleboro, Vermont — dwelling here prior to and during the colonization begun by Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere[.]”

Read the full article by Wendy Levy in The Commons.

Full Text of Brattleboro’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution

RESOLUTION FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ DAY

WHEREAS, at the Town of Brattleboro 2017 Annual Representative Town Meeting, the Town unanimously approved a petitioned article to advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of Columbus Day; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Brattleboro Selectboard heeds said advice and desires to recognize the Indigenous People of Wantastegok in Sokwakik – the immediate area now known as Brattleboro, Vermont – dwelling here prior to and during the colonization begun by Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere; and

WHEREAS, there is ample local evidence, including petroglyphs at the West River, demonstrating this area has been inhabited for millennia, long before Europeans began to settle along the Connecticut River and its tributaries, notably at Fort Dummer in Brattleboro in 1724; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Brattleboro recognizes that this area comprises in part the homelands of Indigenous Peoples including the Abenaki, their allies, and ancestors; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples’ Day will provide an opportunity for our community to recognize and celebrate the Indigenous Peoples of our region, in concert with similar celebrations elsewhere; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Brattleboro encourages schools, other educational institutions, businesses, and other institutions to recognize and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day,

NOW, THEREFORE, the Brattleboro Selectboard hereby resolves and proclaims that the second Monday in October of each year shall be Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the Town of Brattleboro.

Dated this 18th day of April, 2017.

Brattleboro Selectboard:

____________________________________

Kate O’Connor, Chair

____________________________________

Brandie Starr, Vice-Chair

____________________________________

Tim Wessel, Clerk

____________________________________

John Allen

____________________________________

Dave Schoales

Link to pdf: BrattleboroIndigenousPeoplesDayResolutionFinalText

 

A Small Thing But Highly Symbolic: Brattleboro to Observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Holschuh-Selectboard-IPD

It’s official.

The town will now recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October in place of Columbus Day.

“It’s a small thing but it’s highly symbolic for Brattleboro to make this move forward,” said Rich Holschuh, a resident of the town who’s a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs. “I hope we can take it statewide eventually. Brattleboro is the beginning of colonization in this state at Fort Dummer.”

Holschuh said he is looking forward to exploring how to observe and celebrate the holiday. He had secured enough signatures on a petition to signal a vote via an article at annual Representative Town Meeting last month.

Read the full article by Chris Mays at the Brattleboro Reformer here.

Brattleboro Stands for Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Town Meeting

Brattlebor RTM 2017 Radder Reformer

Changing the name in which the town celebrates Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day was met with unanimous support at Representative Town Meeting at Brattleboro Area Middle School, where the town’s budget was amended to include $10,000 for an organization that would pay an energy coordinator and a resolution was adopted to voice concerns about President Donald Trump.

“There’s a growing awareness that our national narrative about the discovering of America by Columbus is inaccurate,” Town Meeting member Dr. Jessica Dolan said, adding that the change “affords us the opportunity to respect the Abenaki Confederation and Indigenous People in general on whose land we live.”

That also allows for educational experiences in local classes and the Brooks Memorial Library, she said. The article warned at the meeting had been petitioned by Rich Holschuh, a Brattleboro resident and member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.

Town Meeting member Elizabeth McLoughlin said she understood Columbus Day had been established as an Italian American holiday and as an Italian American, she fully supported the name change.

“I broadly support this change,” said Town Meeting member Margaret Atkinson. “I would just like to caution us, as people who inhabit now the whitest state in the nation, that because we recognize history this way, the ongoing issues for Indigenous People are not solved just because folks have a day. I would just ask this body to seek other ways they themselves could help in real ways to help this country at least look at native people now; what they need now and what can we can do today for the people here today? Especially the kids.”

See the original article by Chris Mays in the Brattleboro Reformer. Photo by Kristopher Radder.

Brattleboro Adopts Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Yesterday, Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting adopted Article 22, “…to proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in place of Columbus Day.” After a lengthy and thoughtful discussion, Moderator Lawrin Crispe called the question and it passed unanimously. Action on the article can be found in the Brattleboro Community TV footage at 7:49:15. Special thanks to my friend and fellow advocate Dr. Jess Dolan for her considerate testimony, along with other Members who offered backing.

Kchi wliwni – great thanks to everyone for your support, assistance, and conviction in bringing this positive change to our community. I hope we can look forward to growing awareness of a more truthful and restorative story, one that benefits all.

#ReclaimingWantastegok #decolonization

Peace.

Brattleboro Vote on Indigenous Peoples’ Day Approaches

Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) held its pre-convening informational evening on March 15, 2017 at Academy School in West Brattleboro, VT. The Official Warning (agenda) was read and discussed, and questions and opinions were aired in preparation for action on Saturday, March 25th at the same venue, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The final item on the Warning, Article 22, asked “Shall the Town of Brattleboro advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in place of Columbus Day?” This author, sponsor of the petitioned article, was present to speak in support of the measure; it appeared to be well-received that evening (testimony viewed at 1:18:15 in the video from Brattleboro Community TV).

Olga Peters, for  Windham County’s The Commons weekly, put together an article in review of the Informational Meeting and cited the  upcoming action on Article 22:

“The penultimate meeting article will ask members to advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This would replace “Columbus Day” on the town calendar.

Rich Holschuh, who led the petition drive, spoke on the article, noting that changing the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a nationwide movement. “Because its time has come,” he said. “Brattleboro can provide a great deal of leadership in the state because this is where colonization in the state began, in 1724 at Fort Dummer.”

According to Holschuh, Marlboro was the first town in Vermont to formally change the second Monday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Amherst, Mass., has also made the change.”

And, finally, the Brattleboro Reformer issued a full editorial in support of the measure on Friday, March 24, 2017, the day before the RTM meeting. Full text here. An excerpt below:

Today, March 25, Brattleboro will hold its annual Representative Town Meeting. While the reps will have some meaty issues to weigh and decide on, they will also be discussing whether the town should rename Columbus Day — which falls this year on Oct. 9 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Understanding the kind, compassionate, intelligent and literate people who volunteer to be meeting reps, we believe approval of Article 22, which calls upon the Select Board to do away with Columbus Day, is a given. Last October, the Select Board decided not to put the question on the annual Representative Town Meeting warning without a properly authorized petition.

Now that the matter is officially on the ballot, meeting reps can approve it and the new Select Board, which will be sworn in on March 27, will have the opportunity to do the right thing.