It Is Done: Gov. Phil Scott Signs S.68 Into Law May 6, 2019

Yesterday, May 6, 2019, Vermont’s Governor Philip J. Scott signed S.68 “An act regarding Indigenous Peoples’ Day” into law, without prior notice. Although the opportunity of a ceremonial signing has been denied, the objective has been realized. We will be able to tell a more complete story going forward. Christopher Columbus is an incontrovertible part of that story, but he has come to represent the onslaught of colonization and destruction with (dis)respect to those who where already here. And are still here. And whose resilience and understanding is witness to the efficacy of their relationship to this land. This is cause for recognition and honoring.
Received today, via Rep. Brian Cina, from the staff of VT Governor Phil Scott:
From: Smith, Kendal <Kendal.Smith@vermont.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 10:31 AM
To: Smith, Kendal
Subject: Action taken by the Governor on bill – May 6, 2019

Good Morning All,

The Governor has informed the Senate that on the on the 6th day of May, 2019, he signed bills originating in the Senate of the following titles:

S.53        An act relating to determining the proportion of health care spending allocated to primary care

S.68        An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

S.89        An act relating to allowing reflective health benefit plans at all metal levels

The Governor has informed the House of Representatives that on the 6th day of May, 2019, he signed bills originating in the House of the following titles:

H.204    An act relating to miscellaneous provisions affecting navigators, Medicaid records, and the Department of Vermont Health Access

H.321    An act relating to aggravated murder for killing a firefighter or an emergency medical provider

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Indigenous Peoples’ Day Bill Passes in Vermont April 17, 2019

Rich Holschuh VY Sale Mike Faher

On Wednesday, April 17, 2019, the Vermont House passed S.68 in concurrence with the Senate. Governor Phil Scott indicated in a press conference the next day (4/18) that he expects to add his signature and sign it into law shortly (at about 30:20 into the video).  With much support and assistance from members of the community, this definitive step has been taken. Its significance is demonstrated by the continued opposition by some to the basic underlying premise: a celebration of the individual Christopher Columbus subverts the millions that were (and are) systematically subjugated following his lead. We know better, and to know and not do, is more than hypocritical, it is duplicitous.

Vermont State Rep. Brian Cina, a major legislative supporter and booster of this action, celebrates the passage of S.68 on April 17, 2019. (via Rep. Cina on Facebook)

S.68’s text can be read here.

The news story was picked up initially by the Vermont media at Burlington Free Press and VTDigger, and since then by others, including USA Today, WCAX, The Hill, and Fox News, among others.

 

Testimony for VT S.68, An Act Regarding Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Video links for ORCA Media/CCTV coverage of Committee hearings – testimony and debate – for S.68  of the 2019-2020 Session.

1. Senate Committee on Government Operations. S.68 – Indigenous People’s Day. Recorded February 28, 2019.

2. House Committee on General, Military, and Civil Affairs. S.68 Indigenous Peoples’ Day recorded April 10, 2019.

 

S.68 Passed In the VT Senate Today: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

S.68 passed vt senate

This afternoon (03.21.2019) S.68, “An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day” passed with its third reading in the Senate chamber of the Vermont legislature. The bill will now move over to the House of Representatives for a similar consideration. Kchi wliwni – with great thanks to everyone who has been in support of this timely and worthy effort!

Written Testimony Before Committee for H.119 and S.68, Indigenous Peoples’ Day

On February 27, 2019, I was invited to present testimony in support of H.119 (VT House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs) and S.68 (VT Senate Committee on Government Operations). Both similarly worded bills are entitled “An Act Relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”  The testimony text is below. It is also downloadable here: Written Testimony Rich Holschuh Feb 27 2019, and at the respective Committee online archives (House H.119, Senate S.68).

An overview of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and Columbus Day in the State of Vermont

H.119 “An Act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and S.68, of the same title, are currently being considered in their respective Chamber’s Committees for the 2019-2020 Session; the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs and the Senate Committee on Government Operations. The language in each is essentially identical, laying out the reasoning behind the proposed action and its implementation. The language also follows the consecutive Executive Proclamations made in by Vermont’s sitting Governor in 2016 (by Gov. Peter Shumlin), 2017, and 2018 (both by Gov. Philip Scott). I made those requests and submitted the suggested language.

Vermont, often a national leader for social equity, is not alone is considering this change and the recognition that comes with it. Over 60 cities and towns nationwide have already taken this step forward, beginning with Berkeley, CA in 1992, and including Santa Cruz and Los Angeles CA; Minneapolis, MN; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; and Nashville, TN. Here in New England, Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October has been declared on a permanent basis (among others) in Bangor, Orono, and Portland, ME; Cambridge, Amherst, Northampton, and Pittsfield, MA; Durham, NH; and Bridgeport and West Hartford, CT. Three towns in Vermont have already implemented this change: Marlboro, Brattleboro, and Hartford.

While several other states (Oregon, North Carolina, Iowa) have also had annual Governor’s Proclamations issued, I will make the case that no one state has yet completed this exact step of making the change from a recognition of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October. Bills to this effect are under consideration right now in the legislatures of New Mexico, Montana, and Maine. Alaska, which does observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on that day, never did observe Columbus Day, similar to Hawaii, which observes Discoverers’ Day (referring to the original Polynesian voyagers) on the same day, although it is not an official state holiday. South Dakota recognizes Native Americans’ Day. Vermont has the ability to be the first state to make this decisive recognition.

We do need to look at the story behind Columbus Day, currently an official state holiday here in Vermont and about half of the rest of the states. The anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492 was observed at first as an unofficial patriotic holiday, similar to the Fourth of July, with the icon of Columbia standing in for the country itself. The first official Columbus Day per se was declared in Colorado in 1907. Several other states followed suit. After intense lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal organization, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress made it a Federal holiday in 1937. It was moved in 1971 in a standardizing effort with other observances to a Monday for a 3-day weekend in 1971.

I do not support the idea of removing from our histories those events or persons that we, with hindsight, now find less palatable or honorable. We need to know these things. This is the value of “learning the lessons of history.” By exploring a more complete narrative, with the inclusion of all the voices involved, we can listen, understand, and resolve to do better. Columbus is very much a part of these stories, but we know now he was not the idealistic, magnanimous, inspirational figure we were told years ago. He is not the one to be set on a pedestal and honored for his great, and often fictional, accomplishments. The heroic myth was created in service to a set of divisive ideologies of separation and entitlement, which left those outside its walls denied, dispossessed, and/or dead. Not to be ignored is the fact that a version of these attitudes has played out all over the planet, with the indigenous people of each place at the receiving end of exploitation, disenfranchisement, and dismissal, often paying the ultimate price. This is the more complete story that we should learn, and understand. And then work to honor and celebrate the resilience of the human spirit, its creativity, persistence, and adaptability. There is much to be done – and undone – in order to provide for the future generations and the world they will inherit. This is our mutual responsibility and I take this very seriously – to do better for our communities, as we know better. I offer that it is specifically the charge of our elected legislators as well. Your consideration and support is appreciated.

Kchi wliwni – with great thanks, Rich Holschuh

Wantastegok wji Sokwakik/Brattleboro, VT

VT Rep. Brian Cina’s Introduction of H.119, Indigenous Peoples’ Day

On Feb. 15, 2019, Sponsor Rep. Brian Cina introduced H.119, “An Act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” to the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs, where it had been assigned by the full House on Jan. 30th. His well-written statement is below and can be found at this link as well. Thank you Brian for your thoughtful and continual support!

H.119: An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Representative Brian Cina
February 15, 2019

We are living on an ancient land that has been home to Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. Our state and nation grew out of this sacred soil, these rocks, these rivers, these valleys and these mountains. The story of this continent is like a delicately woven basket, a complex history of interactions between various Indigenous peoples and people who came here from other places. This rich history is evident today by the names of natural landmarks and places, such as: Missisquoi- “where there is flint,” Winooski- “wild onion land,” Connecticut- “long tidal river,” Memphramagog- “where there is a big expanse of water.”

This history plays out in our foods, many which were cultivated by Indigenous people of the Americas, such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, wild rice, pumpkins, cranberries, peanuts, and maple syrup. Indigenous people taught Europeans how to hunt and grow food, they shared knowledge about plant medicines, they served as guides, they fought for the Nation’s independence and have served in every war since then, they have contributed and continue to contribute to American society on every level. Many Americans have traces of indigenous blood running through their veins and Indigenous genes in every cell of their body, and many Americans celebrate and practice their Indigenous culture and values, which have survived through disease, war, genocide, eugenics, and many methods of cultural oppression. Indigenous contributions to our state and nation have not been given proper recognition, and instead have been erased or revised as part of colonization. As our society considers ways to work towards reconciliation, it is important to make space for the celebration of Indigenous
People.

There are many places that have created an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. At last count, there were sixty cities and schools that have officially replaced the day. South Dakota has a separate “Native American Day.” Alaska has an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but never had Columbus Day. There are currently 5 states with active Indigenous Peoples’ Day bills: Maine, New Mexico, Montana, New Hampshire, Kansas. For the past 3 years, both Governor Scott and Governor Shumlin proclaimed Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day. It is time for us to make a permanent change. No state legislature has made this change yet, let Vermont be a leader yet again.

 

Contacts for Indigenous Peoples’ Day Bills in VT 2019

IPD header

H.119 An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

This is the bill’s status page on the VT Legislature website.  H.119 has 30 sponsors and co-sponsors. Bill language as written is here.

The bill is now in the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs. They are accepting written testimony and letters of support. There will be a hearing next Wednesday morning (2/27). Before then, please write to the committee members and ask your own representatives to contact committee members to support passage of the bill. Personal contacts make a huge difference in a small state such as Vermont.

Contacts for House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs members below:

Chair Rep. Tom Stevens tstevens@leg.state.vt.us

Vice-Chair Rep. Joseph Troiano ctroiano@leg.state.vt.us

Ranking Member Rep. Diana Gonsalez dgonzalez@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Matthew Birong mbirong@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Marianna Gamache mgamache@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Lisa Hango (newly appointed, no email)

Rep. (Clerk) Mary Howard MHoward@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. John Killacky jkillacky@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Emily Long elong@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Randall Szott rszott@leg.state.vt.us

Rep. Tommy Walz twalz@leg.state.vt.us

Committee Assistant Ron Wild rwild@leg.state.vt.us

*****

S.68 An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day

This is the bill’s status page on the VT Legislature website.  S.68 has 4 sponsors and co-sponsors. Bill language as written is here.

The bill is now in the Senate Committee on Government Operations.  They are accepting written testimony and letters of support. There will be a hearing next Wednesday afternoon (2/27). Before then, please write to the committee members and ask your own representatives to contact committee members to support passage of the bill. Personal contacts make a huge difference in a small state such as Vermont.

Contacts for Senate Committee on Government Operations members below:

Chair Sen. Jeannette White jwhite@leg.state.vt.us

Vice-Chair Sen. Anthony Pollina apollina@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Christopher Bray cbray@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Alison Clarkson AClarkson@leg.state.vt.us

Sen. Brian Collamore bcollamore@leg.state.vt.us