Asleep Rather Than Dead

alyssa hinton art transformation

I visited a reception for indigenous artist Alyssa Hinton (Tuscarora-Osage) yesterday, at the C X Silver Gallery in West Brattleboro, VT. We had a cheerful conversation about her artistic journey of discovery, first through intuition and then traditional knowledge – her focus being on her southeastern roots, but finding commonality with other native, earth-based cultures. One thing was clear through our exchange: the truth that traditional understandings are not destroyed, missing, or lost. All of this knowledge, these relationships, “ways of seeing,” are still here and still accessible to those who seek them. A Chadwick Allen quote from the exhibit program (using indigenous earthworks as its particular reference point) makes the point well:

“…like other Indigenous writing systems, they assert, earthworks and their encoded knowledge have been ‘asleep’ rather than ‘dead.’ Dormant but alive, they have waited to be awakened by descendants of their makers finally free to re-approach and even to remake them, finally freed of the psychological fetters of an internalized colonialism that has undervalued Indigenous technologies and ways of knowing. Earthworks have been waiting, they assert, for old scripts to be reactivated, for new scripts to be written and performed. A time of waiting appears near an end, near the beginning of a new cycle. That time of new beginning is now.” Chadwick Allen, University of Washington

The significance of this reality here in N’dakinna becomes more clear, and more affirming, each day.

Terra Nullius, Nobody’s Land, Free for the Taking

Wichita-Indians-Dwelling

The same story which has been told here, in n’dakinna. Vermont, in particular.

“The Wichita Indians are one more example of indigenous Americans who did not fit the stereotype of itinerant hunter-gatherers. That stereotype undergirds the legal theory that made Indian land available for settlement. The Americas, the argument goes, were sparsely populated by peoples who followed the game and annual ripening of berries and other foodstuffs available for gathering by savages who did not know how to raise their own food.

The hunter-gatherers lived in no fixed locations and so had no use for land titles. The empty lands that provided their sustenance were terra nullius, “nobody’s land,” free for the taking by sedentary farmers who represented civilization.”

Link to the story in Indian Country Today.

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.