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
A just-released short film by Vince Franke of Peregrine Productions, LLC, created to support the watershed education programs of Lake Champlain Sea Grant, UVM Extension, the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and to help preserve these stories for the Abenaki and others. Funding was provided by NOAA, Sea Grant, and an anonymous donor.
Centering on Bitawbagw/Lake Champlain and then water in general, the film is a series of interviews with people in the Native community expressing their understanding of being in relationship with life-giving water. Each story teller provides their own unique interpretation; I was honored to participate in this group effort with Chief Don Stevens, Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Chief Eugene Rich, Melody Brook, Lucy Cannon Neel, Cody Hemenway, Morgan Lamphere, Bea Nelson, Fred Wiseman, and Kerry Wood.
Direct link to Vimeo here.
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.
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.
A very significant cultural component: ritual adornment, mortuary practice, healing properties, ornamentation… the importance of red ochre to the Abenaki, and to many indigenous cultures, cannot be overemphasized. The word in Aln8baiwi is olamanjagw, red ochre mud; when mixed with grease, it is simply olaman. In Anishinaabemowin, the word is very similar: onaman. Ochre is derived from natural iron oxide compounds, in mineral deposits, clay, or iron seeps , where iron oxidizing bacteria augment the chemical conversion.
Publication of Royal Society of Canada, 1885.
Local people sought nearby sources of this valuable material; if they were not fortunate in this respect, they were obliged to trade for it. Here in Sokwakik there is an abundance of iron in the local geology. An iron seep just north of Wantastegok yields an abundant flow of ferrous oxide mud, carried with the groundwater through a mineral-rich ledge of Waits River schist and emerging on the east face. In the summer, the iron-oxidizing bacteria colonies form amazing cellular structures. In the winter, these lose their shape and form a hard, crumbly crust. The pigmented mud accumulates in the crevices of the rock and can be collected simply, with a little careful examination of the best pockets.
The seep in summer.
The seep in winter
By collecting this dark red-brown mud, heating (oxidizing) ’til it reached its maximum color (too much heat will result in a darker, browner hue), and then sifting it, I was able to produce a nice amount of orange/dark red/brown pigment on an initial trial. This could be further pulverized with a mortar and pestle, before mixing with a grease or oil and used for painting the body, or another use.
More to come…
From the YouTube channel of the “Year of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas” Cultural Initiative, a program of SUNY Empire State College. For this new virtual residency curriculum, a series of videos has been created with indigenous culture keepers sharing various aspects of their people’s understandings.
In this production, S8gm8 Roger Longtoe Sheehan speaks about the Abenaki relationship with the land and rivers of Ndakinna, and how these interactions take place within their worldview. The interview took place in June, 2018 at the Abenaki Heritage Weekend annual event at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. By request of Vera Longtoe Sheehan, a co-producer of the film, I contributed some still photography from Kchi Pontekw/Bellows Falls, VT for the video.
Elnu Abenaki Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan and I have an appearance in this newly released documentary from the Connecticut River Conservancy. At 8:40 into the video, we share some indigenous perspectives on the essential role the Kwenitekw plays in the landscape of life here.