No Evidences of Indian Settlements in This Town

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The strangest statements may be found in the local newspapers, reflecting the absolute conviction of the times – in the face of self-stated evidence – that there was, and is, no notable indigenous presence.

From The Vermont Phoenix, Brattleboro, VT July 7, 1876.

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A Long Time Ago in Brattleboro

Worth sharing in its entirety: this post by Lise LePage appeared on iBrattleboro.com last month, amidst the effort to make a change from Columbus day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day here in Brattleboro. She used the occasion to give a synopsis of her personal research over the years into the pre-contact and early contact history between the Sokwakiak and the first British settlers. For those unfamiliar with the details of that first clash of cultures in what we now call Vermont, it’s a good look at a quintessential example of colonialism at work right here. Original link here.

Brattleboro Celebrates First Indigenous Peoples Day

By Lise | Sun, October 09 2016

It’s not often that something happens that cries out to be corrected and then, in a matter of days, it is.  I’m not talking about Vermont’s GMO law either (which Congress mooted within the month) – no, I’m talking about Indigenous Peoples Day which has been proposed, here and elsewhere, as a less racist and more fair alternative to traditional Columbus Day.  Unfortunately, honoring native American people was not something the Selectboard could get its collective mind around and Indigenous Peoples Day lost here in Brattleboro by a vote of 2-3.  But just when you thought all was lost, along comes Governor Shumlin with a state-wide proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day, signed, sealed, and delivered.  What do you know, we get to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day after all.

This is a good thing.  We should celebrate the native people of our country – for starters, we’re sitting on their land. In fact, the first beachhead established by the British settlers in the Brattleboro area was on the site of a Squakeag village situated on the Hinsdale side of the Connecticut just above the Vernon Dam.  Ironically, Fort Dummer was established to control the Indians moving up and down the river, especially those raiding the English villages further south.

Before the English got here, the Squakeag  (southernmost branch of the Abenaki) were the inhabitants of the land from Brattleboro down to Northfield, Massachusetts.  It was a good place to live – abundant beaver and salmon along the waterways, decent land for cultivation, and best of all, maple sugar in the spring.  The Squakeag apparently loved to sugar – it was the one activity that brought the whole family of men, women, and children, young and old together.  Then as now, people like a sweet treat.

There’s an anecdote published in Thomas St. John’s Brattleboro History Scrapbook that suggests that the area around the Retreat Meadows might once have been a regular gathering place for native people.  According to Rev. Jedidiah L. Stark of West Brattleboro (writing in the 1830s), unspecified native people used to come here and dance in the meadow above where the Retreat Farm used to be.  According to Mr. Stark, the circle was so compacted from the weight of those many dancing feet that it remained visible and free of vegetation years after the Indians stopped coming.

Another indicator that Brattleboro’s Retreat Meadows was at the least a notable location for native people are the pictograms found carved in the rocks around the Meadows.  Surely there was a reason to mark this spot so strategically located at the confluence of two rivers.  Perhaps (I surmise) people came through here often on their way to other places and stopped to camp (and perhaps dance) here.  It would make sense.  The first lasting  settlement in Brattleboro by an English person* was Arms Tavern, an inn and stagecoach stop, located where the Retreat Farm buildings are now.   One marvels at the coincidence.

Native people made one of their last visits to our area in the 1850s when an elderly chieftain made his final visit to Bellows Falls.  He and his people had made summer visits for generations, and the old chief wanted to be buried with his ancestors.  As autumn turned to winter, he passed away and was buried by his sons, who then traveled back to Canada never to return.  The Indians who visited Bellows Falls had long since ceased to be scary and local residents looked forward to their arrival each spring.  It was a sad year when Bellows Falls realized that their Indian visitors would not be coming back.

Today, many descendants of the Squakeag band live in the St. Francis area of Canada where they were driven in the aftermath of King Philip’s War.  Others still live here in Vermont, assimilated under English names, partly in self defense.  We can’t alter the past, but here in the present we can take one small step toward owning that past.  Happy Indigenous People’s Day, everyone!

*The first less lasting settlement was located in the exact same location, a homestead built by Captain Fairbanks Moore for himself and his family.  Unfortunately, he and his son were both killed in an Indian raid soon after taking up residence there, and the remaining Moores, after being redeemed from captivity, moved away.

Where Are the Indigenous Voices in the Thanksgiving Story?

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From The Point (11/22/2016) in the Bangor Daily News (link here), by Sarah Shear, first published in The Conversation. This is worth printing in its entirety…

Thanksgiving is an important time, when schools teach the story of who we are and where we come from as a nation. My own students have told me about the Thanksgiving story they learned in school, which focused solely on the survival of the Pilgrims and the friendly meal shared with “Indians.”

In my research and experience as a teacher educator, I have found social studies curricular materials — textbooks and state standards — routinely place indigenous peoples in a troubling narrative that promotes “ Manifest Destiny” — the belief that the creation of the United States and the dominance of white American culture were destined and that the costs to others, especially to indigenous peoples, were justified.

As we consider history and its place in our schools, it is important to ask: how do state-mandated history standards represent indigenous peoples in social studies education? And, in this season of “Thanksgiving,” should we revise our curriculum to be more accurate and culturally relevant?

Placing indigenous peoples in the shadows of the past

From late 2011 through early 2013, social studies scholars Ryan Knowles, Greg Soden, Antonio Castro and I conducted a thorough study of state-mandated K-12 history standards across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. We analyzed the standards in two ways: the percentage of standards that included content about indigenous peoples pre-1900 versus post-1900, and how the standards presented the story of indigenous peoples in U.S. history.

We found 87 percent of the standards placed indigenous peoples in a pre-1900 context. In other words, these standards confined indigenous peoples to a distant past. This pre-1900 timestamp is significant because the turn of the 20th century saw increased American military conquests of indigenous lands and peoples as the country expanded west toward the Pacific Ocean. But the standards rarely, if ever, present these events and the loss of life and land from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Other scholars have written about similar findings in their research. For example, University of North Carolina-Greensboro’s Wayne Journell found that 10 states — California, Georgia, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — conclude their coverage of indigenous cultures and histories around the “removal policies” of the 1830s.

Removal policies, led in large part by President Andrew Jackson, forcibly moved indigenous peoples off their lands. These policies, legalized under the Indian Removal Act, opened territories to American settlers traveling west. Our research on curriculum standards also found that while most states included the Indian Removal Act, many excluded any consideration of the consequences to indigenous peoples related to their forced removal.

Prentice Chandler, who researches race and racism in social studies education at the University of Cincinnati, articulates the problem of placing indigenous peoples in the distant past, in the following way: “The treatment of American Indians in history texts pushes them to the fringes of the story: Native Americans are seen as having cordial relations with whites, being obstacles for Manifest Destiny, and eventually succumbing to white progress, never to be discussed again, as though they never existed.”

Perpetuation of stereotypes

Along with controlling when indigenous peoples are included, standards and textbooks also dictate how their experiences are told. Historians Clifford Trafzer and Michelle Lorimer found that California social studies textbooks failed to include critical content about the kidnapping, rape, enslavement and murder of indigenous peoples during the Gold Rush era of the mid- to late-1800s. The texts instead focused on the exciting lives of American pioneers who traveled West in search of wealth.

In yet another examination of textbooks published between 1991 and 2004, social studies scholar Tony Sanchez found that although the quantity of content related to indigenous peoples increased over time, the quality — in terms of how accurately cultures and histories are represented — is lacking. For example, Sanchez found most descriptions of indigenous people’s clothing were stereotypical. Instead of including a variety of examples of cultural dress, the texts used generalizations, such as showing indigenous peoples wearing feathers and breechcloth.

Boarding school experiences

There are many other such glaring omissions. My own research looked at how textbooks published between 2011 and 2013 wrote about the “ boarding school era” — the period after the Civil War and into the 1900s during which the federal government used legal means to remove indigenous children from their homes. Six of the eight textbooks I studied wrote that these education policies were peaceful reforms.

These texts presented, above all, the perspectives of white American reformers. These reformers believed boarding schools should be used to Christianize and educate indigenous children in the white American way of life. The perspectives of indigenous peoples affected by this education policy were largely ignored. The textbooks did not include the stories of indigenous parents’ efforts to fight the removal of their children. Very few of the texts featured testimonies from indigenous children themselves — either positive or negative. There was little discussion of the lasting effects of these policies today. Even when indigenous peoples were included in the textbooks, it was only as short, simplified sidebars or at the end of chapters.

Bringing this to Thanksgiving

Francis Rains, a scholar of Native American studies and history at Evergreen State College, and Karen Swisher, an education scholar and former president of Haskell Indian Nations University, have asked teachers to consider the following when teaching about indigenous peoples: “We believe that we should be asking what should be taught, when it should be taught, and how it should be taught. Perhaps most importantly, we should be asking, Why are we teaching about ‘Indians’ or ‘Native Americans’?”

My students, all education majors, regularly talk about how they learned Thanksgiving as children. We discuss how the story many of us grew up learning in school neglects the voices and experiences of the indigenous nations whose lands were invaded by Europeans, including the Pilgrims.

The late Michael Dorris, first chair of Native American Studies at Dartmouth, articulated the problem with Thanksgiving in this way: “If there was really a Plymouth Thanksgiving dinner, with Native Americans in attendance as either guests or hosts, then the event was rare indeed. Pilgrims generally considered Indians to be devils in disguise, and treated them as such.”

This Thanksgiving, let us hear and learn the story of indigenous peoples — their past, present and future — through their voices and not through the voice of Manifest Destiny.

“In social studies we have an opportunity to invite students to rethink things, to offer alternatives, even of past events, as a means of learning,” Rains reflected. “As citizens of a country that prides itself on justice and democracy, we have an opportunity to help students understand the consequences of when justice and/or democracy fails.”

Sarah Shear is an assistant professor of social studies education at Pennsylvania State University. This piece was originally published on TheConversation.com.

The Conversation

 

 

 

Who’s In Charge? A Fox in the Chicken Coop

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From the New York Times shortlist of President-elect Trump’s possibilities for Secretary of the Interior, who will oversee the BIA,  National Parks and Forests, public lands and waters, cultural and historic sites, and rule-making affecting all of the above and more.

The Pre-Colonization New England Salmon Controversy

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In his Recorder column, Gary Sanderson takes a look a critique of the New England Atlantic salmon argument developed by archaeologist Catherine Carroll Carlson in her controversial 1992 UMass-Amherst Ph.D. dissertation: “The Atlantic salmon in New England prehistory and history: social and environmental implications.”

Dr. Carlson’s often-referred-to thesis has been challenged. Which doesn’t mean Carlson is buying the arguments of an obscure 2013 UMass research paper’s critical assessment of her conclusions. No sir. She’s firing back.

Read this fascinating story in the Greenfield Recorder here.

Mi’kmaq Are ‘Conquered People’ Says Nova Scotia Government Lawyer

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A legal brief submitted on behalf of the province of Nova Scotia denies treaty rights and labels the Mi’kmaq as conquered peoples.

“To suggest that we are ‘conquered’ is a racist taunt,” wrote Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade in a media release. “At its worst, it has been used against Indigenous Canadians to perpetuate or justify a state of inferior legal, social or socio-economic conditions.”

The brief is part of a court case centred on consultation with the Sipekne’Katik Band over a natural gas storage project. The band asked for a judicial review of the provincial permits that approved the Alton Gas project. But a court case about whether the Crown meaningfully consulted with one band over a particular project, has brought up what many are calling offensive arguments about treaty rights that extend to all Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.

Read the full story on APTN National News.

The Fictions of History: A Message from Trace Lara Hentz

trace lara hentz author

Reprinted with permission from the author

My message to the Turners Falls School Board Committee:

Dear School Board:
I have just a few things about the Turners Falls mascot issue and local history.
This issue is not a surprise. The community near Great Falls doesn’t know the history. Who exactly wrote the account of what happened in Turners Falls? Let’s be clear. It was not the Pocumtuck or Wampanoag or any of the other tribes who lost their lives on that fateful day.
Time after time, war after war, history is told (or not told) by the victor, the winner of the conflict.
When I interviewed leaders of the Eastern Pequot years back, I wanted Connecticut to know its own history, largely unwritten, hidden. Marcia Flowers said “we’ve been cleaning people’s houses for the past 300+ years.”
Indian people knew it was best to be invisible. Many still feel this way: invisible.
Pequot scalps? The bounty was $100 in colonial times. $100 is like a million dollars today, right?
Why don’t we all know this?
We’re not supposed to know.
This issue over mascots makes it clear. We argue over history. If it creates conflict, this is exactly how the oppressor and oppression works.
We in North America are literally educated to be ignorant of the true history. It’s a blood-soaked path in the pioneer valley and westward. Fictions were crafted by the nation builders who used war/massacre/colonization on the First Nations Indian People yet these facts were diminished or erased. Hiding truth and history only perpetuates continued racism and intolerance.

Your Indian mascot doesn’t honor anyone but reveals our ignorance.

Trace Lara Hentz, Greenfield, MA, former editor of the Pequot Times