Brattleboro, Native People, and the Story of Here

bowles map new england 1771

From the article by Harmony Birch in the Brattleboro Reformer, May 9, 2018:

[Alex] White Plume visited Vermont Hempicurean on Saturday to share stories about his fight with the Drug Enforcement Agency to grow hemp, and to talk about Oglala Lakota-U.S. relations… The saga with the DEA, White Plume said, relates directly to the genocide of native American peoples.

“On the East Coast here there’s no more natural Indians. They were wiped out because they have 511 years [of colonization].” Local Native Americans have had their cultures wiped out, White Plume said. “We’ve only had 200 years of contact so we’re still real,” he said of the Lakota. “Our language is real, our ceremonies are real. We’re still alive; we still remember.”

This, coming from a Lakota man, shows the extent and depth of the darkness surrounding the stories about “here”; and then, further, in the article, another perspective from mainstream society:

Common Sense director Kurt Daims…wants to raise $1 million to distribute among local Native American groups. Brattleboro Common Sense has an anonymous council working out how the organization can move forward with the project. “There are four parts,” Daims said. “Money, a committee on determining certification, an education component requiring education about the American genocides in high school, and [possibly] considering a new form of currency to be used on reservations.”

None of the components are written in stone, Daims said. When approaching people to join the council, Daims said he wanted to include diverse voices. He wasn’t aware of committee members’ ancestry before asking them to join the council, but many of the people he approached happened to be of Abenaki descent, he said. “People say [of the Abenaki] ‘we’re here but you just don’t see them,'” he said. Still, Daims said he doesn’t think all Native Americans will be in favor of reparations. Daims said he spoke to one local Abenaki leader who said he didn’t think people were ready for reparations…

*****

My perspective on this (I believe I may be the person to whom Kurt Daims refers) aligns with that of Native author Tommy Orange, as quoted in this recent NY Times article about his new novel, “There There.” “…Tommy Orange’s polyphonic debut novel, takes its title from Gertrude Stein’s cutting line about Oakland, Calif: “There is no there there.” …For native people, Mr. Orange writes, cities and towns themselves represent the absence of a homeland — a lost world of “buried ancestral land, glass and concrete and wire and steel, un-returnable covered memory. There is no there there.”

And, then, at the end of the review, the explanatory words with which I concur:

“Mr. Orange struggled for several years with the structure, puzzling over how the characters’ lives fit together, and discarded hundreds of pages and entire chapters delving into different characters’ family histories. Eventually, he settled on an unconventional form: The novel opens with a series of brief and jarring vignettes revealing the violence and genocide that indigenous people have endured, and how it has been sanitized over the centuries.

Mr. Orange said he felt like he couldn’t move the story forward without first going back. “As native writers, there’s a certain feeling that you have to set the record straight before you even begin,” he said. “It’s been told wrong, and not told, so often.”

This is why we are not ready for suggestions for reparations. It’s not that simple, it’s not appropriate. The story is not yet told, much less heard. I spoke briefly with Alex White Plume while he was here, greeting him and assuring him he was welcome in these homelands, but his remarks to the Reformer reporter demonstrate that even our fellow indigenous people do not clearly understand the situation here. It will be hard, it will take awhile. The stories are only now beginning to be told. There is much to learn. The past is with us and creates the present. We cannot know where we are going until we understand the places we have been. We are the dreams of the ancestors, and we ourselves are dreaming the next generations into being. We must acknowledge first, accept, and allow. Only then will we know the way.

 

 

Advertisements

Maine-Wabanaki Group to Host Ally Workshop in Camden

Maine-Wabanaki REACH will present a free Ally Workshop Monday, March 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Camden.

This workshop has been well-received across the state with more than 600 Mainers participating. Maine and Wabanaki people are at an historical juncture in their long relationship. The Ally Workshop is an opportunity for non-Native people to reflect on their shared history and future with Native people. The workshop includes a very brief history of U.S. government relationships with Native people; awareness of white privilege; and ally responsibilities.

Space is limited and registration is required. To register visit: mainewabanakireach.org/events or, by contacting Barbara Kates at Barbara@mainewabanakireach.org or by phone at 951-4874. Questions are welcome. Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross cultural collaborative organization of Wabanaki and Maine people working towards truth, healing and change to support Wabanaki self-determination.

See the original listing in Knox Village Soup online.

Step Back, Step Up: Avi Salloway Talks Standing Rock

avi-salloway-standing-rock-seven-days

Recently, some 40 Vermonters and New Englanders, many affiliated with the local grassroots environmental advocacy organization 350 Vermont, traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to join the ongoing protests there against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Vermont contingent to Standing Rock arrived on November 20 and spent six days at Oceti Sakowin. Among these was musician and Burlington expat Avi Salloway. He’s a University of Vermont graduate and formerly one half of noted local folk duo Avi & Celia — later reimagined as the Boston rock band Hey Mama. More recently, Salloway has toured with Tuareg guitarist Bombino, and worked as an ambassador with Heartbeat, a nonprofit organization that works to bridge cultural divides in Israel and Palestine through music.

Seven Days recently spoke with Salloway  by phone from his home in Cambridge, Mass. We asked him about his experience at Standing Rock, what life is like at the camp and how those who can’t travel there can get involved.

Read the interview at Seven Days VT.

Maine-Wabanaki Reach to Host Ally Workshop Nov. 19

Maine-Wabanaki REACH will present a free Ally Workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at 175 Park St., Augusta, ME. This workshop has been well received across the state with more than 400 Mainers participating, according to a news release from the organization.

The workshop is an opportunity for non-Native people to reflect on the shared history and future with Native people. The workshop will include a very brief history of U.S. government relationships with Native people, awareness of white privilege, and ally responsibilities. Space is limited and registration is required. To register, email Barbara@mainewabanakireach.org or call 951-4874.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross cultural collaborative organization of Wabanaki and Maine people working towards truth, healing and change to support Wabanaki self-determination.

Original posting at the Kennebec Journal here.