Elnu Abenaki Tribe: Native Americans Present Local History

roger longtoe sheehan elnu northfield history day

The Abenaki are here. They exist. And yet, they still live in a reality where not everyone is aware of that. But that is changing, slowly, but it is changing, said Joe Graveline, a member of the Northfield Historical Commission.

“They are having a renaissance, a rebirth in understanding their heritage,” he said. “They are finding their voice.”

A better understanding not only of the history of the Abenaki people but their place in the here and now — is just one of the many reasons why living history events like the one the Northfield Historical Commission is sponsoring this weekend are so important, Graveline said.

Read the full article in the Brattleboro Reformer. Two previous posts on Sokoki Sojourn reference Greenfield Recorder articles about the same event (here and here). Unfortunately, this well-written article ran a week too late. The Northfield event had already been held the previous weekend, on June 11, 2017.

Also, one correction, with respect to the quote “Among the Abenaki people, who made their homes in the Connecticut River Valley of what is now New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, were the Sokoki and a smaller, related band called the Squakheags — both members of the larger Abenaki nation.” These are, in fact, the same people. A simple linguistic comparison between Squakheag and Sokwakik (Sokoki, in today’s usage) makes that clear. More on that soon…

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

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.

GMMT Discusses Abenaki Participation in VT PSB VY Sale

Chris Lenois of WKVT’s Green Mountain Mornings and Mike Faher of VTdigger.org and the Brattleboro Reformer discuss the granting of party status in VT PSB Docket 8880 to two Abenaki tribal groups, Elnu and Missisquoi. BCTV footage begins at 1:55.

Reformer article here.

Vermont PSB Grants Abenaki Tribes Role in Vermont Yankee Sale Review

VERMONT YANKEE VPR

Howard Weiss-Tismann on VPR filed this story (excerpt below):

The Public Service Board says the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribe can take part in the regulatory hearings for the proposed sale of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

There are four state-recognized Abenaki tribes in Vermont, and the Public Service Board on Friday said the Missisquoi Tribe can take part in the hearings for the proposed sale to the industrial demolition company NorthStar Holdings. The board has already agreed to allow the Elnu Tribe, from southern Vermont, to intervene in the state hearings.

William Brotherton is a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki Tribal Council, and he says the northern tribe has a stake in the restoration of the Vernon site. “We have been diligent in making sure that our sites up north are protected and preserved, and so we wanted to be part of this process,” Brotherton said.

Mike Faher of VTDigger filed this story (excerpt below):

Two Native American tribes have won the right to be involved in the state’s review of the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee. The Vermont Public Service Board has ruled that both the Elnu Abenaki and Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi can act as “intervenors” in the state’s consideration of the plant’s purchase by NorthStar Group Services, a New York decommissioning company.

Both NorthStar and current owner Entergy had objected to the Missisquoi Abenaki’s intervention. But the Public Service Board sided with the tribe, saying its concerns about future use of the power plant site are relevant to the matter at hand.

In its request for intervenor status, the Swanton-based Missisquoi nation had summed up its concerns this way: “Our tribe wishes to participate in the process that will determine how the former nuclear power plant site is utilized in the future in order that we safeguard the heritage of our past.”

Mike’s story has also been picked up by the Brattleboro Reformer.

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Note: Elnu Abenaki, in keeping with its prior intra-Tribal agreements, will be standing in all of these proceedings as proxy for Nulhegan and Koasek Abenaki Tribes as well. We have agreed to keep tribal leadership in open communication and conference as we address mutual concerns.

Brattleboro Stands for Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Town Meeting

Brattlebor RTM 2017 Radder Reformer

Changing the name in which the town celebrates Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day was met with unanimous support at Representative Town Meeting at Brattleboro Area Middle School, where the town’s budget was amended to include $10,000 for an organization that would pay an energy coordinator and a resolution was adopted to voice concerns about President Donald Trump.

“There’s a growing awareness that our national narrative about the discovering of America by Columbus is inaccurate,” Town Meeting member Dr. Jessica Dolan said, adding that the change “affords us the opportunity to respect the Abenaki Confederation and Indigenous People in general on whose land we live.”

That also allows for educational experiences in local classes and the Brooks Memorial Library, she said. The article warned at the meeting had been petitioned by Rich Holschuh, a Brattleboro resident and member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.

Town Meeting member Elizabeth McLoughlin said she understood Columbus Day had been established as an Italian American holiday and as an Italian American, she fully supported the name change.

“I broadly support this change,” said Town Meeting member Margaret Atkinson. “I would just like to caution us, as people who inhabit now the whitest state in the nation, that because we recognize history this way, the ongoing issues for Indigenous People are not solved just because folks have a day. I would just ask this body to seek other ways they themselves could help in real ways to help this country at least look at native people now; what they need now and what can we can do today for the people here today? Especially the kids.”

See the original article by Chris Mays in the Brattleboro Reformer. Photo by Kristopher Radder.

Brattleboro Vote on Indigenous Peoples’ Day Approaches

Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) held its pre-convening informational evening on March 15, 2017 at Academy School in West Brattleboro, VT. The Official Warning (agenda) was read and discussed, and questions and opinions were aired in preparation for action on Saturday, March 25th at the same venue, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The final item on the Warning, Article 22, asked “Shall the Town of Brattleboro advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in place of Columbus Day?” This author, sponsor of the petitioned article, was present to speak in support of the measure; it appeared to be well-received that evening (testimony viewed at 1:18:15 in the video from Brattleboro Community TV).

Olga Peters, for  Windham County’s The Commons weekly, put together an article in review of the Informational Meeting and cited the  upcoming action on Article 22:

“The penultimate meeting article will ask members to advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This would replace “Columbus Day” on the town calendar.

Rich Holschuh, who led the petition drive, spoke on the article, noting that changing the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a nationwide movement. “Because its time has come,” he said. “Brattleboro can provide a great deal of leadership in the state because this is where colonization in the state began, in 1724 at Fort Dummer.”

According to Holschuh, Marlboro was the first town in Vermont to formally change the second Monday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Amherst, Mass., has also made the change.”

And, finally, the Brattleboro Reformer issued a full editorial in support of the measure on Friday, March 24, 2017, the day before the RTM meeting. Full text here. An excerpt below:

Today, March 25, Brattleboro will hold its annual Representative Town Meeting. While the reps will have some meaty issues to weigh and decide on, they will also be discussing whether the town should rename Columbus Day — which falls this year on Oct. 9 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Understanding the kind, compassionate, intelligent and literate people who volunteer to be meeting reps, we believe approval of Article 22, which calls upon the Select Board to do away with Columbus Day, is a given. Last October, the Select Board decided not to put the question on the annual Representative Town Meeting warning without a properly authorized petition.

Now that the matter is officially on the ballot, meeting reps can approve it and the new Select Board, which will be sworn in on March 27, will have the opportunity to do the right thing.