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

Vermont Indigenous Youth Essay Contest

Sponsored by the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs:

The purpose of the Vermont Indigenous Youth Essay Contest is to promote a sense of pride and community among indigenous youth in the State of Vermont. The commission would like to foster positivity surrounding identity and how their unique perspective brings value to self and the communities they belong to.

Eligibility: The contest is for indigenous students in two categories: Grades 7 through 8 and 9 through 12 who are living in the State of Vermont. Students must identify as Native American or First Nations.

Rules: Please answer the essay question below in 1000 words or less. Submissions can be emailed to Jennifer.lavoie@vermont.gov or mailed to the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, 1 National Life Drive, Davis Building 6th Floor, Montpelier, VT 05620-0501. The deadline for submission is May 15. Results will be announced at the Heritage Celebration at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on June 24. The Moccasin Tracks Radio Program will be hosting participants from this contest for a radio program on May 18.

Question: How does your indigenous heritage inform the way that you walk through the world?

Prize: Students who receive recognition for their essays will receive an award from the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and all students will select from a list of experiences with an indigenous community member. Examples of an experience may be learning a particular craft, such as twining, beadwork, or finger weaving, or spending an afternoon with a chief or other leader in the community. Students can elect to participate in the Moccasin Tracks Radio Program as well.

Link to a pdf file of this announcement: Indigenous-Heritage-Essay-Contest

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.

Workshop on Maine and Native People: Understanding Our Relationship

Maine-Wabanaki REACH will present a free workshop on April 29 from 9:30-4 in Brewer. This workshop has been well received across the state, with over 600 Mainers participating.

Maine and Wabanaki people are at an historical juncture in their long relationship; this workshop is an opportunity for non-Native people to reflect on our history in relation to Native people and our opportunities for the future. It includes a very brief history of US government relationships with Native people; awareness of white privilege; and an exploration of the concept of decolonization.

Maine-Wabanaki REACH is a cross cultural collaborative organization offering programming in Wabanaki and Maine communities. This workshop is co-sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine.

Link to listing at Bangor Daily News.

Art Review of Aln8bak: Wearing Our Heritage, at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery

vera longtoe sheehan twined textiles

In May 2012, then Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed into law the state recognition of four of Vermont’s Abenaki tribes: the Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek and Missisquoi. The victory had more than symbolic significance: Formal recognition meant that many of Vermont’s contemporary indigenous artists could begin legally to label their work as “American Indian.” According to Elnu Abenaki member Vera Longtoe Sheehan, access to this designation has opened many new doors — including, at least indirectly, doors to galleries.

Such fraught politics of visibility and authenticity are very much at the heart of “Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage,” now on view at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery in Burlington. The show offers a chronological survey of Abenaki fashion and adornment, from the pre-Champlain era to the present day, accompanied by both modern and historical photographs.

There’s a twist, though: Almost all of the objects on view are contemporary, regardless of the era they were created to represent. While reproductions are often considered to be lesser facsimiles, in this case, the absence of “traditional” artifacts speaks to the 20-plus artists’ ongoing commitment to making their history and heritage come alive.

Read the full article by Rachel Elizabeth Jones in Seven Days.