Vermont Senate, House Bills Introduced for Statewide Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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The move in Vermont to permanently change the observance of Columbus Day to the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) on the second Tuesday in October – statewide – has made great advances this week. Bills have just been introduced in both branches of the State Legislature to that end. S.83 has been introduced by Chittenden Senator Debbie Ingram, with the support of Sens. Baruth, Brooks, McCormack, and Pollina. H.488 has been introduced by Chittenden 6-4 Representative Brian Cina, with co-sponsors Reps. Buckholz, Chesnut-Tangerman, Colburn, Gonzalez, McCormack, Murphy, O’Sullivan, Rachelson, and Weed.

Both bills are entitled “An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, and draw their language from the 2016 Executive Proclamation made by Governor Peter Shumlin last October. A link to the draft House bill itself is here – H.488, and a link to the Senate bill is here – S.83. Rep. Cina visited the February 8th meeting of the VT Commission on Native American Affairs to present his draft IPD language, along with other Native-centric bills he is sponsoring. The Commission passed, by consensus, a motion to support his work to this end and thanked him for the initiative to move this act forward, one that has been on their action list for awhile.

Alaska House Passes Bill for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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The Alaska House of Representatives has approved a bill recognizing Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day. House Bill 78 was approved in a 31-7 vote Friday morning.  The vote places the holiday “on the same day that indigenous people discovered Christopher Columbus,” said bill sponsor Rep. Dean Westlake, D-Kotzebue, to general laughter Friday.  “It’s a great day to be indigenous,” he said.

Columbus Day is a Federal holiday but not a state holiday — state workers are at their jobs on the second Monday in October.  HB 78 now advances to the Senate. If the measure is approved there, it would remain largely ceremonial. State workers would not have the day off.

Gov. Bill Walker has proclaimed Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples Day for the past two years, and states including South Dakota and Vermont have passed laws similar to the one under consideration by the Legislature. He said it’s a reminder of “the mingling of cultures that have made us so rich in everything that we do.”

Seven Republicans voted against the bill: David Eastman, Wasilla; DeLena Johnson, Palmer; Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake; George Rauscher, R-Sutton; Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River; Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla; Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole. Two Representatives were absent: Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks and Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks.

Rauscher, speaking Friday afternoon, said his vote against the bill was an attempt to avoid “years or decades of contention” about the meaning of the day. He said he wanted Alaska Natives and indigenous people to have their own day of “joy and celebration” undimmed by arguments. Rauscher had on Wednesday supported an amendment making the second Sunday in October (instead of the second Monday in October) Indigenous Peoples Day.

See the original posting at White Wolf Pack.

Brattleboro’s RTM to Vote on Townwide Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, the Selectboard of the Town of Brattleboro, VT, voted to approve the Warning (agenda) for Representative Town Meeting to be held March 25, 2017. The last regular item of business, Article 22, states “Shall the Town of Brattleboro advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in place of Columbus Day?” The article was brought to the Selectboard for consideration on Oct. 4th, 2016. They declined to take action on it that night by a vote of 2-3, and required that voter signatures be gathered by petition to show support. With the help of many hands, the required 5% of registered voter’s signatures (about 440) were collected and presented on Nov. 22, 2017.

In the meantime, Gov. Peter Shumlin had issued an Executive Proclamation, declaring that October 6, 2016 would be observed statewide as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day. The Proclamation was for the year at hand only; soon, a bill will be introduced to the Senate to make this a permanent change. Before that makes its way through the legislature, Wantastegok/Brattleboro – now joined by Marlboro through the efforts of Tyler Gibbons – may be the first towns to begin the long-overdue switch.

The supporting documents for the 1.31.2016 Selectboard Meeting may be found here.

Brattleboro: Indigenous Peoples’ Day Petitions Presented 11.22.2016

At the Brattleboro Selectboard’s meeting at Town Hall on November 22, 2016, we returned to follow up on the actions of the Oct. 4th meeting (only six weeks later). With the committed help of friends and allies, we were able to present petitions for a Representative Town Meeting (RTM) Warning article to recommend a permanent change in Brattleboro from the observance of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October. Five percent of the registered voters signatures (about 440) are required for this step in the process; we gathered about 540. Following ratification of the signatures by the Town Clerk, the Selectboard will add the article to the Warning agenda, for action by the annual RTM members on March 25, 2017.

Footage begins at about 1:15. Video courtesy of Brattleboro Community TV (original source here).

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.

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Wendell, MA

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Residents opted to designate the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, instead of Columbus Day, in recognition of the continent’s original inhabitants. The article, submitted via petition by Wanita Sears, states Columbus Day commemorates when the Italian explorer landed in the Americas on Oct. 12, 1492.

The vote adds Wendell to the list of towns distancing themselves from the legacy of a man some say has been romanticized by history. Amherst, Northampton and Cambridge have also adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and Sears said this inspired her to submit her petition. Other communities across the country have done the same.

Read all about it in the Greenfield Recorder.