Liz Charlesbois on Indigenous Seed Keeping at Northampton Seed Swap

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Grow Food Northampton is hosting the third annual Seed Swap at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Co-sponsored by Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market and Nuestras Raíces, the event will include workshops, activities, and free seeds for gardeners. It is free and open to the public.

Nuestras Raíces is sponsoring a talk on indigenous seed keeping by Liz Charlebois, Abenaki basketmaker and agriculturalist at 11 a.m. There will also be a beginning seed saving workshop given by Daniel Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm in Gill at 10:05 and a plant breeding workshop with Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield at noon.

Article in the Greenfield Recorder.

Don’t Settle – Watch This One

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Montana, like Vermont, has one Representative in the U.S. House. His name is Ryan Kinke. A single termer, he happens to be President Trump’s nomination for Secretary of the Interior, which entails supervision of a great deal of “public” lands, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (for what that is worth). Although nominated in mid-December, well before Trump was inaugurated, his confirmation has been held up during this troubling transition, along with many others. The word is that the final hearings won’t be held until late February or early March.

He is being touted by many, even those across the aisle, as “not so bad” – this in comparison, it would seem, to the balance of the Administration’s inner cadre. He is a devoted sportsman, a “Teddy Roosevelt” conservationist, a westerner among westerners. He has sworn up and down that he does not believe in privatizing public lands, or ceding Federal responsibility for the same to State or local oversight. Yet at the beginning of the 2017 Congressional session in January, on one of his first and only floor votes, he seemingly reversed his publicly stated position, and voted to approve a measure which would have removed Federal budgetary accountability from the transfer of public lands. Having shown his hand and been called out on it, he was (it would seem) quietly asked to refrain by the Administration. Immediately thereafter, he stopped participating in House actions and has not voted since – for a month and a half – lest he incur further less-than-positive reaction before confirmation.

This speaks volumes. Yes, his abstention or absence leaves Montana without its sole voice in the House, an effect that has drawn complaint from its constituents. True, he has drawn cautious praise from several local tribes because of his support of their causes. But having been chosen by the current administration, and already demonstrated his willingness to toe the ideological line, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, it would be well to beware. The League of Conservation Voters, whose mission it is to pay attention, gives him a 3% career approval rating on votes that matter. Just because this fellow likes to go hunting with Donald Trump’s sons does not make him a friend of the Land. Or anyone, by extension. This will become clear, after he is approved by those who are convinced, by juxtaposition, that “he is not so bad.” The current reality will manifest and it will not be kind. Or caring. Or respectful. To our Mother, and by extension, to her Children.

 

Sacred Ojibwa Bark Scrolls Returning After 70 Years

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In the 1930s, an American anthropologist named Irving Hallowell journeyed north to Canada to live among the Ojibwa and study their culture. He left with a wealth of knowledge – and something else. He took a bundle of sacred scrolls, made out of birch bark, and central to the performance of ancient religious ceremonies of the tribe.

The scrolls were never forgotten by those whose ancestors used them. Some elders in the tribe remember the old ways of doing things. Elder Donald Bird still uses the sweat lodge behind his house. There were other rituals, like the drum and the shaking tent, used to conjure the souls of the living and the dead.

Read this archived article from CBCNews.

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Traditional knowledge and its tangible representations has been scattered, banned, appropriated, diluted, sold, and destroyed, ever since coercive colonial forces have arrived in indigenous homelands. The principles and understandings of spirit signified by these materials persist, however, in the landscapes which generated them and in the heartss of the survivors who hold them. They are the same. They are still here. They can still be known by those who seek to restore the connection and the relationship. All is not lost… all is still here to be found.

From John Trudell’s “Crazy Horse”:

The Wild Age, the Glory Days live
Crazy Horse, We hear what you say
One Earth, One Mother
One does not sell the Earth the People walk upon
We are the Land…

Local Indigenous Speakers Call for Education in Third Turners Falls Forum

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Two local Native American speakers called for more education during their presentation at the third community event in the ongoing review of the Turners Falls High School’s mascot, currently the “Indians.” Chief Cheryll Toney Holley of the Hassanamesit Nipmuc Nation and Dr. Lisa Brooks, Amherst College professor and Abenaki, touched on a wide range of concerns, including the impact of Native imagery in mascots on Native American students. The school board is currently debating whether to keep the mascot.

Both speakers come from local Native American tribes and touched on the main arguments in the current Turners Falls debate, including the research and studies that show Native American mascots can have a negative impact on Native students.

“A lot of people are saying that you have this mascot to honor us,” Toney Holley said. “It does not honor us in any way.”

Full report  by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

Liz Charlesbois Works to Honor Indigenous Foods and Culture

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Liz Charlebois is bringing indigenous food traditions back to the community, one seed – dried on an old pizza box – at a time. Seeds sat in one such container in Charlebois’ office at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum last week, surrounded by their source: massive, orange, Buffalo Creek squash. They were grown and harvested last month on the grounds of the Warner museum, where Charlebois works as education director.

Charlebois, 41, grew up in Harrisville and is Missisquoi Abenaki. While she was raised in Native American culture, she said she’s taken a special interest in indigenous foods only recently. She’s particularly concerned about preserving indigenous seed varieties in the era of big agriculture and access to healthful, nourishing foods for existing native communities.

Read this encouraging story in the Concord Monitor.

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