I was invited by Green Mountain Mornings host Olga Peters to join her for the show on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, for a discussion of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We had an enjoyable 20-minute conversation about the who, what, why, where, and “now what” aspects of this symbolic yet significant change of observance from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. A link to the podcast resulting from the airtime dialogue is here on SoundCloud.
Happy note: Our time ended with Olga asking me if I would be interested in putting together a regular monthly show devoted to a place-based indigenous perspective, with guests and a wide variety of Abenaki-centric topics. Of course I said “Yes!” Centering on n’siboal – our rivers – and Wantastegok, we will explore local history, linguistics, politics, relationship to place and all of our relations, ways of being in the world, traditional skills, arts, music – you name it… culture is complex.
Photo by Kristopher Radder of the Brattleboro Reformer.
Between 1931 and 1941, thanks to an act of their Legislature, more than 200 Vermonters were sterilized — many of them Abenakis and French Canadians — for the perceived social crime of being “idiots,” “imbeciles,” “feeble-minded” or “insane.” With the hindsight of history, it’s hard for many people — especially school children — to believe an official eugenics policy was written into law in the Green Mountain State.
“It’s been really powerful hearing about this,” said Rose Stone, a student at Guilford Central School. “My dad’s part Indian, so I am learning his history.”
“As a French American … my own history could be in that,” said Cooper Cooper LaFlam.
“It’s a really important thing for us to learn,” said Emily Matthew Muller, one of Stone’s classmates. “A lot of people would just tell history as Christopher Columbus came to America and everything was fine and nothing happened. But it wasn’t that way at all”
With the help of Judy Dow, an Abenaki basketmaker, Amy Skolnick and Cory Sorensen are leading Guilford’s fourth- and fifth-graders through an exploration of the story of eugenics in Vermont.
After 15 months of sometimes-contentious debate, there’s been a breakthrough in the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to a New York decommissioning company. A deal released Friday calls for the plant’s current and prospective owners to set aside nearly $200 million in additional funds to support decommissioning at the Vernon site.
Additionally, the companies agreed to new restoration standards including a “comprehensive assessment” of contamination at the property.
In return, three state agencies and several other parties have agreed to support the sale of the idled plant from Entergy to NorthStar Group Services. Those supporters include the Brattleboro-based New England Coalition, which had been the sale’s harshest critic. “We now consider ourselves allies and partners with NorthStar and will do our best to help them achieve a state-of-the-art, best-practices and environmentally responsible decommissioning, as free of nuclear pollution as possible,” said Ray Shadis, a coalition board member and adviser.
But not everyone agrees with the compromise. The Conservation Law Foundation declined to sign on, with senior attorney Sandra Levine saying the deal “falls far short.”
One cannot care about that of which you are ignorant.
Charity begins at home.
Education, awareness, understanding. #respect#indigenous
State officials saw in the Vilas Bridge and nearby petroglyphs an opportunity to try out their latest gadget.
“LiDAR,” Vermont State Archaeologist Jess Robinson said, referring to a terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging unit, “creates very detailed three-dimensional models. This is becoming very popular in archeology as a form of virtual curation; to preserve things in three dimensions and in real space and be able to broadcast them when the actual artifacts or, in this case, the petroglyphs are not available to people.”
Last Thursday, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and the Agency of Transportation tested out the equipment specifically purchased for documenting the Vilas Bridge. One of the officials had suggested scanning the petroglyphs to get “a very detailed record of them at this point of time,” said Robinson.
A group has hopes of purchasing land near petroglyphs under the Connecticut River (correction: Wantastekw/West River) with the goal of preventing future development on land it sees as culturally meaningful.
“This is all part of the Abenaki people trying to re-establish themselves… to raise awareness and reinforce the idea that these are not relics of the past,” said Rich Holschuh, a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs from Brattleboro.
“These are significant to people who are still here… people who still observe their significance and incorporate that into their lives because they are the descendants of these people.”
Abenaki people and other members of the public hope to preserve the land, keeping it open for hiking and other recreational activities. The project is also about protecting the Hogle Wildlife Sanctuary.
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.”
Two articles today, from VTDigger and the Rutland Herald.
A Native American tribe is seeking a role in the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee, citing the importance of the land that hosts the shut-down nuclear plant. The Windham County-based Elnu Abenaki Tribe has filed a motion to intervene in the state Public Service Board’s review of the plant’s purchase by NorthStar Group Services, a New York-based decommissioning company.
The Elnu Abenaki tribe has filed for intervenor status with the Public Service Board over the proposed sale, decommissioning and cleanup of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon. A spokesman for the Elnu, which are based in the southeastern part of the state, said Wednesday the Vermont Yankee site was of cultural significance to the Abenaki. He said significant archaeological Abenaki sites are nearby, near the Vernon hydroelectric dam, which is owned by TransCanada, as well as in neighboring Hinsdale, New Hampshire.
The Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs approved a proclamation in support of North Dakota tribes, 14 days before the new president announced he would resume two controversial pipeline projects.
“We approve everything unanimously because that’s the native way,” said Rich Holschuh, a Brattleboro resident on the commission. “As a commission, we work with the native people within what is now the state of Vermont. We also recognize that borders are political constructs, so we try to support similar people with similar interests and this is one way we can do that.”
The commission “proclaims support for those protectors at Standing Rock, N.D., who are resisting destruction of sites sacred to Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, disruption of traditional ways and potential environmental contamination from crude oil pipeline construction and use.” The entire document can be found here.
Commissioner Joelen Mulvaney drafted the document, which was discussed and approved during the commission’s Jan. 11 meeting.