This afternoon (03.21.2019) S.68, “An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day” passed with its third reading in the Senate chamber of the Vermont legislature. The bill will now move over to the House of Representatives for a similar consideration. Kchi wliwni – with great thanks to everyone who has been in support of this timely and worthy effort!
On Feb. 15, 2019, Sponsor Rep. Brian Cina introduced H.119, “An Act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” to the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs, where it had been assigned by the full House on Jan. 30th. His well-written statement is below and can be found at this link as well. Thank you Brian for your thoughtful and continual support!
H.119: An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Representative Brian Cina
February 15, 2019
We are living on an ancient land that has been home to Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. Our state and nation grew out of this sacred soil, these rocks, these rivers, these valleys and these mountains. The story of this continent is like a delicately woven basket, a complex history of interactions between various Indigenous peoples and people who came here from other places. This rich history is evident today by the names of natural landmarks and places, such as: Missisquoi- “where there is flint,” Winooski- “wild onion land,” Connecticut- “long tidal river,” Memphramagog- “where there is a big expanse of water.”
This history plays out in our foods, many which were cultivated by Indigenous people of the Americas, such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, wild rice, pumpkins, cranberries, peanuts, and maple syrup. Indigenous people taught Europeans how to hunt and grow food, they shared knowledge about plant medicines, they served as guides, they fought for the Nation’s independence and have served in every war since then, they have contributed and continue to contribute to American society on every level. Many Americans have traces of indigenous blood running through their veins and Indigenous genes in every cell of their body, and many Americans celebrate and practice their Indigenous culture and values, which have survived through disease, war, genocide, eugenics, and many methods of cultural oppression. Indigenous contributions to our state and nation have not been given proper recognition, and instead have been erased or revised as part of colonization. As our society considers ways to work towards reconciliation, it is important to make space for the celebration of Indigenous
There are many places that have created an Indigenous Peoples’ Day. At last count, there were sixty cities and schools that have officially replaced the day. South Dakota has a separate “Native American Day.” Alaska has an “Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” but never had Columbus Day. There are currently 5 states with active Indigenous Peoples’ Day bills: Maine, New Mexico, Montana, New Hampshire, Kansas. For the past 3 years, both Governor Scott and Governor Shumlin proclaimed Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day. It is time for us to make a permanent change. No state legislature has made this change yet, let Vermont be a leader yet again.
Sketch of “Indian Rock” at the mouth of the West River, by a young Larkin Mead, later a nationally-known sculptor.
The Brattleboro Historical Society has begun submitting a regular feature to the local Brattleboro Reformer daily. This week’s column takes a look at the misrepresentation of established Native presence in the state’s long-mythologized history books, and offers some corrections of perspective into the present. I was able to help contribute to this welcome piece by the Society.
Full article here, excerpt below:
In 1828 the Brattleboro publishing company of Holbrook and Fessenden produced “A History of Vermont: From Its First Settlement to the Present Time.” It was the first known Vermont History book used in Brattleboro schools.
When writing about the “native inhabitants,” author Francis Eastman wrote, “not a vestige of them now remains – gradually the encroachments of the whites have pushed them farther and farther on” to the west and north of the United States and Canada.
In many early histories of Vermont, Native Americans were hardly mentioned. A Vermont school book used from 1890 to 1925 starts this way, “Very few Indians lived in Vermont when white men first came here, though hunting parties and war parties often passed through, and sometimes a party would camp all summer in a good place.” You can see that early history books did not give Native Americans much claim to Vermont…
Link to pdf of the 2018 Executive Proclamation by VT Gov. Philip Scott: Indigenous Peoples’ Day VT 2018
Link to pdf of Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s Executive Proclamation for 2018: Indigenous Peoples’ Day
In 2011 and 2012, the state of Vermont officially recognized four Abenaki tribes: Elnu, Nulhegan, Koasek and Missisquoi.
“History books, museums, and schools in New England often present Native culture as if the Abenaki disappeared in the 18th century,” says Vera Longtoe Sheehan, director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. “After we received Vermont state recognition the Abenaki people created the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association as a forum to showcase our artists and our vibrant culture. Now we are trying to bridge the gap between the Native and Non-Native communities through the “Wearing Our Heritage” project. Our goals are to reclaim our place in New England history, to make connections between our shared past and the present, and for our art to be accepted on the same terms as art from other cultures of the world.”
Although there is little mention of the Abenaki in 19th century history books, Abenaki people continued to live in their homelands, and maintain strong oral histories and traditions from earlier times. In the latter half of the twentieth century, Abenaki people undertook a systematic cultural revitalization that involves a return to traditional lifeways and skills. Ironically, for many years they were not recognized by federal or state government because they had never entered into a treaty that surrendered their territory to the United States.
In early May, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s office announced a new partnership with the Vermont Abenaki Alliance. The collaboration grew out of controversial discussions over the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural on Church Street, which not everyone loves.
(If you haven’t been keeping up: Calling the artwork racist, Albert Petrarca vandalized the mural’s identification plaque in October 2017. Since then, community members and City Council representatives have been debating whether to replace or alter the mural to depict a more accurate history of Burlington.)
The focus of the City and Abenaki Alliance collaboration will be public events and education about native people and history. The release notes a July 7 event on Church Street and, in the future, a permanent exhibition at the Burlington International Airport.