The Ancient One Returns Home

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Uytpama Natitayt — Kennewick Man, or the Ancient One, an ancestor of the First People of the Columbia Plateau — is finally home.

More than 200 of his relatives came together at an undisclosed location on the Columbia Plateau early February 18 to lay him to rest. They came from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, from the Nez Perce Tribe, from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation and the Wanapum Tribe and the Yakama Nation.

Religious leaders from each of the Native Nations jointly conducted a ceremony. And then Kennewick Man’s remains were returned to the earth, just as loved ones first laid him to rest some 9,000 years ago. The ceremony was private.

See the full article in Indian Country Today.

Gill-Montague Superintendent’s Thoughts Regarding the Turners Falls Mascot

Remarks made by Superintendent Michael Sullivan on Feb. 14, 2017, when the GMRSD School Committee voted 6-3 to change the Indians mascot/logo, after a contentious but thorough examination of the issue. Full quote below:

Before I share my thoughts about the logo/nickname situation I would like to thank the school committee for having the courage to address this issue, knowing in advance that it would be controversial. The integrity and earnestness with which you have undertaken this process is admirable and I am proud to serve you. It also needs to be said that given your knowledge of the district’s communities combined with the scores of hours you have put into listening to citizens and scholars and studying this matter, no one is better equipped and poised to make decisions about it than you are.

In terms of sharing my perspective on the “TFHS Indians”, I would start by saying there is no doubt that the “Indian” is a symbol of tradition and pride to many, if not most, of the adult members of the district’s communities and we now know that most of our students feel similarly. We also know that those who support the “Indian” have no ill intent towards Native Americans. But, because they bear no ill will, many supporters of the nickname and logo, particularly students, continue to ask “where is the harm in it?”

As the district’s educational leader I believe we need to help our students understand that there is harm in the status quo. On average, each year, three of our students are Native American and these students deserve and are afforded the same civil rights protections enjoyed by all students. According to our policies, these rights include learning in an environment free from conduct, symbols, and language that create a hostile, humiliating, intimidating, or offensive educational environment.

Over the last several months we have heard from over 50 area Native Americans, both at forums and in writing, who find the “Indian” to be offensive, humiliating, and harmful. These sentiments have been the clear consensus view of the Native American community in our region. We have also learned that organizations with expertise in the social sciences have condemned the use of Indian mascots as harmful and/or in violation of students’ civil rights. These include the American Psychological Association, the American Anthropological Association, the American Sociological Association, as well as the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Our review process has shown that there is widespread interest in having students learn more about local history and Native American cultures. This is commendable and will be acted upon. But this will not be enough. Our review process has also revealed that Native American mascots have helped legitimize and perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes and that these symbols exist within a context of historical oppression against indigenous people, including an act of tragic violence that occurred right in this community, only to be followed by centuries of ongoing assault, subjugation, and dispossession. Understood in this context it is logical to see the injustice of appropriating a name and culture that is not ours to take and shape as we please. Indians are not like cowboys or Vikings. They are cultures of real people, our neighbors, and it is inappropriate to treat them or any racial, ethnic, religious, or gender group in ways that perpetuate and legitimize stereotypes.

Part of the mission of all public schools is to teach students to think critically and to equip them to live in a multi-ethnic and complex world, which includes learning to recognize and dispel prejudices and stereotypes. Our review process has made clear we have much work to do to advance all facets of students’ multicultural learning; from thinking critically about history, to learning to see events from multiple perspectives, to understanding the nature of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.

Many of our students have difficulty understanding this perspective and instead fall back on their honestly held belief that where no offense is intended, no problem exists. We have an obligation, as a public school system, to help our students grow beyond this line of reasoning, an aspiration clearly advanced by the district’s core values of empathy and continuous learning and it core belief that public education is the primary means we have for cultivating democracy and achieving social justice.

In my opinion there is no way to retain the name “Indians” that would not continue to present a civil rights problem, a pedagogical mixed message, and a misalignment with our mission and core values. That we did not understand these things in the past need not be anyone’s fault, but if we do not act upon what we understand now it will be a lost opportunity to be our best selves.

NorthStar Files Federal Application for Vermont Yankee Sale

A New York company has taken another big step toward purchasing Vermont Yankee. NorthStar Group Holdings has filed an application with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to acquire the license of the shut-down Vernon plant. The request was filed jointly with Entergy, the facility’s current owner.

Encompassing more than 200 pages, the application is a comprehensive attempt to convince the NRC that NorthStar has the expertise and the financial wherewithal to clean up the plant decades earlier than Entergy had planned.
The bottom line, administrators contend, is that “this transfer is desirable and of considerable benefit to the citizens of Vermont.”

Full story by Mike Faher in the Brattleboro Reformer.

Gill-Montague Board Votes 6-3 to Remove Turners Falls Indian Mascot

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The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee has voted to change the Turners Falls High School mascot from the “Indians” in a 6-3 vote on Tuesday night.

About 70 were in the crowd of the auditorium as the five-month debate came to an unanticipated close when the School Committee voted to change after an hour of discussion on the issue.

The School Committee was partially through a process to review the mascot that they discontinued last meeting. Those who advocated for the vote said it was because the process had become overwhelmingly divisive in the towns and schools.

Read the full report by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder!

Video coverage of the School Committee meeting from Montague Community Television:

More coverage (some duplicate wire services):

http://www.westernmassnews.com/story/34506389/turners-falls-vote-to-change-high-schools-indian-mascot

School committee voted to remove Turners Falls High School ‘Indians’ mascot

http://www.dailyprogress.com/massachusetts-school-board-dumps-native-american-mascot/article_675ca1ec-b904-5666-acf9-da02b690c20e.html

http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/02/turners_falls_high_school_to_s.html

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/local_coverage/2017/02/massachusetts_school_board_dumps_native_american_mascot

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2017/02/15/massachusetts-school-board-dumps-native-american-mascot

 

Mascot Pro-change Residents Hold Press Conference

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Members of a group calling for a change in the Turners Falls High School mascot held a press conference on Monday afternoon announcing their opposition to the nonbinding referendum approved by the Montague Selectboard last week. About 15 people gathered to share the statement. Ferd Wulkan, Edite Cunha and Elyssa Serrilli read the statement.

“We call on the voters of Montague to join us in supporting the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee, as they have dedicated much time and energy in their thorough and thoughtful process on this issue,” the statement said. “This work has been done in a planned and announced process by a democratically elected body. We think that body should be allowed to complete its work and render a timely decision.”

Read the full story by Miranda Davis in the Greenfield Recorder

 

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.

Nipmucs Call for End of Native American Mascots

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Nipmuc Nation, a state-acknowledged Native American tribal government, seated in Grafton, is formally calling for the end of sports team mascots after a state Senate bill was filed last week to do the same.

If passed into law, Senate docket 1119 would force Grafton High School (and dozens of other public school districts) to change their long-held mascot of a Native American in headgear and their team name — the Indians.

The Nipmuc Nation Tribal Council released a September 2016 memo to The Grafton News after a request made for a comment on the bill. In it, they unanimously voted that any and all sports mascots depicting native people is tied to the history of genocide in this country against their people.

Read the full story by Richard price in The Grafton News.