Two Native American tribes want a say in the cleanup of the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and the future use of the land in an area that was once the site of settlements and fishing grounds for the groups’ ancestors.
The town is the first in New Hampshire to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day, to be celebrated on Columbus Day, after town councilors approved the idea on Monday. Town Administrator Todd Selig said Tuesday the federal Columbus Day holiday, this year on Oct. 9 cannot be replaced because it is a federal holiday.
Town councilors thought it appropriate to recognize hardships that befell indigenous peoples because of European exploration, and voted to establish the new observance.
The council was considering a resolution put forth by the town’s human rights commission that would add The Age of Exploration and Indigenous Peoples’ Day to the local holiday calendar, but “The Age of Exploration” was dropped during an hour-long council discussion, Selig said.
“Not only is it appropriate to our local history, but also to recognize and value indigenous people everywhere,” Selig said in a statement. “The designation will encourage people to learn more about the legacy of Christopher Columbus and the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ while also recognizing the devastating effects of colonialism on indigenous peoples.”
The Bangor City Council on Monday night voted to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of every October — a day the federal government has designated to honor Christopher Columbus.
Bangor follows a growing number of cities and states that have decided to shift the focus from Columbus to the people who lived here before the arrival of European explorers and colonists.
Belfast was the first Maine city to take that step in 2015.
The city council’s resolve, which was approved in a unanimous vote, came at the request from members of the Penobscot Nation, whose Tribal Council member Maulian Dana Smith led the effort. She worked with Councilor Sarah Nichols, who brought it forward to the full council.
Maine’s largest city will no longer celebrate Columbus Day as a municipal holiday. The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The vote came after nearly an hour of public comment.
Portland became the latest municipality in Maine to recognize indigenous people instead of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who arrived in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. Belfast was the first to make the switch in 2015, Bangor did so last month and Orono followed suit last week. Later Monday night, the Brunswick Town Council voted 8-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
That’s five towns/cities in Maine now. Durham, NH was the first in that state, just this week. Brattleboro adds its Town School Board in the ‘change” column. The time has come to recognize the rest of the story…
For Rich Holschuh, the Vermont Yankee property is rife with contradictions. On one hand, it’s an idled, contaminated nuclear plant in need of the biggest environmental cleanup project Vermont has ever seen.
On the other, it’s part of the ancestral homeland of the Elnu Abenaki, the Native American tribe Holschuh is representing in the state’s regulatory review of Vermont Yankee’s proposed sale to a New York cleanup company.
Now, those two versions of the site may be edging a little closer together. The plant’s potential buyer, NorthStar Group Services, has agreed to talks with the Abenaki in an effort to address the tribe’s worries about excavation, cleanup and site restoration.
“We want to meet with them,” NorthStar Chief Executive Officer Scott State said. “We want to understand their concerns, and we want to come to an understanding as to how we can meet their concerns.”
It’s not clear what the outcome of those talks will be, but Holschuh said the fact they’re occurring is a victory of sorts. “We’re trying to establish our voice – just be acknowledged for being here and caring,” Holschuh said. “We want to be involved, and we actually see this as a responsibility.”
Read the full story by Mike Faher in VTDigger.org. Photo by Mike Faher also.
This story also ran in the Brattleboro Reformer this past weekend, 9/8/17.
And in The Commons 9/13/17.
Another very happy day. Vermont Public Radio southern Vermont bureau reporter Howard Weiss-Tismann announced the news in a story filed last night, shortly after interviewing Elnu Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan and myself in Wantastegok/Brattleboro. Photo by Weiss-Tismann. More to follow…