Nulhegan Abenaki Chief Don Stevens Appointed to State Racial-Justice Panel

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Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation has been appointed by Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan to serve on the Racial Disparities in Criminal and Juvenile Justice Panel.

According to the attorney general’s website, the panel’s goal is to “develop a strategy to address racial disparities within the State systems of education, labor and employment, access to housing and health care, and economic development.”

Stevens, a Shelburne resident, said he has been working racial disparity issues for “many years. Mostly in the capacity as Chief and how it affects the Abenaki Community.”

He is working on cultural projects with Burlington’s mayor’s office, regularly attends Vermont State Police Fairness and Diversity meetings at Vermont Law School, and recently testified at hearings before the Vermont Legislature regarding bill S. 281 which researches systematic racism within the state government.

Though his area of expertise is focused on Native people and the Abenaki Nation, he said, “My goal is to take a look at policies and procedures within the criminal and juvenile justice system and offer insights on areas of improvement. There are specific areas within the Department of Corrections and Child Welfare Areas that need to be addressed in regards to Native peoples. As a minority myself, I hope to offer perspectives in whatever areas the panel decides to concentrate on.”

Link to original article in the Shelburne News.

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City of Burlington and Abenaki Alliance to Promote Abenaki Awareness

A press release, just issued:

Mayor Miro Weinberger and Chief Don Stevens from the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation today announced that the City of Burlington and Vermont Abenaki Alliance (made up of the four Abenaki Tribes recognized by the State of Vermont) have agreed to explore several projects to promote awareness of Abenaki history and culture. This announcement is the result of conversations between the City and Chief Stevens that arose during the discussion of the Church Street “Everyone Loves a Parade” mural. In lieu of participating in the Mural Task Force to determine the future of the mural, Chief Stevens and the Abenaki Alliance have chosen to pursue other projects, which will include an annual summer event on Church Street and may include a display of cultural artifacts at the Burlington International Airport, among other potential projects. These projects will build on Burlington’s previous work with Abenaki communities to create the Chief Grey Lock statue in Battery Park and the City Council’s acknowledgment and support of recognition of the Abenaki Nation in September of 1995.

“Abenaki Tribes have a long history within the State of Vermont and with the City of Burlington,” said Chief Don Stevens. “As leaders within our Abenaki communities, the Chiefs have decided not to participate in the ‘Everyone Loves a Parade’ Mural Task Force, but to find other positive avenues to promote our culture within the City. We look forward to collaborating with the City on projects that will increase local and international awareness of Abenaki history and culture. Finally, if the mural is to be changed or altered, we do feel that the Native person depicted on the mural should accurately and historically represent Abenaki people from this region.”

“I appreciated Chief Don Stevens’ input as we have been working through the community challenges related to the ‘Everyone Loves a Parade’ mural,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “The City welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with the Abenaki Alliance to find ways of properly recognizing the role of the Abenaki in the history and future of this region.”

Please note that this communication and any response to it will be maintained as a public record and may be subject to disclosure under the Vermont Public Records Act.

Link here to posting at VT Business Magazine.

City Councilors Consider Action for Downtown Mural

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“I’m Chief Stevens. I’m the Chief of the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe. I want to make it clear.  We are a sovereign nation. We are not victims. We would like to promote education and cultural opportunities which I think Burlington has a unique position to be able to afford that including the mural.  It’s problematic just from the fact that it doesn’t represent Abenaki people. But I want to find ways to work with you guys in promoting our culture in a positive manner.”

Read the latest discussion of the Church Street mural in Burlington, Vermont from WAMC and Northeast Public Radio, with Pat Bradley.

The Wabanaki Helped Us Secure Self-governance. It’s Time We Returned the Favor.

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A thoughtful column in the Bangor Daily News by Cassandra Cousins Wright.

This July Fourth, we celebrate our freedom as memorialized in the Declaration of Independence. Our ancestors declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While we celebrate securing these rights for ourselves as settlers, we ignore what we have done to our allies the Wabanaki people, the original people of this land, who helped us to secure these rights.

The Wabanaki flourished in what we recognize as Maine. The many distinct people who once called this area home have been reduced to four federally recognized tribes: the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation. The four resilient, surviving tribes battle the state government every day to live free as their beliefs, cultures, values, spirituality, traditions and ancestors inform them to live. Why does Maine and the United States withhold from them what we declared 241 years ago as the inherent rights of all human beings?

The Resurgence of Diné Principles to Guide the People

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Navajo Sovereignty: Understandings and Visions of the Diné People, a new collection of essays by Navajo authors, edited by Professor Lloyd L. Lee, tackles Indigenous sovereignty from a specifically Navajo perspective. The essays vary in tone and depth, but they all hit on or near the bulls-eye: revealing “the ongoing consequences of an imposed Western democratic governmental structure that transformed Navajo governance and leadership.”

The book demonstrates that Navajo society has not succumbed to the imposition of an alien governmental structure. The essays depict “tribal government” as a collaborator with colonial forms, but as Professor Jennifer Denetdale says in her Foreword, the authors “note the multiple ways and layers of how we are Diné and how we practice sovereignty and self-determination [and how] we work to transform governance….”

The authors do not shy from referring to U.S. federal Indian law as “U.S. claims to authority”; describing the “domestic dependent” relationship as “constraint,” rather than “protection”; and celebrating community cultural, organic sovereignty as “spaces of respite and rest from the ongoing effects of colonialism.” The book’s unflinching confrontation with the “colonial box” of federal Indian law combines with unabashed affirmation of Diné Fundamental Laws and philosophical principles, to advocate traditional Navajo governance to meet 21st century challenges.

Link here to the full review by Peter d’Errico in Indian Country Today.

VCNAA Proclaims Support for Standing Rock #NoDAPL

At the regular meeting of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs, held in Montpelier on January 11, 2017, the Commission adopted a Proclamation in support of the actions of the water protectors at and near the Standing Rock, North Dakota community, opposing disruption, destruction, and degradation of the the natural and sacred landscape.  The proclamation was written by Commissioner Joelen Mulvaney and adopted by consensus of all in attendance. pdf here: vcnaa-standing-rock-proclamation. Full text below:

Proclamation of Support for Lakota, Dakota and Nakota at Standing Rock, North Dakota by the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs

Whereas the Commission is charged by law to recognize the historic and cultural contributions of Native Americans in Vermont, to protect and strengthen Native American heritage, and to address needs in state policy, programs, and actions.

Whereas the Commission develops policies and programs to benefit Vermont’s Native American Indian population.

Whereas the Commission is committed to protecting and preserving sacred, culturally sensitive and historical sites crucial to strengthening Native American heritage and promoting understanding of indigenous conservation efforts since time immemorial.

Whereas the natural environment, grandfather mountains and ridges, forests and wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams and birds, animals and fish are integral to Abenaki culture, history, tradition, heritage and spirituality.

Whereas indigenous people who have been protecting and preserving sacred and historical sites and natural resources around the world and in Vermont are under siege by the pressures of industrial energy production.

Whereas the Commission recognizes the collective struggle of indigenous people to bring recognition to their cultural contributions and heritage, including the natural environment on Turtle Island, from Ndakinna to Kanaka Oiwi; from the northeast woodlands of Vermont to the islands of Hawaii.

And whereas sites such as Rocky Ridge in Missisquoi (Swanton), the Kwanitekw (Connecticut River) watershed, the Green Mountain National Forest in Searsberg and Botambakw (Lake Champlain) are places where industrial energy development threatens the preservation of historic, sacred and culturally sensitive sites.

The Commission proclaims support for those protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota who are resisting destruction of sites sacred to Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, disruption of traditional ways and potential environmental contamination from crude oil pipe line construction and use.

Put These Statements Together: Can You Say Termination?

Trump considering Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota for Cabinet (Interior)

Heitkamp Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

Dakota pipeline fight is ‘not winnable,’ ND Democratic Sen Heidi Heitkamp

Then add in this interview with Senator Heitkamp in today’s Indian Country Today newsletter; I am blown away.

And throw this on top, to fill out the portent: Trump advisors aim to privatize oil-rich American Indian reservations.