Justin Smith Morrill and the Land Grant College Act

ustin Smith Morrill Mathew Brady

Justin Smith Morrill is often called the father of America’s land grant college and university system, which at first blush can seem a little odd. As a U.S. representative from Vermont, Morrill didn’t come up with the idea or actually write the Land Grant College Act. But like some of his congressional colleagues, Morrill got credit for the achievement. In fact, the act establishing the system was named the Morrill Act.

His bill called for the federal government to grant land to each of the states to establish public colleges that would teach courses in fields like agriculture and engineering as an alternative to the classical curriculum offered by the existing church-affiliated schools. The bill gave states the option of either building the school on the land or selling the land and using the proceeds to finance a new school elsewhere.

Read the full article by Mark Bushnell at VTDigger.org.

Brief commentary:

The Land Grant University system (with 76 institutions) was created by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890,  and – somewhat ironically – expanded with 29 (now 32) tribal educational institutions in 1994. The University of Vermont (known as UVM, founded in 1791) became the state’s sole land grant school in 1865, when the university merged with Vermont Agricultural College (itself chartered in November 22, 1864, after the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act), emerging as the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College.

Originally, “each eligible state received a total of 30,000 acres (120 km2) of federal land, either within or contiguous to its boundaries, for each member of congress the state had as of the census of 1860. This land, or the proceeds from its sale, was to be used toward establishing and funding the educational institutions described above.” As revised, “If the federal land within a state was insufficient to meet that state’s land grant, the state was issued “scrip” which authorized the state to select federal lands in other states to fund its institution. For example, New York carefully selected valuable timber land in Wisconsin to fund Cornell University.” (Wikipedia)

Vermont, having no qualifying Federal land within its own borders, and with five members in Congress at the time (2 senators and 3 representatives, one of whom was Morrill himself), was granted nearly 150,000 acres elsewhere in scrip, to use according to the purposes of the Morrill Act of 1862. This gets tricky when one stops to consider where this self-styled Federal Land was originating: it was mostly confiscated “Indian Land” – acquired through removal, war, subterfuge, intrusion, and broken treaties. In other words, another chapter in a long story of cultural genocide in the name of Manifest Destiny. Most remote land grants of this immediate period were located in Minnesota and Wisconsin, a result of, among others, the Dakota and Black Hawk Wars. President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Morrill Act of 1862, served in the Black Hawk War and presided over the Dakota Wars. Vermont’s allotments were probably among these taken lands. Exactly where, and whose lands they rightfully were, is a matter for further research in the National Archives. The 149,920 acres were sold for $122,626 and the proceeds used to fund the newly combined “University of Vermont and the State Agricultural College.” It seems likely this was blood money.

More to come.

 

 

Advertisements

New Zealand’s Whanganui River Granted Legal Personhood

whanganui river new zealand

A river in New Zealand has become the first in the world to be granted the same legal rights as a person. The New Zealand parliament passed the bill recognising the Whanganui River, in North Island, as a living entity.

Long revered by New Zealand’s Maori people, the river’s interests will now be represented by two people. The Maori had been fighting for over 160 years to get this recognition for their river, a minister said.

“I know the initial inclination of some people will say it’s pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality,” said New Zealand’s Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson.

Link to the article at BBC.com.

Nova Scotia Pardons Mi’kmaq Chief 60 Years Later

mikmaq-chief-gabriel-sylliboy-pardon

Gabriel Sylliboy died feeling like he failed his Mi’kmaq people. The grand chief launched a fight for aboriginal rights after being charged with illegal hunting in the 1920s, but the courts of the era dismissed the notion that a 1752 treaty gave Sylliboy any rights. It would take another six decades before those rights were recognized by the courts.

“Our grand chief was really quite sad about the fact that he was charged and wasn’t able to be successful in obtaining Mi’kmaq rights for his people,” said Jaime Battiste, the province’s treaty education lead. “He went to his deathbed thinking he let the Mi’kmaq people down.”

On Thursday, nearly 90 years after his conviction, the Nova Scotia government pardoned and honoured Sylliboy, who was born in 1874 in Whycocomagh, N.S., and became the first elected Mi’kmaq grand chief.

Read the full story in the Herald News.

Mi’kmaq Are ‘Conquered People’ Says Nova Scotia Government Lawyer

mikmaq-treaty-day

A legal brief submitted on behalf of the province of Nova Scotia denies treaty rights and labels the Mi’kmaq as conquered peoples.

“To suggest that we are ‘conquered’ is a racist taunt,” wrote Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade in a media release. “At its worst, it has been used against Indigenous Canadians to perpetuate or justify a state of inferior legal, social or socio-economic conditions.”

The brief is part of a court case centred on consultation with the Sipekne’Katik Band over a natural gas storage project. The band asked for a judicial review of the provincial permits that approved the Alton Gas project. But a court case about whether the Crown meaningfully consulted with one band over a particular project, has brought up what many are calling offensive arguments about treaty rights that extend to all Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.

Read the full story on APTN National News.