Vermont Senate, House Bills Introduced for Statewide Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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The move in Vermont to permanently change the observance of Columbus Day to the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day (IPD) on the second Tuesday in October – statewide – has made great advances this week. Bills have just been introduced in both branches of the State Legislature to that end. S.83 has been introduced by Chittenden Senator Debbie Ingram, with the support of Sens. Baruth, Brooks, McCormack, and Pollina. H.488 has been introduced by Chittenden 6-4 Representative Brian Cina, with co-sponsors Reps. Buckholz, Chesnut-Tangerman, Colburn, Gonzalez, McCormack, Murphy, O’Sullivan, Rachelson, and Weed.

Both bills are entitled “An act relating to Indigenous Peoples’ Day”, and draw their language from the 2016 Executive Proclamation made by Governor Peter Shumlin last October. A link to the draft House bill itself is here – H.488, and a link to the Senate bill is here – S.83. Rep. Cina visited the February 8th meeting of the VT Commission on Native American Affairs to present his draft IPD language, along with other Native-centric bills he is sponsoring. The Commission passed, by consensus, a motion to support his work to this end and thanked him for the initiative to move this act forward, one that has been on their action list for awhile.

Abenaki Storytellers at Brattleboro’s Retreat Farm

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As part of  this year’s Brattleboro Winter Carnival celebration, the newly-minted non-profit Retreat Farm‘s Open Barn schedule includes two sessions with Abenaki storytellers. Stop in to join Willow Greene on Friday and Roger Longtoe Sheehan on Saturday for the winter tradition of storytelling, along with other opportunities hosted by the Farm.

Friday, February 24
Noon – 4:00
Open Barn Preview
Bonfire (with food!*)
Children’s activities & animals
2:00 Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene

Saturday, February 25
Noon – 4:00
Open Barn Preview
Bonfire (with food!*)
Children’s activities & familiar animals
2:00 Abenaki storyteller Roger Longtoe Sheehan, Chief of the ELNU Abenaki tribe

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.

French and Indian War Ends: February 10, 1763

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On February 10, 1763, the “French and Indian War” officially ended with the Treaty of Paris, giving the British victors license to continue their mission to destroy Native culture and displace the People from their homelands.

In 1754, before the creation of the United States of America, the British declared war against the French, pitting the countries against each other in a battle that began with the Ohio Valley, which the French had already claimed.

Tribes allied with the French hoped to keep British expansion at bay. The French had caused less strife than the British, who were bringing their wives and families to settle while the French were intermarrying with Native women (editor’s note: oversimplified, but a telling difference).

With 1.5 million British settlers along the eastern coast from Nova Scotia to Georgia and only about 75,000 French in North America, it was critical for the French to rely on their strong alliances with Natives across Canada, who were willing to support the efforts against further British colonization.

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The full onslaught of colonialism in Vermont started right here in Windham (Cumberland) County, immediately following the cessation of hostilities. Fort Dummer, within the borders of what is now known as Brattleboro, was the northern frontier outpost protecting the British settlements southward down the Kwanitekw. Once the perceived danger of the allied French/Native forces was over, the floodgates were opened to settlers who swarmed in by the hundreds to usurp the fertile river bottoms and surge up into the hills. This is ground zero. Brattleboro, Guilford, and other southeasternmost county towns were among the most populous settlements in the territory (then contested by New York and New Hampshire) for several decades.

Read an overview article in Indian Country Today.

 

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.

Brattleboro’s RTM to Vote on Townwide Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, the Selectboard of the Town of Brattleboro, VT, voted to approve the Warning (agenda) for Representative Town Meeting to be held March 25, 2017. The last regular item of business, Article 22, states “Shall the Town of Brattleboro advise the Selectboard to proclaim the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in place of Columbus Day?” The article was brought to the Selectboard for consideration on Oct. 4th, 2016. They declined to take action on it that night by a vote of 2-3, and required that voter signatures be gathered by petition to show support. With the help of many hands, the required 5% of registered voter’s signatures (about 440) were collected and presented on Nov. 22, 2017.

In the meantime, Gov. Peter Shumlin had issued an Executive Proclamation, declaring that October 6, 2016 would be observed statewide as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day. The Proclamation was for the year at hand only; soon, a bill will be introduced to the Senate to make this a permanent change. Before that makes its way through the legislature, Wantastegok/Brattleboro – now joined by Marlboro through the efforts of Tyler Gibbons – may be the first towns to begin the long-overdue switch.

The supporting documents for the 1.31.2016 Selectboard Meeting may be found here.

Diversity Day at Derby’s North Country Union Junior High

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Members of the Nulhegan Abenaki brought traditional drumming and singing to North Country Union Junior High in Derby, VT  on February 2, 2017, as part of the school’s Diversity Program. Photos by Melody Nunn via Facebook – wliwni!

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