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.

 

 

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Leah Fury: What’s In a Name? History, Violence and Agency

A powerful commentary piece in Vermont Digger April 2, 2018 (read full article):

While doing research on my family genealogy, I learned that my late grandfather, a child of German Jews, was born with the middle name Adolph. I knew that his family had changed their last name from Slawitsky as his father, my great-grandfather, faced insurmountable anti-Semitism while serving in the U.S. military against the German Nazis due to his surname. What I didn’t know was that when making the anglicized legal switch from Slawitsky to Lawton, the family had also changed my grandfather’s middle name from Adolph to Tilden, defiantly distancing him from a dangerous oppressor while assimilating to avoid discrimination. While I do grieve the loss that my family suffered through the assimilation of our last name, I also celebrate the agency that allowed my grandfather to feel liberation from one of the most despicable practitioners of violence and hate. The name Tilden was passed on to his own son, and just a month ago my cousin gave the name to her newborn son, his great-grandson who he did not live to meet.

Here in Vermont we have an unfortunate history of refusing individuals their agency that has played out from the first time that European settlers arrived, simultaneously and paradoxically denying both the presence and the humanity of the Western Abenaki. Since that relatively recent arrival, the Abenaki have survived genocide taking the forms of land theft, property destruction, mass murder, scalping and more – insult after injury after insult after injury. The forced sterilization of Abenaki en mass in the 1930s and early ‘40s via the Vermont Eugenics Survey is only one of the more recent manifestations of this genocide… (see link above for balance)

VT Yankee Citizens Panel Reviews Memorandum

Three newspaper articles covering the VT NDCAP meeting held on March 22, 2018 at BUHS, to discuss the Settlement Agreement reached as part of the Docket #8880 examination of the sale of VY by Entergy to Northstar for decommissioning and site restoration.

By Richie Davis in The (Greenfield) Recorder.

By Susan Smallheer in the Rutland Herald.

By Mike Faher in VT Digger.

A followup commentary by Guy Page in the Rutland Herald.

Gray Lock: Abenaki Resistance to Colonial Expansion

The form Grey Lock took in people’s dreams was mostly a creation of their imaginations – few settlers had seen him. We only know from the name settlers called him that he had a streak of prematurely gray hair.

His Abenaki name, Wawanolewat, tells us more about his tactics. It means “he who fools the others.” Grey Lock may have seemed an avenging demon to settlers, but he had reasons for his actions.

By the early 1700s, the people of the British colonies were outgrowing the land they had settled along the coast of New England. Now they were pushing inland. The movement of settlers into western Massachusetts and Maine inevitably caused conflicts with the Native Americans already living there. By the early 1720s, the Abenaki had had enough. They issued an ultimatum to the governor of Massachusetts, demanding that he block more British settlers from moving west and occupying new territory. As a compromise, they said that existing settlers could remain. The colonial government responded by declaring war on the Abenaki.

It was during this period of struggle that Grey Lock became a name colonists feared. They had known of him since 1712, when he had led a raid on British settlers in Northampton, Massachusetts, during what was known as Queen Anne’s War. That war was part of the struggle between Britain and France for control of North America. This new war, however, would not be between European powers, but between British colonists and Native Americans.

Read the full column by Mark Bushnell in VTDigger.org.

Jeanne Brink to be Honored at Middlebury College

jeanne brink abenaki basketmaker

From the Feb. 22, 2018 article in VTDigger.org.

Middlebury… will honor four other distinguished men and women with honorary degrees this year:

Jeanne A. Brink is an Abenaki artist and activist. She conducts workshops and programs on Western Abenaki storytelling, history, language, culture, basket making, oral tradition, dance, games, and current issues throughout Vermont and New England. Tracing her Abenaki heritage back to the early 1700s, she continues the tradition of Western Abenaki ash splint and sweetgrass fancy basketry as a master basket maker. Brink has served on the Vermont Commission for Native American Affairs, the Lake Champlain Basin Program Cultural Heritage and Recreation Advisory Committee, and many other local organizations. She is the author of several books about Abenaki art and language.

The Middlebury College Commencement ceremony will take place on the main quadrangle at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. More than 5,000 family members and friends are expected to attend.

State, NorthStar Strike Deal for Sale of Vermont Yankee

Vermont-Yankee-aerial-Kristopher-Radder

After 15 months of sometimes-contentious debate, there’s been a breakthrough in the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to a New York decommissioning company. A deal released Friday calls for the plant’s current and prospective owners to set aside nearly $200 million in additional funds to support decommissioning at the Vernon site.

Additionally, the companies agreed to new restoration standards including a “comprehensive assessment” of contamination at the property.

In return, three state agencies and several other parties have agreed to support the sale of the idled plant from Entergy to NorthStar Group Services. Those supporters include the Brattleboro-based New England Coalition, which had been the sale’s harshest critic. “We now consider ourselves allies and partners with NorthStar and will do our best to help them achieve a state-of-the-art, best-practices and environmentally responsible decommissioning, as free of nuclear pollution as possible,” said Ray Shadis, a coalition board member and adviser.

But not everyone agrees with the compromise. The Conservation Law Foundation declined to sign on, with senior attorney Sandra Levine saying the deal “falls far short.”

Read the complete article by Mike Faher at VTDigger.org. Photo by Kristopher Radder at the Brattleboro Reformer.

Mascoma Bank to Drop Native American Logo

Mascoma-Bank-mural

Centuries after he is believed to have lived and more than 50 years after he was adopted as the symbol of Mascoma Bank, Chief Mascommah will disappear from the Upper Valley. The Lebanon mutual bank will no longer use as its logo an image that depicts the chief of the Squakheag Native American tribe spearfishing from a canoe.

The change accompanies an across-the-board program to update Mascoma Bank’s marketing materials that will encompass a newly designed abstract logo and color scheme. The aim is to position the bank as a certified “B Corporation” emphasizing Mascoma’s social responsibility and commitment to the community.

A silhouette of Chief Mascommah, whose Squakheag tribe was part of the Abenaki nation, has been Mascoma Bank’s logo since the 1960s.

Read the full article by John Lippman in the VTDigger, picked up from the Valley News.

More from Mascoma Bank on their name origins here.

Note: I would take a good deal of this background with a grain of salt.