Two local men show their support for Standing Rock protestors

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BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs approved a proclamation in support of North Dakota tribes, 14 days before the new president announced he would resume two controversial pipeline projects.

"We approve everything unanimously because that's the native way," said Rich Holschuh, a Brattleboro resident on the commission. "As a commission, we work with the native people within what is now the state of Vermont. We also recognize that borders are political constructs, so we try to support similar people with similar interests and this is one way we can do that."

The commission "proclaims support for those protectors at Standing Rock, N.D., who are resisting destruction of sites sacred to Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, disruption of traditional ways and potential environmental contamination from crude oil pipeline construction and use." The entire document can be found at

Commissioner Joelen Mulvaney drafted the document, which was discussed and approved during the commission's Jan. 11 meeting.

Ironically, Holschuh said, the Pres. Donald J. Trump decided Tuesday to put the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines "back on the front burner and push them along, which is the direction his entire administration is going."

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The pipelines had been protested and received a lot of media attention. The projects were blocked by Trump's predecessor, Pres. Barack Obama.

Native populations are taking on similar issues in Vermont. But it's "just not as glamorous," said Holschuh, noting there is interest in hydroelectric, wind and other energy projects.

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With Elnu Abenaki Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan, of Jamaica, Holschuh is providing feedback on the re-licensing of dams along the Connecticut River.

"That's something that's happening right here in our backyard," Holschuh said. "It has compromised the native heritage here, and so we are going to be bringing that up and putting it on the record."

The licenses can be good for up to 50 years. Archaeology reports and other studies will be submitted during the re-licensing process. Holschuh said he will be providing comments and information, with an eye on preservation and mitigation. He expects the process to take up to two years.

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The goal is to hold the operators accountable.

"It's also putting people on notice that these things still matter to the people who still live here, the descendants, the contemporary community," Holschuh said. "Because a lot of people are completely unaware."

The license will be transferred to new operators who will need to observe restrictions, he said. The Boston, Mass.-based ArcLight Capital Partners' affiliate Great River Hydro signed an agreement to acquire TransCanada's New England hydroelectric power assets.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.


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