Vermont to observe Indigenous People's Day at request of Brattleboro resident


BRATTLEBORO >> Indigenous People's Day will be observed in Vermont in lieu of Columbus Day this year.

"Now therefore, I, Peter Shumlin, as Governor of the State of Vermont, do hereby proclaim Oct. 10, 2016, as Indigenous People's Day in Vermont, and on this day traditionally observed as Columbus Day encourage all Vermonters to recognize the sacrifice and contributions of this land," stated a proclamation, signed by Shumlin on Thursday, acknowledging that the Green Mountain State was founded and built upon lands first inhabited by indigenous people, "the Abenaki and their ancestors and allies."

Vermont is joining other states and towns around the United States in recognizing the second Monday of October as Indigenous People's Day and "re-imagining Columbus Day as an opportunity to celebrate indigenous heritage and resiliency," according to the proclamation.

The possibility of the town of Brattleboro adopting a similar proclamation came up at Tuesday's Select Board meeting. In a 2-3 vote, the board decided not to put the question on the annual Representative Town Meeting warning without a petition coming forward. The Town Charter requires signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in Brattleboro in order for an article to get warned.

Rich Holschuh plans on getting that many signatures — approximately 400 signatures — in time for the next board meeting on Oct. 18. The Brattleboro resident is a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.

After Tuesday's meeting, Holschuh wrote to Shumlin via a feature on the governor's website used for submitting comments.

"I got the standard reply, 'Thanks for writing to the Governor's Office,"" Holschuh said. "I had spoken to Gov. Shumlin last week when he was in town. I had put a bug in his ear about this. I had shown him the Select Board meeting agenda. I pointed out to him, 'If you can do this on the state level, that would be awesome.' I told him I was doing my job."

Shumlin was governor when Holschuh was appointed to the commission. Shumlin also was in office when Vermont's four Abenaki tribes were recognized. He was not available for comment on Friday.

Holschuh told Shumlin, "This would be a good way to cap off your term and go out on a high note."

"My understanding is the governor can make an executive action. For it to carry the weight of the law, it needs to go through the Legislature. That definitely is on our action menu to do," Holschuh said. "I have a contact up there who has been working on this for the two previous (legislative) sessions and has not been successful thus far."

Holschuh hopes to change that this session.

"In the meantime, I'm going to be getting signatures tonight," he said, referring to Gallery Walk happening on Friday night in Brattleboro. "We're going to get it on the warning here."

Representative Town Meeting members approved a non-binding motion to observe Indigenous People's Day last March when "other business" was discussed towards the end of the annual meeting. Several residents spoke in support of the action on Tuesday night.

Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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