From: Nancy Gallagher, Underhill, Vermont
Date: April 21, 2010
Re. Bill S.222 on Abenaki Recognition
I am writing in support of Representative Kesha Ram’s statement and the decision of the House Committee on General Affairs to suspend action on Bill S.222 by the House and to proceed instead with legislation that would provide a fair, historically accurate and equitable process for Abenaki recognition, reflecting the spirit and intent of the bill S.117 passed in 2006. I am asking that you will endorse and actively support that decision.
In decisions that profoundly affect the well-being and livelihoods of citizens of this state, it would seem that a period of inquiry, education, and soul-searching concerning the right thing to do would have been in order. At such times, I’ve often used the motto of the Rotarians (which I learned from my father many years ago): “Is it true? Is it fair? Does it promote good will and friendliness? Is it beneficial to all concerned?” Bill S.222 – both in content and the manner of its passage –meets NONE of these criteria.
I have long been a supporter of state historical recognition of Abenaki people, for whom this land we call Vermont has been their ancestral homeland. I entertained high hopes that the Governor’s Commission on Native American Affairs would develop a process whereby all the Abenaki people living in our state could express their heritage with pride, and that all Vermonters would have the opportunity to research and understand the long-repressed history of the indigenous peoples who lived here before my own ancestors set foot on this continent in the early 1600s. Since 2006, I have followed the progress of the Governor’s Commission with anticipation of a fair and equitable process that could be used to identify the historic family bands, so that they might enjoy their heritage, sell their arts and crafts without accusations of fraud, and work towards recovering their family and community history, using oral, material, and written sources. I have been working for many years now with a few Abenaki people from different families and have lectured widely in the state on our collaborative work.
Members of the Governor’s Commission were intentionally misinformed on the VCNAA website about the date of the Senate Committee Hearing when Bill S.222 was marked up (see the film clip by Mark Mitchell on U-Tube**), and the hearing and the vote on the Senate floor were not posted on the state legislative website. Those Abenaki and interested citizens only learned of the mark up and passage of the bill in the media after the fact.
I am grateful and heartened by the efforts of Rep. Kesha Ram to visit Abenaki families, listen to their needs, fears, and concerns, and begin a process that would not only benefit all Abenaki living in Vermont instead of the just the “elect” group, but would enrich the history, culture, and economics of our state as well. Please, please, support her efforts.
Nancy L. Gallagher, independent scholar & author, Breeding Better Vermonters: The Eugenics Project in the Green Mountain State (1999); “Vermont Eugenics: A Documentary History” www.uvm.edu/~eugenics (2001).
Senator Hinda Miller states, "Great ok Terrific and I am reporting this Bill and I am extremely happy.....thank you Mark [Mitchell], what you can tell everyone is that we are very very grateful that you honored our request to keep the drama down and not to have too much activity that confused us, that allowed us to really hunker down and get going what we really to do."
[Mark had posted the date for the hearing on his website for Thursday (the day after the hearing was actually held) and after the hearing added “Changed to Wednesday.”]
Cc: Representative Helen Head, Senators Tim Ashe, Ed Flanagan, Ginny Lyons, Douglas Racine, Diane Snelling, Hinda Miller, Vincent Illuzzi