Don Stevens, Chief of Vermont’s Nulhegan Band of the Abenaki, is well-versed in the difficulties, prejudices and land losses that are recorded in his people’s history as far back as 1712. He has also been instrumental in changing things for the better over the past two decades.
Join him as he discusses the history, art and traditions of the Nulhegan Abenaki of northern Vermont in a special online program on January 27 at 7:00 PM. He will also show Abenaki artifacts, and provide ample time for viewers’ questions.
Indigenous to the Northeast Kingdom, the Nulhegan Abenaki selected Don as Chief in 2010. He led the effort to secure Vermont’s official recognition for the Nulhegan as a tribe in 2011, and helped restore its territorial boundaries and permanent hunting and fishing rights.
For many years, the Nulhegan Abenaki had no land they could define as their own. Don helped change that. He secured grants to purchase 68 forested acres in the Northeast Kingdom. According to Don, “We have a place where we can go to do prayers and gather as a group. We can pick up the soil and know that our ancestors walked on that land.”
His leadership also is helping broaden awareness of Abenaki traditions and history. Don’s initiatives include Nulheganaki, a weekend-long celebration of Abenaki culture held annually since 2011; the Abenaki Cultural and Historical Exhibit in place at Burlington International Airport since 2019, and the Abenaki Land Link Program, a partnership with public organizations and private landowners to establish a seed bank to grow rare indigenous crops.
Our last meeting, on January 12, identified many important and helpful opportunities to work on to move racial equity forward. To help facilitate a conversation about how to help all of those opportunities move forward, here is a list that we can use on Tuesday (Jan 26) to decide what belongs in a subgroup (Education, Policy/Policing, Reparations) and what should be discussed by the large group together:
Land acknowledgement on webpage
School board and SRO
Reflections on who we are and how we work together (continued work on the Jamboard we started on Jan 12)
Organizational relationships and partnerships
Community education opportunities
Police/SB/Town staff training education opportunities
Long term picture of our work – next three years
Review of town policies or school policies – is there racism that should be addressed
Involvement in school support and activities
No priorities intended with the order in which these topics appear; this is just a list to start us off with. Please feel free to add more when we get together.
RRE met on Tuesday, January 12 for its usual weekly meeting. RRE member Connie van Eeghen led us on a discussion of group norms using Jamboard. Each person was invited to share one or two thoughts about what our group norms are or should be. Once each person had provided their input, Connie led a group exercise where we grouped the norms together into core concepts. It was a fun way to explore how we all look at the group and what we see it as and want it to be.
Richmond Racial Equity, assisted by Migrant Justice and allied attorneys, gave a presentation to the Richmond Selectboard at their regular meeting on Monday, January 4, 2020 on the need for a modified Fair and Impartial Policing policy that would forbid Richmond police from cooperating directly with federal agencies regarding the immigration status of migrants and others. The Selectboard listened receptively and indicated that they would all be willing to vote ‘yea’ on a resolution adopting the new policy, but stopped short of agreeing to mandate it.
The Selectboard has heard from the town’s attorney as well as from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns that they do not have the legal authority to mandate such a policy; the ACLU and other attorneys that RRE members have spoken with feel otherwise. Kyle Kapitanski, the acting Chief of Police for Richmond, was at the meeting and stated that he would put the policy in place once the Selectboard passes the resolution. Asked if that was not good enough, RRE representatives expressed concern that future police chiefs might elect to go in a different direction and without the force of a town ordinance, there would be nothing legally that we could do to stop them.
All parties agreed that the best outcome would be for this to be settled at a state level, with the state giving clear permission to towns to adopt such policies and/or mandating the policy at a statewide level. Jana Brown, our incoming state representative, was at the meeting and indicated that it would be discussed during the upcoming session.
The next step is for the Selectboard to draft a resolution to adopt at the next meeting — the actual resolution may wind up being fairly short, but the “whereas”es that would lay out the reason and justification for the policy might be rather lengthy, and will need to be hashed out. Every indication is that the Selectboard will adopt the resolution supporting the revised Fair and Impartial Policing policy at its January 18 meeting and we thank them for their support and for the time and effort they’ve put into this issue.
Members of Richmond Racial Equity, assisted by representatives from Migrant Justice, will be presenting to the Selectboard and to interested citizens of Richmond on the proposed Fair and Impartial Policing policy at the January 4, 2021 meeting of the Richmond Selectboard.
The meeting will be conducted via Zoom, starting at 7 pm.
The Fair and Impartial Policing presentation will take about 45 minutes and is the third item on the agenda after public comment and discussions of how Town Meeting 2021 will be conducted.
Numerous documents relating to the FIPP are available on the Selectboard documents page for this meeting — look for the words “Start FIPP Documents” and “End FIPP Documents”. Everything between there is relevant information.
We wanted to share news of an upcoming event at the Bolton-Richmond-Huntington Community Senior Center:
“Join Us for This Special On-Line Presentation: A Different Approach to Crime and Justice in Rwanda – and Vermont
On Wednesday, December 16 at 1:30 PM, we host Norwich University professor Rowley Brucken for his on-line presentation on Restorative Justice, an approach that gives victims a chance to communicate with offenders, explain the full impact of their crimes, and provide ways the offender can help repair the damage and make appropriate amends.
Brucken is a recognized expert in this field. He describes examples in Vermont where communities have established reparative boards and mediation initiatives that embody restorative justice principles. On a more dramatic level, he also relates how Argentina and Rwanda have applied its principles to bring justice and healing to local communities in the wake of genocide and other crimes against humanity.
Professor Brucken has over 20 years of experience in restorative justice from international to local levels. He is Amnesty International USA’s Zimbabwe Specialist, has served on reparative panels, and chaired the Citizen Advisory Board of the Montpelier Community Justice Center. He is also an avid runner with 60 marathons and 25 ultra-marathons of 50 and 100 miles to his credit.