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Rich Holschuh reads the text of a proclamation to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day at a rally on the day that ultimately remained Columbus Day in Brattleboro last year.


Goodbye, Columbus. Hello, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Selectboard unanimously approves name change for October holiday

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard unanimously voted to approve a resolution proclaiming the second Monday in October of each year be named “Indigenous Peoples’ Day."

During Representative Town Meeting in March, the body unanimously voted to recommend the Selectboard approve the proclamation.

At the April 18 regular Selectboard meeting, Board Chair Kate O’Connor read the document — written by Town Attorney Bob Fisher with edits by Rich Holschuh — into the record.

In addition to setting the date of the day, the proclamation says the Selectboard “heeds said advice and desires to recognize the Indigenous People of Wantastegok in Sokwakik — the immediate area now known as Brattleboro, Vermont — dwelling here prior to and during the colonization begun by Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere[.]”

The proclamation also notes the “ample local evidence, including petroglyphs at the West River, demonstrating this area has been inhabited for millennia, long before Europeans began to settle” here.

The document states the town “recognizes that this area comprises in part the homelands of Indigenous Peoples including the Abenaki, their allies, and ancestors,” and it encourages schools and businesses to recognize and celebrate the day.

O’Connor thanked Holschuh, who led the drive to get the town to recognize the day.

Holschuh then thanked “everybody involved in this,” including current and past Selectboard members, Town Manager Peter B. Elwell, Executive Secretary Jan Anderson, Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland, and Fisher.

“It’s a small thing, but it’s highly symbolic for Brattleboro to make this move forward,” Holschuh said, noting, “Brattleboro is the beginning, where colonization began in this state, at Fort Dummer.”

Holschuh told Board members he looks forward to “how we’re going to observe [and] celebrate this, both on the day... and going forward, to restore the indigenous people of this place — who have been here for 12,000 years — to the community. They have a lot to offer.”

He then gave an example of how important the Abenaki people consider the place they live.

If one asked an indigenous Abenaki person, “Who are you?” and “Where do you live?” their response would be, for example, “I am called ‘Rich’ and I am this place,” Holschuh said, pointing to himself.

“That’s what indigeneity is all about,” Holschuh said. “The people and the land are together. The people are the land, and the land is the people. And when you have that kind of connection, you care deeply. And for Brattleboro to make this [decision] — we think of ourselves as a caring town — we’re walking the walk.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #405 (Wednesday, April 26, 2017).

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