'A mendable stitch to bolster our common fragile social fabric of a shared community'

Abenaki and non-Abenaki at the Living Earth Action Group–sponsored gathering in Westminster West Jan. 21 exemplified "community" in the broadest of terms.

Abenaki present relayed experiences from their history that recounted millennia-deep cultural roots throughout northern New England and southeastern Canada, as well as the nearly-five-century history of destructive encroachment on their lands.

Efforts of invading colonial powers yielded, among other things, modern isolation among Abenaki bands. From distant lands, resultant imposed political boundaries and subsequent rules slowly tore the communal fabric of Abenaki and other Indigenous peoples while simultaneously promulgating violent rivalries among European colonial peoples that broadly sowed destructive isolation among colonists living far from home in North America.

At times, these ill-intended efforts erupted into open violence in oft-written broad subcontinental wars, reenacted regional conflicts, or less-publicized-but-equally-felt localized actions.

Seemingly more quietly: first, imported laws and then homespun ones from Continental Halls rippled changes across the continent that resulted in the vanquishing isolation of repressed society segments, whether Abenaki or not.

Modern fragments of both Abenaki and non-Abenaki groups within those fracturing lines have become placed-based rivals at times, with identities and humanity reshaped and differences reinforced by imposed bureaucratic divisions drawn long ago from afar.

We heard of the theoretical absurdity of disconnected Abenaki bands in Vermont and Québec, once sharing common land from northeastern New York to Prince Edward Island, from northern Massachusetts to southern Québec, realized by invoked laws of France, England, Canada, the United States, Québec, and Vermont.

The effects of Abenaki isolation in a place they once thrived was evident in personal stories of lived trauma clearly and emotionally expressed.

It connected with experiences of non-Abenaki who know shared pain in their lives and yearning for a greater, more tolerant society.

All told, I observed how the engulfing momentum of political division that castigates low-resourced, disempowered groups is but a prominent, resilient fruit of the ordained goals of a distant few. Yet, there was a latent, more powerful fruit that might bloom.

These recent discussions demonstrated to me that healing for these common wounds comes truly from mutual respect for all segments of community at the local level - from the literal and metaphorical "grassroots" who defy division's destructive lava flow and bring hope for a renewed community where all continue to respect the place we dwell and all people around us.

At this gathering, Abenaki and non-Abenaki together completed here a mendable stitch to bolster our common fragile social fabric of a shared community now.

David Mulholland

Westminster West

This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

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