On October 14, Marlboro College community members visited Brattleboro for the local Abenaki celebration of the first official Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Vermont. Beyond this one-day event, community members have recently been encouraged by the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to make a general practice of acknowledging the Sokoki (Western Abenaki) people in whose homeland Marlboro College stands.
“Land acknowledgments are often given at the beginning of public events, or in my case at the beginning of my courses,” said anthropology professor Nelli Sargsyan at a recent Town Meeting.“This land acknowledgment in Town Meeting intends to bring into our collective awareness the Indigenous people who have lived here and the histories of various kinds that we, as settlers, have inherited as a way of grounding.”
Land acknowledgement was one of several ways that the task force called on the Marlboro College community to observe Vermont’s first official Indigenous People’s Day. Community members were also urged to do their own research, finding out more about the Sokoki people and Abenaki people in general, their history, and what some of them are up to now. Further, they are encouraged to explore their own relationships to this territory, and how they came to be here.
“Our acknowledgement needs to come with a commitment, and not be something we do because it is trendy or to check a box of things progressive institutions do,” said Nelli. She shared some of the recent history of this area and the impacts of colonialism, including the Vermont Eugenics Survey and systematic sterilization, and offered resources to learn more (see resources listed below). “We each need to ask ourselves, ‘what intentions do I have to disrupt and dismantle colonialism beyond this territory acknowledgement?’”
Resources for further reading: