We Must Act Urgently to Force Inclusion of Indigenous Preservation Leadership in New Legislation

This entire post was written by Rochelle Prunty from River Valley Co-Op. Thank you, Rochelle.

House Bill H3982 is intended to support the preservation of Massachusetts’s archaeological, fossil, and geological resources. This is an important issue, but to be effective we need your help to ensure that House Bill H3982 includes key Indigenous historic preservation leadership on the commission. We need this to bring important expertise and cultural knowledge forward to ensure the bill effectively addresses issues of Indigenous cultural preservation.  

We are asking for your support to send in written testimony to support the inclusion of the Indigenous leaders and organizations that have been leading the way on Indigenous historic preservation for decades in Massachusetts.

Please see the letter below from Joe Graveline, Tribal Archaeological Field Monitor and a leading local Indigenous cultural researcher, historian and preservationist.

December 3, 2021
House Bill H3982
Call to Action

For over 10,000 years indigenous peoples have enjoyed an uninterrupted spiritual and physical relationship with the land and the river here in the Connecticut River Valley.
For the last 25 years, a contingent of the tribal historical and cultural preservation stakeholders have been doing the hard work of trying to preserve the long and powerful Indigenous cultural presence that is so much a part of this land.
On January 31, 2014 a passionate group of indigenous and historical preservation stakeholders came together in a meeting with Peter Kocot to weigh in on House Bill 744 which Peter sponsored. By the end of the meeting, Peter Kocot understood what cultural erasure looked like on his watch, and vowed to include these very same stakeholders in any legislation going forward for the preservation of historical and cultural resources here in the Connecticut River Valley.
These were some of the same stakeholders that stepped in front of the bulldozers to stop the building of a Walmart on an indigenous burial ground in Greenfield and to stop the Kinder Morgan Pipeline from tearing up our valley. We were also present to put a halt to the roundabout through an early archaic/late paleo period site in Northampton.

On Tuesday December 7, 2021, House Bill H3982 will be brought to the floor in the memory and legacy of Peter Kocot to be voted on before the House, but none of the stakeholders who are still on the ground doing the hard work are included in this new bill.
That is counter to the promise the Peter made to our group 2014. House Bill 3982 should not be going forward without the inclusion of these original stakeholders. It is my hope for community members to recognize the ongoing hard work of the people in the field that been left out of this new bill.
The call to action today will be for everyone who can to voice their concerns that H3982 will fail to follow through with Peter’s memory and Legacy without the inclusion of these original stakeholders who sat with Peter 2014.
For all who can write or testify on this new House Bill H3982, you will be honoring both Peter’s hard work and the hard work of the tribal partners who have been doing this work for over a quarter century.
I thank you for all the support you have given us in the past and any support you can give us today.
Blessings to you all,
Joe Graveline

None of the key Indigenous Tribes or local Indigenous historic preservation organizations that have led the way on Indigenous cultural and historic preservation over the last 25 years were consulted about this bill.

First and foremost, we are asking for your support to require the upfront consultation of our Indigenous historic preservation leaders in developing this legislation and to include them on the commission. Those leaders include Joe Graveline, Tribal Archaeological Field Monitor, historian, and preservationist. The Tribal Historic Preservation Officers of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, Narragansett, and Elnu Abenaki: Mark Andrews, John Brown, and Rich Holschuh. As well as leadership of The Nolembeka Project, The Deerfield Historical Commission, and the Northfield Historical Commission. 

This group of stakeholders worked with Peter Kocot to develop a bill that H3982 was adapted from, but sadly Peter passed away before he brought that Bill forward for a vote. The Peter Kocot Bill, developed in consultation and partnership with these Indigenous leaders, was designed to protect these resources. The current version of this bill does not honor Peter’s legacy or intent. It doesn’t honor the knowledge and expertise of our state’s key Indigenous historic preservation leaders. 

River Valley Co-op stands with Joe Graveline in his request for inclusion.  First and foremost, we are asking for your support to require the upfront consultation of our Indigenous historic preservation leaders in developing this bill and to include them on the commission.

Please help us make this message clear to the committee chair and Bill sponsors. Please submit testimony in writing to tell the bill sponsors and the committee to: Consult and collaborate with Joe Graveline and other key Indigenous preservation stakeholders on House Bill H3982.
Appoint Joe Graveline and other key Indigenous leaders with historic preservation expertise to the commission for House Bill H3982. This Indigenous leadership and expertise are essential for social justice in the development of legislation to protect archaeological, fossil, and geological resources in our state. 

See below for the Public Hearing Notice links to submit written testimony and register to comment in the virtual meeting. While there is no stated deadline for written testimony, submitting letters by the day of the meeting or soon after is important for ensuring swift action to stop work on this bill without consultation and inclusion of our expert Indigenous stakeholders as outlined.
Date of Hearing: Tuesday, December 7, 2021 
Time: 1:00 PM-4:00 PM 
Location: Virtual Hearing 
Stream Livehttps://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/4112
Forestry, Funding and Administrative Infrastructure 
The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture will host a virtual hearing on Tuesday December 7, 2021 at 1PM on the legislation listed in the docket below.    
Persons seeking to provide oral testimony must pre-register via this form:    

Please pre-register by Sunday, December 5, 2021 at 5PM. Once registered, you will receive an invitation to join the hearing one day prior to the hearing. Please note there is a time limit of 3 minutes per person for oral testimony.    

Written testimony may also be submitted to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture by email to: JointCommittee.Environment@malegislature.gov. 

Pre-registration through the above form is not required for written testimony.  There is no formal deadline for written testimony, though a timely submission allows the Committee time to thoroughly review testimony.  

Please contact Shannon Emmett, the committee’s Research Director, with any questions at: shannon.emmett@mahouse.gov.   
Thank You!
Much gratitude for your attention to this important social justice issue. It is time to identify and end our systemic state historic preservation policies and practices resulting in our long history of Indigenous cultural erasure in Massachusetts. Let’s start by inclusion of our key Indigenous stakeholders in legislation impacting our Native American community members. Please help us send House Bill H3982 back to the drawing board with this key Indigenous leadership consultation for getting it right on this important issue. Thank you for your attention and support! For more information, click here to see the Montague Reporter article about Peter Kocot’s meeting with these key Indigenous historical preservation stakeholders. 

Comment from Greg Skibiski: I have heard several times now that the state is pushing this bill forward as quickly as possible because of the expected effects of the new trillion dollar Federal Infrastructure Act. This will mean lots of digging in the ground and powerful interests don’t want anything held up by the discovery of Indigenous sites.

If exactly zero Indigenous historic preservation interests are involved with this bill – even after actively requesting meetings – then who is pushing it forward and why?

3 thoughts on “We Must Act Urgently to Force Inclusion of Indigenous Preservation Leadership in New Legislation

  1. Thanks for this. The Chairperson of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Andrews-Maliat and Mark Andrews, the Cultural Resources Officer came to the session today and spoke strongly for Indigenous rights. They noted that this bill cannot pass legal and ethical baselines as written. Ann Darling also spoke well for us and MEAS delivered a break-down of where the bill fails and what needs to be improved. that’s available at Massachusetts Ethical Archaeology Society at ethicarch.org or directly at https://www.ethicarch.org/post/speak-up-for-human-rights-democratic-process-and-transparency-tuesday-december-7th-from-1-4-pm

    Everyone spoke from the same place on this. We all noted that this bill cannot move forward without Indigenous representation and guarantees of compliance with federal, state and international Indigenous rights and laws on thos rights.


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