Proposed legislation places focus on Indigenous affairs

New Hampshire Bulletin
Published: 10/22/2021 11:31:13 AM

A handful of proposals would create legislation to address issues of importance to New Hampshire’s Indigenous residents: among them are adding a land acknowledgment in New Hampshire statute, banning Native American mascots in schools, and creating Indigenous People’s Day.

A contentious proposal that would have given tribes recognized by the state of Vermont the authority to appoint members to the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs was introduced by Rep. Peter Schmidt, a Dover Democrat, but then withdrawn after concerns over ceding control to out-of-state groups were raised by local Indigenous leaders.

Among those who opposed changing the makeup and appointment process of the commission were Denise and Paul Pouliot, who are leaders of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People. 

The Pouliots are supportive of legislative efforts to create a land acknowledgment and banning Native American mascots in schools – an issue they have been working on for years. The state of Maine passed similar legislation to ban Native American mascots in 2019. A handful of schools in New Hampshire still use Native American mascots, including Colebrook, Rochester, Laconia, and Sanbornton. Winnacunnet and Merrimack Valley have changed their mascots in recent years. 

Denise Pouliot said the anti-mascot bill would help with efforts to make the state equal and equitable. “We need to stop disparaging other humans; and mascots, in our opinion, are disparaging,” she said.

The Pouliots worked with Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat, who is sponsoring the land acknowledgment bill. They drafted language for a land acknowledgment recognizing that New Hampshire is the “traditional ancestral homeland of the Pennacook, Abenaki, and Wabanki Peoples past and present.” The proposal doesn’t include requirements about when the land acknowledgement would be recited but would include it in New Hampshire statute.  

Rep. Oliver Ford, a Chester Republican, put forward the request for legislation that would create Indigenous People’s Day in August. A similar proposal faced pushback and ultimately failed last session after concerns that the August date would leave Columbus Day intact.




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