Indigenous culture committee approved after earlier representation concerns

Sep 12, 2023

After delaying the creation of the Indigenous People, History and Culture Committee in July — fearing a lack of indigenous membership — the School Committee finally approved the charge for the new committee at its Sept. 11 meeting.

The idea for the committee originated in the wake of three years of debate over the High School’s “Indian” logo, which culminated in the School Committee voting to affirm the logo in April 2022, despite a dissenting vote from School Board member Shannon Jenkins. The vote included the stipulation, however, that the town would find more ways to call attention to Native American culture and history. 

But when the time came to approve the new committee’s charge in July, the School Committee took issue with the requirement that voting members must be Dartmouth residents. 

“That’s not a partnership,” Jenkins said at the time. 

The resident requirement is stipulated in the Town’s bylaws, which the Select Board reiterated in August

At the School Committee’s Aug. 21 meeting, Jenkins and member John Nunes discussed possibly changing the Town’s bylaws for the new committee, but that would require a vote at Town Meeting. 

In the interest of time, the School Committee decided to move forward with the indigenous culture committee, which is already meeting as a working group. However, language in the charge was changed to state that the committee “shall” seek indigenous participation rather than “may.” 

“I’m not going to hold this up any longer, I’ve had my say, the ship has sailed,” Jenkins said. “I just want to register for the record that I do object that our … tribal neighbors will be non-voting members of this committee.”

Jenkins suggested creating an “intergovernmental relations committee” in the future, where the Town could engage directly with the official government of local tribes, but she said she does not want to delay the new committee any longer.

At the Aug. 28 Select Board meeting, Chair David Tatelbaum said the town has been in contact with an indigenous resident of Dartmouth interested in joining the new committee, which School Committee Chair Kathleen Amaral confirmed at the Sept. 11 meeting.