Opinion: Dartmouth cannot seem to get out of its own way when it comes to respecting Indigenous Peoples

Jul 18, 2023

Responding to the Dartmouth Week headline uploaded online on July 16, “Fearing a lack of indigenous members, School Committee vows to rework indigenous culture committee,” I wouldn’t expect anything less. I don’t know about you, but I saw this coming when a criterion of becoming a voting member of this Indigenous People, History, and Culture Committee is town residency. Really?

These days, town actions are indicative of so many ironies that I must wonder if these decision-makers are self-aware at all, at least of their hypocrisy. Town residency? These tribes have been here for millennia!

Doesn’t anyone think it odd that such an unrealistic requirement is imposed on what many touted as an important and long overdue initiative, delayed yet again. Mind you, the town administrator and the assistant town administrator reside on the Cape and RI respectively, which I believe disconnects them from the heart and soul of this town. Maybe the town charter should impose residency on those two positions.

Unquestionably, it’s pointless to form such a committee without any voices from the Indigenous community. With all due respect to the Gay Head Aquinnah and the Mashpee Wampanoags, let’s reach out to the Pocassets from Fall River and environs which include old Dartmouth to join this committee. As noted by the School Committee’s Shannon Jenkins, “I think we should do it right, in full partnership with our tribal members.”

That means inviting them to participate as voting members, to have a seat at the table, not as token “advisors” on the sidelines which has gone on for too long already. Better to disband this Indigenous People, History, and Culture Committee before it even starts then to leave out Indigenous Peoples of this area.

Diane Gilbert
Dartmouth, MA