Note: The following letter from 25 community members was read during public comment at the October 11th New Gloucester Charter Commission meeting.
We are citizens of New Gloucester who are troubled that another racially charged incident occurred during official town business at the Charter Commission meeting on Monday, September 27, 2021.
In that meeting, a discussion of New Gloucester history contained derogatory terms for the Wabanaki people, dismissal of their documented historical presence, disregard for tribal names, and usage of the slur “Redblood.” Additionally, when details of New Gloucester’s history were questioned, almost every member of the Commission suggested expediency rather than open discussion or education. The rhetoric used and the manner in which the overall conversation was conducted deeply disturbed many New Gloucester citizens.
We appreciate the work of the Charter Commission in establishing a governing framework and structure that represents the welcoming values of our town. We look forward to a town charter that will stand the test of time and that New Gloucester citizens can be proud of. In order to fully represent our town, any history included in the charter must portray the Wabanaki people accurately and acknowledge their history, stewardship, and land rights. A history that portrays the Wabanaki people as aggressors or as having willingly left their ancestral land will not be fully representative of New Gloucester and doesn’t belong in our town charter.
It is our responsibility as citizens to hold our elected leaders accountable for the language they use when representing New Gloucester. We expect our town leaders to actively and intentionally respect all past, current, and future residents. Regardless of the decision made on whether or not to include town history, we ask that commission members make use of the many resources available to learn why the attitudes and language of last week were shocking, damaging, and disrespectful.
We are submitting this letter on Indigenous People’s Day, a day to recognize Indigenous history and people as well as celebrate the many Wabanaki who are still here and fighting for their rights today. We ask that our Charter Commission members publicly acknowledge that they can and must do better to uphold a standard of inclusivity and empathy that sets an example for all New Gloucester citizens.
Thank you for your time.
Mary Beth Johnson
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