September 11, 2013

Middlebury students uproot 9/11 memorial

9/11 Memorial Uprooted in Midday Protest

By Kyle FinckA 2,977 flag memorial was ripped out of the ground in front of Mead Memorial Chapel shortly before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11 by a group of five protestors claiming that the flags were on top of a sacred Abenaki burial site.

The flags—meant to commemorate each of the 2,977 lives taken in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks—have been posted in the grass between Mead Chapel and the Davis Family Library annually in a joint effort between the College Republicans and Democrats for nearly 10 years.

Ben Kinney ’15, president of the College Republicans, spent two hours putting the flags outside of Mead Chapel on Tuesday night, and happened to be walking up the hill towards the chapel when he saw four females and one male stuffing the miniature flags into black trash bags.

“I got there just as they were taking the very last of them out of the ground and putting them in piles,” he said. “At first, I the group was comprised of College Democrats helping put the flags away before the rain rolled in, but then I realized what they were doing.”

Kinney said the protestors told him they were “confiscating” the flags in protest of “America’s imperialism.”
9/11 flag vandalism shocks Middlebury College

By Zach DespartHarris asked why they were tearing up the flags. When he told the individuals the memorial was commemorating those who died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., during the attacks, he said one of them responded, “You’re commemorating the wrong deaths.”

The person continued, “This monument stands for American imperialism and we’re confiscating it.”

Middlebury College senior Julia Madden also witnessed the vandalism and approached the protesters at the same time Harris did.

“They said it was disrespectful to the Abenaki (native American peoples),” Madden said. “I told them they were being disrespectful to the victims of 9/11.”
And:A second person also spoke about her involvement in the vandalism through an online post and in an interview with the Independent.

In an article posted on, Amanda Lickers stated she was also involved in the vandalism.

Lickers said she is a member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, another name for the Iroquois, a group of tribes in New York state.

According to her statement, Lickers said when she saw the 9/11 memorial, she made the decision that “the lands where our dead lay must not be desecrated.”
Native American tribe calls protesters who destroyed 9/11 memorial ‘disgusting’

By Robby SoaveThe protesters who uprooted a 9/11 memorial display at a liberal arts college in Vermont claimed they were defending Abenaki tribal lands and taking a stand against U.S. imperialism.

The Abenaki tribe’s response? “Disgusting.”

Don Stevens, chief of the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe, said his tribe did not approve of the actions taken by five people–including one student–at Middlebury College last week.

“We didn’t know anything about this and if we had we certainly wouldn’t have sanctioned it,” he said in a statement to The Addison Independent.

The 9/11 memorial display consisted of 2,977 flags placed in a field on Middlebury’s campus. The flags represent the nearly 3,000 people who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The College Republicans and Democrats have cooperated to erect the display annually for years.

But this year, liberal activists uprooted all the flags on the pretext of defending the Abenaki tribe’s rights. The field is tribal land, they claimed, and Native American beliefs prohibit disturbing the earth on hallowed ground.

But Steven said there’s no evidence that the field is an Abenaki burial site. And even if it was, the flags would be a welcome presence.

“Our burial sites honor our warriors and their bravery,” said Stevens. “Putting flags in the earth to honor bravery would not be disrespectful.”
Comment:  I can't tell who muddled the story, but it's not clear what the students are claiming.

For starters, what land are they referring to? The particular patch of ground with the flags? The entire campus? The whole state or country? Or what?

And what are they claiming about this ill-defined piece of land? That it's literally a burial ground--with identifiable human remains in it? That it's some sort of "hallowed" land--hallowed by whom? That it belongs to the Abenakis, or to all Indians?

Not all tribal lands are "hallowed," of course. And not all "hallowed" lands are burial sites. It's a rhetorical flaw to confuse these things.

If the students are saying the entire country once belonged to the Indians, so no one should ever put an American flag in it--well, I don't think many Indians would agree. They're not that possessive about every square inch of America. They stand by their treaties, in which they ceded some of their land in exchange for peace.

If the spot was a burial mound or other sacred site, that would be different. One could argue that the college itself shouldn't be located there. But the Abenakis have had decades to make such a claim, and I don't think they've done so. It would be a major story if they had.

In short, non-Abenakis shouldn't be making claims on the Abenakis' behalf. Especially when the Abenakis disagree. The Abenakis are fully capable of telling us what they consider sacred or hallowed, so let's wait until they protest a flag ceremony.

For more on Indians and 9/11, see Alcaraz's "Twin Tipis" Cartoon and Native Artists Commemorate 9/11.


Anonymous said...

Non-Abenakis shouldn't be making claims on the Abenakis' behalf, says the white, non-NA owner of a blog that's nothing but a stream of complaints and grievances on the NAs' behalf? Aren't Native Americans "fully capable of telling us" what their grievances are?

Rob said...

As I have to remind people with reading problems, the majority of my postings are 1) neutral news items or 2) analyses written by or quoting Native people. So no, my blog is not "nothing but a stream of complaints and grievances on the NAs' behalf."

On the rare occasions when I do more than add a postscript, my opinions are almost always based on and in concert with Native opinions. You'd have a hard time finding a case where my opinion differs from theirs.

If the Abenakis declared the spot in Middlebury College a sacred site, I'd have no problem with non-Natives reiterating the Native position. That's essentially what I'm doing in my blog--not substituting my position for theirs.

I thought all this was blindingly obvious, but I guess not. Now that I've explained it to you, I trust you'll get it.