Occupied Abenaki Lands Desecrated by 9/11 Memorial – Protesters Intervene to Adress U.S. Imperialism & Genocide

Middlebury College, VT — At 3:00PM on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, five protesters removed thousands of flags desecrating occupied Abenaki lands. The U.S. flags were part of a 9/11 memorial established by Middlebury College students.

Amanda Lickers, a member of the Onondowa’ga Nation, states, “In the quickest moment of decision making, in my heart, I understood that lands where our dead may lay must not be desecrated. In my community, we do not pierce the earth. It disturbs the spirits there, it is important for me to respect their presence.”

“For over 500 years our people have been under attack. The theft of our territories, the devastation of our waters; the poisoning of our people through the poisoning of our lands; the theft of our people from our families; the rape of our children; the murder of our women; the sterilization of our communities; the abuse of generations; the uprooting of our ancestors and the occupation of our sacred sites; the silencing of our songs; the erasure of our languages and memories of our traditions. I have had enough.” stated Lickers.

Lickers was at the college to facilitate a workshop on Settler Responsibility and Decolonization.

“Today I, along with a group of non-Middlebury students, helped remove around 3,000 American flags from the grass by Mead Chapel.” stated Anna Shireman-Grabowski, a Middlebury College student. “My intention was not to cause pain but to visibilize the necessity of honoring all human life… While the American flags on the Middlebury hillside symbolize to some the loss of innocent lives in New York, to others they represent centuries of bloody conquest and mass murder. As a settler on stolen land, I do not have the luxury of grieving without an eye to power. Three thousand flags is a lot, but the campus is not big enough to hold a marker for every life sacrificed in the history of American conquest and colonialism.” stated Shireman-Grabowski.

This action, as a direct response to a particular experience of the embodied pain of colonialism, was not taken on behalf of, or connection with, local Abenaki tribal citizens or Indigenous inhabitants of the area, but was a spontaneous move of respect by an Indigenous woman from a neighboring nation, appalled by this treatment of Abenaki sites. As Anna Shireman-Grabowski states “I wish to further clarify that members of the local Abenaki community should in no way be implicated in today’s events. Nor can I pretend to speak to their feelings about flags, burial sites, or 9/11.”

College President Ronald D. Liebowitz dismissed the protest stating that he was ”deeply disturbed by the insensitivity” of “this selfish act of protest” and threatened that the College “has begun a disciplinary investigation of this incident.”
“It is the duty of the college of middlebury to consult with abenaki peoples and repatriate their grounds.” stated Lickers. “Yesterday I said no to settler occupation. I took those flags. It is a small reclamation and modest act of resistance.”

Read the full statements by two of the protesters here

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