NBNC Rivers
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"I wish I could store this week in a bottle and take it out this winter to drink in the richness of this experience!”
- ECO Institute Participant, 2018

— The Wetherell Family

Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion

Building a Better, More Inclusive Community

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We are committed to making our natural areas, our organization, and our entire community a more inclusive and equitable place. We've just begun, we have a long way to go, and we are constantly learning how to do better. We'd like to share some of the steps we're taking in the hopes that they may inspire others to do the same.

Our Work So Far

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A Land Acknowledgement

North Branch Nature Center acknowledges that we reside upon the traditional and unceded home of the Western Abenaki People. These lands and waters have been a site of meeting and exchange among Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. North Branch Nature Center honors, recognizes and respects the Abenaki as the traditional stewards of this landscape. We strive to respect and protect this land, while continually honoring the legacy of Vermont’s Indigenous People, the Abenaki People of the Dawn.

NBNC's Land Acknowledgement is a first step. This statement is the beginning of a conversation and actions to honor the Indigenous Peoples who lived on this land for hundreds of generations. 

Vermont’s Abenaki Bands

Each of Vermont’s Abenaki communities hosts a rich website full of information on the tribe history, traditions, language, stories, governance, education, events, and much more. (Quoted text is from each band's website).

Elnu Abenaki Tribe: "Elnu is an Abenaki Tribe based in Southern Vermont. We work to continue our cultural heritage through historical research, lectures and school programs, oral storytelling, singing, dancing and traditional craft making. Our primary focus is ensuring that our traditions carry on to our children. We are traditionalists trying to maintain our culture in a modern society. Learning from the past creates a better future for all."

Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe: "The mission of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation is to strengthen our government; to build our community, and ensure sustainability; to protect our customs and traditions; and to revive our culture and celebrate our heritage while sharing it with those around us. N’dakinna (our homeland) is nestled among the lakes, rivers, and forests of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Our connection to this land cannot be described in any language. It is our birthright and obligation to advocate for our ancestral territory so that its uniqueness and beauty will be protected for the generations to come."

Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation: "The Koasek Abenaki is an autonomous band of Abenaki families of what is now called the Western Abenaki Tribes, which have been recognized by the State of Vermont. The Koasek Abenaki people are the native inhabitants of central and northwest New Hampshire and northeast and central Vermont."

Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi: "The Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi is a Native American Tribe and First Nation located in Swanton, Vermont. The Abenaki Nation at Missisquoi mission is to engage in efforts which will promote and sustain a strong, healthy, and united community for the members of the Abenaki Nation. It is further our purpose to improve the quality of life for the tribal members we serve by identifying, addressing, and working to decrease gaps in service and treatment across the spectrum of health, human, and social services."

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Offering Our Space to Abenaki Groups

In acknowledging the Abenaki as the traditional stewards of the land known as NBNC today, we offer our indoor and outdoor facilities for free or minimal cost to Abenaki individuals and groups by request. Learn more about facilities rentals under "discounts."

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Accessible Campus, Trails, and Programs

An accessible campus: As part of our Capital Campaign renovations, we are proud to offer ADA-compliant facilities. Our indoor spaces, outdoor quad, and porch are now universally accessible. We are investing in further accessibility enhancements like hearing-assist devices.

Trail improvements: We plan to create a universally accessible trailhead and trail loop in 2022. This quarter-mile long trail will allow all people to access the meadows and forest edge. We are also installing new kiosks and wayfinding materials at the trailhead. We've installed benches across the property as places to rest along the trail.

There is a real barrier to access and equity caused by an unfamiliar, unwelcoming, and uncomfortable trailhead and trail network. Lack of clear wayfinding and trail use signage perpetuates an inequitable system where knowledge of how to use the trail is already assumed, and held by the demographic of trail users who are already the dominant user group. Our proposed trailhead materials will create a more welcoming and safe experience for all users.

Programming: We retired the phrase "Citizen Science" in favor of the more inclusive term "Community Science," and advocated for other regional organizations to do the same.  Our "pandemic pivot" to online programming revealed how virtual programming improves access for some people, while creates barriers for others. We are committed to access for all, and are continually working to eliminate barriers. We welcome your insight and suggestions.

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Land Stewardship for Food, Medicine, and Materials

Wild Harvesting: The Abenaki people are welcome and encouraged to collect food, medicine, and materials from the land we steward, which is within their ancestral homelands. Please contact us so that we are aware of any harvesting taking place. We will welcome other members of the public to sustainably harvest from the land once our "food forest" landscape is better established.

Food Forests: Our ecological stewardship and restoration plans for the property are designed to provide wild resources back to our community. In 2021, we planted over 400 trees and shrubs that will yield harvestable fruits or useful resources, and these plantings are scheduled to continue for several more years.

Community Orchard: In 2022 we are planting a roadside orchard of diverse fruits that will be free and available to the public to enjoy. We hope this orchard will be a small but valuable source of food security for all central Vermont residents.

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Growing Financial Support

Our goal is for finances to never be a barrier to participation in our core programs. Through grant funding, donations, and partnerships, we are now able to provide more aid than ever before, and we are working hard to constantly expand the financial support packages we can offer.

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Building Relationships

We are actively working to develop real and reciprocal partnerships with affinity groups to better serve communities where we have not yet built rich relationships. We are allies of or partners with Capstone Community Action, the Feminist Bird Club, antiracism book discussion groups, SafeArt, the Vermont Kindness Project, the Everything Space, Outright Vermont, Peace & Justice Center, the Atowi Project, the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, and hopefully many more to come. We are committed to creating a new staff position in 2023 to better cultivate these relationships.

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Staff Development

Professional Development: Our entire staff participates in annual trainings to recognize and start to dismantle racism and bias within our organization, and within ourselves. In 2021 we worked with the Peace & Justice Center of Vermont on antiracism training. In 2022 we are working with Outright Vermont to learn to better support the LGBTQ+ community.

Inclusive Hiring Practices: We are consciously striving to create job opportunities at NBNC with hours, salaries, and benefits that are attractive to a wide range of applicants. We are also refreshing our hiring and interview process to be more equitable and accommodating of a wide range of candidate abilities and experiences. NBNC is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Moreover, as part of our commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice, we actively seek to strengthen our organization by diversifying our staff. We encourage applications from diverse candidates, including people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTQ+, and People of Color.

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Our Commitments

A Shared Commitment: To clearly set our expectations of our visitors, participants, and staff, we've developed a community contract that is being included in our program registrations and posted at our trailhead. It reads: "Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Take care of the earth. We strive to help people feel welcomed, oriented to the landscape, engaged, inspired, safe, and part of our community. We ask that our visitors and participants share this commitment while at North Branch Nature Center. We expect that all who enter this shared space do so in the spirit of welcoming kindness, inclusivity, respect, and curiosity."

Strategic Planning: As part of our most recent Strategic Planning process, we identified equity as one of NBNC’s four core organizational values. It is the focus of the first of our four Strategic Plan goals: "NBNC is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. NBNC is committed to closing the nature equity gap. We believe all people need and deserve access to nature and nature education, and we understand that real barriers exist. We are dedicated to prioritizing the needs and challenges of underserved, marginalized, and diverse populations. We craft programs that are relevant, appealing, accessible, and affordable for all."

A Commitment to Diversity: In June 2020, NBNC staff reflected deeply on our role as an organization in the perpetuation of injustices in our community, and we made a commitment to change course. Today, we reaffirm the commitments we made, and are proud to be taking meaningful and intentional steps towards a more equitable and inclusive future.

A Commitment to Listen and Improve: We want to hear your suggestions on making NBNC a better and more inclusive community. Please reach out to Emily Sloan, Office Manager, or any of our staff. Emily can be reached at [email protected] or (802) 229-6206 ext. 100. If you would like to submit your feedback anonymously, you may use this form.

Bannercitizenscience

Connecting People with the Natural World

North Branch Nature Center

713 Elm Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05602
(802) 229-6206

Hours: Center Open Monday-Friday 9-4
Trails Open 24/7