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The “Short and Skinny” of it…

January 21, 2011

By Professor Fred Wiseman

January 15, 2011

Every spring, since April of 1995, Vermonters are treated to verbal assaults against Vermont Abenaki people who have the audacity to ask that their state acknowledge them as Indians.  Originally these attacks were by state officials such as Governor Howard Dean or Attorneys General Bill Griffin and Bill Sorrell.   This state-sponsored molestation has abated.  Unfortunately, with the withdrawal of a common enemy to Vermont’s Indigenous people, the vacuum has been filled by individuals, because of personal or community animosity, who choose to deny the ethnic identity of their neighbors, and even, unfortunately, their family.  The reasons for this hatred are varies, feelings of personal insult, jealousy that someone else is going to get a “bigger piece of the pie,” uncertainty about their own ethnic identity, or in some cases a misplaced desire to protect Vermont against the “casinos and land claims” stereotype promulgated by the State in the 1995-2006 period.  There are also groups of people who believe that if the local Vermont Native people’s  legitimacy can be destroyed, this leaves the state open for land claims by other groups from elsewhere who believe Vermont was their original “homeland.”  Although these people claim objectivity as they demand the evidence and paperwork supporting recognition, their mind was made up long ago against any group seeking state recognition, and merely need this information to develop a counter-argument.


In 2010, the  Vermont General Assembly created a fair and equitable process for establishing the legitimacy of claims for recognition as an Indian tribe.  There are safeguards in place to prevent any abuse of the recognition process, including 1. A rigorous and thorough set of criteria for recognition 2.) charging the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs to thoroughly review the applications.  3. An advisory panel of three scholars in appropriate field to also review and approve the applications and auxiliary documentation.  4. Public hearings on each application to give voice to advocates and opponents of recognition.  5. Review and approval by the legislature.


None of the people or organizations writing negative letters to the editors, or “hate-website” blogs; or lobbying legislators believe friendly to their cause have participated in this lengthy and complex process to show why any applicant for recognition should be denied that status.  So why should they trouble the readers of your newspaper with such ethnic loathing?


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