Abenaki Legislation Likely Again During Upcoming Session
By Michelle Monroe
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
SWANTON — Recognition for Abenaki tribes and rules for the handling of unmarked burial sites
will be on the legislative agenda again this session, according to Rep. Michel Consejo, D-Sheldon.
Consejo introduced versions of both bills last term.
The burial bill passed the House on Feb. 27, 2009. It was four pages long. The bill went to the
Senate, where the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs added
seven pages and a commission to establish procedures for handling unmarked burial sites.
The House bill required any owners of land on which human remains were found to work with the
state archeologists, Native American tribes, and other stakeholders to determine the most
appropriate and respectful method for relocating or otherwise reinterring the remains.
Sen. Vince Illuzi, R- Essex-Orleans, added the commission, as well as numerous provisions
dealing with veterans’ cemeteries and burial of indigents.
The bill passed the Senate and was sent back to the House, which objected to the changes. The
bill was sent to conference, but did not emerge from conference before the end of the term. A
burial bill is a priority for the Abenaki community, according to Consejo, who on Monday indicated
similar legislation would likely be introduced this session. “It is their belief when one of their
ancestors is unburied, bad things happen,” Consejo said of tribal members, many of whom live in
the Swanton area, which he also represents.
The recognition bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton, and Rep. Jeff
Young, D-St. Albans City, never made it out of committee. The bill would have allowed Abenaki in
Vermont to attach a label to their crafts stating the items were made by Native Americans.
The bill would also have made the Abenkai tribes eligible for federal grants.
“The whole point of the bill itself is for them to be able to get some grants from the government,”
“First generation of Abenaki going to college now… is generally a result of the first recognition
bill,” Consejo said.
A recognition bill already has been introduced in the Senate, Consejo said. He will be co-
sponsoring a bill in the House.