Vermont Indian Commission "Official" Response to Legislature
January 28, 2009
Dear Members of the House of Representatives,
The members of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs are writing to you to share our
thoughts about bill S 0222 and H 0569, which are currently being considered in the Senate and
We have for the last three years listened to hundreds of voices and read many, many letters from
Abenaki people in regard to the recognition process for the purpose of Arts and Crafts. The
majority of these people are in agreement that the process should be fair and transparent. We
recently took a number count of the 19 Family Bands and Tribes that we have been communicating
with, in an effort to identify how many people they represent. That number is 5349. We also believe
there are more people that we have not heard from. In fact the silent voices may be the majority for
all we know. This number does not include the individual Tribes mentioned in the bills.
We believe we are representing the majority of Abenaki in Vermont and, for this reason we do not
support S 0222 and H 569 as they are currently written. The bills mirror the colonial tactics of divide
and conquer, and are exclusive rather than inclusive. Recognizing three groups without requiring
documentation or a transparent process and requiring it of others is blatantly unfair. It is also
contrary to precedents set by other states and the Federal government in regards to the
recognition of Indian Tribes.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly states that they are
acknowledging, and welcoming, the fact that “indigenous peoples are organizing themselves for
political, economic, social and cultural enhancement and in order to bring to an end all forms of
discrimination and oppression wherever they occur”. The Vermont Commission on Native American
Affairs has been working towards developing a fair and transparent process, for the last three
years, to see that we align with this statement in an effort to identify our artists.
This important document continues to clarify another important principle that the Commission has
fought to maintain. We “affirm the fundamental importance of the right to self-determination of all
peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their
economic, social and cultural development”. Because these bills contradict these two statements we
would like to reiterate that the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs does not support
these bills as currently written.
We would appreciate notice of future committee meetings with regard to these bills. Our monthly
Commission meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of the month in the Vermont Life Building
and can be rescheduled at the Capitol building on any of these Thursdays.
The Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs