Stop hate toward Abenaki


Dear Editor

Race-based attacks and harmful stereotypes are putting Vermont’s Abenaki communities in jeopardy and it needs to stop. This week is Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week, yet international special-interest groups are threatening state-recognized Abenaki tribes with cultural erasure in an effort to position themselves for recognition and rights within the United States. 

Using their Canadian status as recognized First Nations, Odanak and Wôlinak in Quebec are using state and federally-funded universities and media organizations to promote their propaganda —threatening to rewrite 12,000 years of Native heritage in the Abenaki homelands now known as the state of Vermont.

The past few weeks have seen Governor Scott and the full congressional delegation affirm their support for the four Vermont tribes, and announce the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine past discriminations and state-sanctioned eugenics. At a time when Indigenous people should be united in celebrating these monumental strides for our people, Odanak and Wôlinak seem intent on using our media and public education system to lobby for Nuremberg Laws-like verification and cultural annihilation.

Abenaki citizens are being called “Pretendians,” asked to publicly verify their ancestry to attest they are Native enough, and unfairly scrutinized by the very organizations that were built to serve the people — Vermont Public and the University of Vermont. Is any other race or identity in Vermont required to prove they are Black enough, Jewish enough, Latino enough, or transgender enough? 

Why is a historically disenfranchised and protected community of Native Americans being subjected to unilateral aggression over an international border while state education and media institutions join the cause? We don’t know why, but we do know that…

This is an intrusion upon Vermont law, established over years of growing awareness and measured consideration by the legislature. The Odanak and Wôlinak are not respecting Vermont, its legal processes, or its recognized tribes. And the amplification of these aggressions by state academic institutions is a clear overstep of ethical guidelines established for human subject research in both the U.S. and Canada. Vermont’s Native recognition process is based on the U.S. federal model and takes into account the very different lived experiences of Native communities in the East, and specific to this state. Our right to self-governance is protected by law in the U.S. and Canada and by the United Nations.

Increasing awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion has taught us that different isn’t wrong or illegitimate. In fact, it should be embraced, as diversity gives us strength and resilience. As Western Abenaki, our community bands may have differing lived experiences, stories, and place-based perspectives (and varying legal realities as citizens governed by neighboring countries), but we are all Abenaki and all have equally valid voices as a sovereign group of people. We should be focused on sharing our cultural contributions and building up recognition and respect for indigenous people, not on tearing down and trying to delegitimize fellow native communities.

The Vermont Abenaki have worked closely with our governors, state legislators, federal delegation, community partners, and civic organizations to begin to build bridges across a wide chasm of historical trauma. We are making progress for the betterment of the Abenaki people and for all Vermonters. The Odanak in Canada want to erase our presence in the U.S. and have outwardly stated their intentions to “denounce the appropriation of Abenaki identity and culture, as well as to obtain recognition on the American side.” They seem to be working toward modern-day Nuremberg Laws to deem us as inferior and unworthy of our state-granted recognition.

Ethnocide should have no home in Vermont, especially as we celebrate Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week, May 1-7. As the four recognized tribes within the state, we are asking our Canadian neighbors at Odanak and Wôlinak First Nations, in-state institutions like UVM and Vermont Public, and all Vermonters who live within the Abenaki homelands to take time this week to learn about us: our culture, our contributions, and our traditions. We believe you will see that our experiences here as Abenaki have created the community we share with you all today. 

Abenaki Alliance

3 comments on “Stop hate toward Abenaki

  1. Well wrote. If people crossing our northern border are using hate speech there visa privileges should be revoked.

  2. VT committed horrid acts against the native communities for decades – including forced chemical castration. I don’t understand how we can both apologize for doing that (which the state has) while at the same time refusing to acknowledge WHY the Abenaki from VT cannot prove their heritage. They literally would not exist if their ancestors had admitted they were Abenaki because our state would have castrated them. I’m truly disgusted that anyone would attack these people as not being legitimately of native heritage when we allowed that to happen. Anyone claiming these people aren’t natives clearly haven’t met the people who run the lodge in Swanton and should be embarrassed for even suggesting it.

    1. Better start coughing up the objective evidence of your first claim in that first sentence. The Abenakis CAN prove their heritage, but these groups in Vermont refuse to do so, transparently and objectively. SO scholars and laypeople are intensely investigating the merits of these “Abenakis” and that kind sir, or lady is not HATE or lateral violence whatsoever. It is not discrimination either. The arguments that Abenakis could not exist in Vermont in the 1900s without being castrated is nonsense. It’s not about having a NATIVE ANCESTOR, but about NOT having Abenaki ancestry. There is a very BIG difference. Someone can have a 1600s ancestor that was indeed Native/Indigenous and that ancestor not be Abenaki or otherwise, yet having a “root” ancestor in 300 years in the past, does not make someone in 2023 an Abenaki, or even Indian. And as far as being ashamed for saying it like it is, in fact where the AG’s Report led those researchers, where the BIA Reports led those researchers, and where my own research has led me these long years, is not shameful at all. What is actually shameful, is that Vermonter’s would settle for the LIES, and crawl into bed with the LIARS, the DECEIVERS, these Abenaki Identity Thieves, rather than LISTEN, RESEARCH, and SEEK OUT THE REAL TRUTH. There is no embarrassment in the latter. I am not suggesting they are fraudulent “Abenaki” upon the land of the ancestors of Odanak and other Tribal Nations, I am downright stating it. Because I know it as FACTUAL.

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