Senate Approves Abenaki Recognition

03/18/10 7:34AM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot
In this Wednesday, May 3, 2006, file photo, Abenaki Indians celebrate on the Statehouse steps in Montpelier, Vt., following the signing of a law giving the native Americans official state recognition.

(Host) The Vermont Senate has unanimously approved legislation that's designed to expand state recognition to various Bands of the Abenaki Indian tribe.

Supporters of the bill say it will allow the Bands to take full advantage of a variety of federal programs.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) In 2006, the Legislature gave its approval to a bill that granted state recognition to Abenaki Indians living in Vermont.

State recognition opened the door for a number of federal programs including; social services, employment opportunities, health care services and education scholarships.

It also authorized the Abenaki to legally label their arts and crafts as Native American products. 

Chittenden senator Hinda Miller is the lead sponsor of the bill and a member of the Senate Economic Development committee.

She told her colleagues that the new bill is needed because the law passed back in 2006 didn't comply with all the regulations at the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs:

(Miller) "What we found from that bill was that it failed to comport with the recognition requirements for the Indian arts and crafts Board of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In other words, this recognition bill is solely for the recognition of arts and crafts."

(Kinzel) Miller says the legislation also makes it very clear that this new level of state recognition can not be used by the Abenaki in their effort to win federal recognition:

(Miller) "Federal recognition brings up images of casinos and land grabs and all other kinds of things. Let me assure you that that will not happen. And if you care to read the findings, we thought it was important enough to put in here that 15 other states recognize their resident native people as American Indian tribes without any of those tribes previously or subsequently acquiring federal recognition."

(Kinzel) Miller says the bill confers official state recognition on four Bands of the Abenaki tribe and it allows other Bands to petition for state recognition in the future.

It also expands the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs so that each Band will have representation on the panel.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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