MONTPELIER, Vt. – State leaders joined several Abenaki chiefs in front of the Vermont State House to celebrate the beginning of Abenaki Recognition and Culture Week.
A new permanent display, “The Road to Recognition: The Abenakis and the State of Vermont,” was also unveiled on the first floor of the State House.
Since the early 1970s, the Abenaki struggled to be recognized by Vermont as Native American Indian Tribes. It wasn’t until 2010 that their request was signed into law under Governor Jim Douglas.
Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation reflected on the long battle for recognition during his remarks in front of the State House.
“For centuries, the house of the people that now stands behind us did not hear the cries of our Abenaki voices,” Chief Stevens said. “We were treated as unwanted visitors, outcasts in our own homeland.”
The new display in the State House details Abenaki history in Vermont, including the State’s reluctance to work with the Abenaki throughout much of the 20th Century.
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D/P) served on the committee that took up the state recognition bill in 2010, and he said the perament display will be an effective reminder of Abenaki history.
“This building is the most visited building in the State of Vermont every year,” Ashe said. “The fact that on the ground floor, people will be seeing the history of the Abenaki people is a really powerful symbolic message.”
Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman delivered remarks on behalf of Governor Phil Scott, and signed a proclamation officially recognizing May 1-5 as Abenaki Recognition and Heritage Week.