Abenaki Recognition Legislation Faces Opposition

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(HOST)The Vermont Attorney General’s Office says it’s opposing legislation that would give official state recognition to the Abenakis because it’s worried that this step might lead to federal recognition of the tribe.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Chief Assistant Attorney General Bill Griffin said his office has concerns that federal recognition might allow the Abenakis to set up gambling operations, file land claims and establish the tribe as a sovereign state with little interference from the state of Vermont.

(Griffin) “They, in effect, would have their own government. They would have their own courts. They would have their own laws. They could acquire land that would not be subject to local control, local zoning. They would not be subject to state Fish and Wildlife laws, for example.”

(HOST) Chittenden senator, Diane Snelling, is the lead sponsor of the bill. She says she can’t find any cases where state recognition of a Native American tribe has been instrumental in the federal process. Snelling says her proposal is a way for the state to recognize the cultural and historical contributions that the Abenaki have made.

(Snelling) “I really feel that we owe as Vermonters, the Abenakis a lot of respect for their cultural heritage, and the ways that their ways have become intertwined with Vermont ways in terms of respect for the land and how to care for the land and issues like that. So I really feel that it’s an important very simple thing person-to-person that I’m trying to do here.”

(HOST) The Senate Economic Development committee is expected to vote on this legislation by the end of this week.

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