(Host) After years of fighting to be recognized, some members of the Abenaki Indian community have been officially acknowledged in Vermont.
Governor Peter Shumlin signed bills on Friday that grants state recognition to the Elnu Abenaki, based in southern Vermont, and the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki nation, based in the northeast part of the state.
Before he signed the bills into law, Governor Shumlin had a special message for the Abenaki children in the audience. The story was about Native American heritage in his wife’s family. He said that a picture of his wife’s great grandfather hangs on their wall in his family’s home in Putney. He said his daughters were curious about the photo.
(Shumlin) "And when they asked their great grandmother about his heritage, she said the following: He married my mother, she was white. So we could never talk about the fact that he was Native American, and we were told never to ask questions. So his photo stands in my living room as a tribute to an extraordinary man who could not talk about his identify. And today we sign these bills so that you can be proud of yours."
(Host) The Abenaki gathered at the Statehouse said they fought for years for official state recognition. Luke Willard heads the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.
(Willard) "No Abenaki left behind. Remember those who came before us. Remember their lives, their words, as they look down upon us and cheer. We did it. We did it."
(Host) The commission says the tribes met certain criteria documented by membership and genealogical records. The legal recognition allows the tribes to get federal education grants and to sell their crafts as Indian-made.