Douglas signs Abenaki recognition legislation

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(Host) Today, the state of Vermont paid tribute to our first Vermonters.

Governor Jim Douglas signed legislation into law that grants formal recognition to the Abenaki.

Senator Diane Snelling, a Chittenden County Republican, was an early supporter of the legislation. She says she was motivated by her desire to show respect to the Abenaki people.

(Snelling) “I’ve always been a big advocate in terms of cultural diversity and respect for different heritage and it really bothered me that we had in the state of Vermont a culture that we actually denied. And I felt that it was very important to see that change.”

(Host) The bill officially recognizes the 1,500 Abenaki as a minority in Vermont. The legislation means the Abenaki can market their products as Native American-made and it will allow students to qualify for scholarships. The legislation also sets up a commission on Native American affairs.

Nancy Lyons from the Cowasuck band of Abenaki says the law is for her ancestors and for future generations.

(Lyons) “It’s like being born for the first time. And it’s a birth for not only for ourselves but for our grandparents, for our children for our children that’s gonna come. We’re going to be able to give them pride to stand up and say they’re Abenaki instead of having to hide like we did.”

(Host) Abenaki first were recognized 30 years ago by an executive order signed by then Governor Thomas Salmon. Governor Richard Snelling – Diane Snelling’s father – rescinded that executive order.

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