Celebrating the Indigenous peoples of Vermont

‘On Indigenous Peoples Day, let us affirm that all Indigenous people need to come together to find ways to both uplift and celebrate our differences’

Oct. 9 is Indigenous Peoples Day - an opportunity for all Americans to acknowledge the resilience and diversity of Native cultures in the United States, and celebrate the contributions of those who have been in relationship with the Land long before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

We are the four Western Abenaki tribes recognized by the state of Vermont: Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, Elnu Abenaki Tribe, Ko'asek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation, and Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation.

On this day of national acknowledgment, it is important to come together in celebration of all Native cultures. We have been Indigenous people of these homelands, now recognized as a part of the United States, for more than 12,000 years.

The Abenaki in Vermont live peacefully as place-based people, celebrate our heritage, and enjoy the recognition granted to us by the governor, state Legislature, and the entire Vermont congressional delegation. We believe that communities are stronger when they are inclusive, respect differences, and honor a variety of lived experiences.

We also recognize and honor our Canadian First Nations counterparts, Odanak and Wôlinak in Québec. We have shared heritage, family origins, and cultural traditions. There is more that ties us together than sets us apart. Sadly, some individuals seek to divide, rather than celebrate our commonalities.

It is important to understand that we all live within the colonial-derivative governmental structures imposed upon us by our respective nations. We are separated by an international border and are citizens of different countries. We are subject to different laws and live under different rules of sovereignty.

Odanak and Wôlinak are recognized under Canadian law, embodying their unique lived experiences in Canada. They are not recognized in the United States, where our lived experiences and realities are different.

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On Indigenous Peoples Day, let us affirm that all Indigenous people need to come together to find ways to both uplift and celebrate our differences. Our tribal nations need to work together to end the violence, competition, and disconnection that is the legacy of colonization across North America so that we all may find better paths forward in a changing world.

Our truths, our stories, and our ancestors are intertwined throughout history, and we honor all beings who share this space with us in our traditional ways. If we work together, we can foster an inclusive and respectful voice for our shared heritage to ensure cultural continuity for future generations.

Wliwni. Thank you.

Rich Holschuh, Chief Don Stevens, Vera Sheehan, and Chief Joanne Crawford, are representatives of the Abenaki Alliance, whose mission is "to foster a collective voice for the Abenaki communities of our homelands while building a strong, sustainable, and united presence that shares our Native heritage, culture, and values with those around us." This commentary comes to us via VtDigger.

This Voices Viewpoint by Abenaki Alliance originally appeared in VtDigger and was republished in The Commons with permission.

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