AN ACT RELATING TO STATE RECOGNITION OF THE ABENAKI PEOPLE
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 1 V.S.A. chapter 23 is added to read:
CHAPTER 23. ABENAKI PEOPLE
§ 851. FINDINGS
The general assembly finds that:
(1) At least 1,700 Vermonters claim to be direct descendants of the several indigenous Native American peoples, now known as Western Abenaki tribes, who originally inhabited all of Vermont and New Hampshire, parts of western Maine, parts of southern Quebec, and parts of upstate New York for hundreds of years, beginning long before the arrival of Europeans.
(2) There is ample archaeological evidence that demonstrates that the Missisquoi Abenaki were indigenous to and farmed the river floodplains of Vermont at least as far back as the 1100s A.D.
(3) The Western Abenaki, including the Missisquoi, have a very definite and carefully maintained oral tradition that consistently references the Champlain valley in western Vermont.
(4) Many contemporary Abenaki families continue to produce traditional crafts and intend to continue to pass on these indigenous traditions to the younger generations. In order to create and sell Abenaki crafts that may be labeled as Indian- or Native American-produced, the Abenaki must be recognized by the state of Vermont.
(5) Federal programs may be available to assist with educational and cultural opportunities for Vermont Abenaki and other Native Americans who reside in Vermont.
§ 852. VERMONT COMMISSION ON NATIVE AMERICAN AFFAIRS
(a) In order to recognize the historic and cultural contributions of Native Americans to Vermont, to protect and strengthen their heritage, and to address their needs in state policy, programs, and actions, there is hereby established the Vermont commission on Native American affairs (the “commission”).
(b) The commission shall be comprised of the following seven members:
(1) Three members who shall serve two‑year terms appointed by the governor from a list of three or more candidates compiled by the Abenaki Tribal Council.
(2) Three members who are Vermont residents of Abenaki descent who are tribally-registered, and who shall serve two-year terms appointed by the governor from a list of three or more candidates compiled by the division for historic preservation, after consultation with interested parties.
(3) One member who shall serve a two‑year term as chair of the commission appointed by the governor from a list of three or more candidates compiled by the division for historic preservation, after consultation with interested parties.
(c) The commission shall have the authority to assist Native American tribal councils, organizations, and individuals to:
(1) Secure social services, education, employment opportunities, health care, housing, and census information.
(2) Permit the creation, display, and sale of Native American arts and crafts and legally to label them as Indian or Native American‑produced as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 115(c)(3)(B) and 25 U.S.C. § 305e(d)(3)(B).
(3) Receive assistance and support from the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board, as provided in 25 U.S.C. §§ 305 et seq.
(4) Become eligible for federal assistance with educational, housing, and cultural opportunities.
(5) Establish and continue programs offered through the U.S. Department of Education Office on Indian Education pursuant to Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act established in 1972 to support educational and cultural efforts of tribal entities that have been either state or federally recognized.
(d) The commission shall meet at least three times a year and at any other times at the request of the chair. The agency of commerce and community development and the department of education shall provide administrative support to the commission.
(e) The commission may seek and receive funding from federal and other sources to assist with its work.
§ 853. RECOGNITION OF ABENAKI PEOPLE
(a) The state of Vermont recognizes all Abenaki and Native American people who reside in Vermont as a minority population.
(b) Recognition of the Native American or Abenaki people provided in subsection (a) of this section shall be for the sole purposes specified in subdivision 852(c)(2) of this title and shall not be interpreted to provide any Native American or Abenaki person with any special rights or privileges that the state does not confer on or grant to other state residents.
(c) This chapter shall not be construed to confer upon the Abenaki people any claims to Vermont lands or any other rights other than those specifically described herein.
Sec. 2. Effective Date; Appointments To Commission
(a) This act shall take effect on passage.
(b) The governor shall make appointments to the commission no later than 90 days after the effective date of the act.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street