SWANTON, Vt. — An American Indian tribe in Vermont is seeking federal status again after it was denied recognition more than eight years ago.
Tribe leaders from the Missisquoi band of Abenaki Indians met with representatives from the offices of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch in June to discuss federal recognition, The Burlington Free Press (http://bfpne.ws/2c6iSgc ) reported.
Chief Lawrence “Moose” Lampman said he feels good about the cooperation between his tribe and Vermont’s delegation.
“I come away from it positively,” he said. “They are willing to support us, and we need to get along.”
The group had tried to get recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs but was denied in 2007, 27 years after starting the process, for not meeting the necessary criteria. The agency wrote in its decision that the tribe failed to provide sufficient evidence that it had existed as a distinct community from “historical times”— meaning the first sustained non-Indian contact, which was during the 1600s for Vermont Abenaki tribes —to present.
The tribe can’t re-petition through the agency but can still obtain status through the judicial and legislative branches of government.
Federally recognized tribes have benefits such as access to programs and the opportunity to apply for tribal land, according to officials at the U.S. Department of Labor.
But the process can be lengthy and costly, and is especially challenging for tribes in the northeast and on the east coast, who have less documentation than tribes further west. In June 2015, the federal recognition laws were updated to improve the process for tribes— they now only have to prove their continuing existence back to 1900, rather than to historical times.
Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com