Proof of heritage

To the Editor:

There are three articles in recent issues of The Caledonian-Record that are inter-related and should be addressed.

First, the article by Anne Galloway in Vermont This Week section (5/14/12) regarding the Legislature formally recognizing Abenaki Tribes (the Koasek and Mississquoi bands.) This brings to four the number of "Abenaki Tribes" now with state recognition. Anyone has the "right to claim" they are Abenaki people, as Galloway says, but claiming does not make it so. Recognition by the state does not make a person entitled to be known as an Abenaki person, because proof of blood descendancy is necessary for that. Not one of these four "Tribes" will ever be given recognition by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs....ever...because the feds mandate blood descendancy from existing rolls. Nothing can be more fair than that.

Second, since my harping on this issue does not get much traction, let me refer you to Anne Coulter's column in the Caledonian on 5/12/12, and urge you to read it. I especially urge Professor Fred Wiseman, the members of the Vermont Commission on Indian Affairs, the panel of experts this Commission used to authenticate tribal applications, Governor Shumlin, all of the Legislators (especially Illuzzi and Miller), and all the members of these four "Tribes" to read it. Coulter's article is entitled "Elizabeth Warren Dances With Lies."

In this article, Coulter points out that Elizabeth Warren and Ward Churchill, both past professors at prestigious universities, had presented themselves as having Native American blood and thus qualified them for minority status under equal opportunity hiring requirements.. The integrity of professors is seldom questioned.....until a political reason arises to do so. Ward Churchill's claims were researched, repudiated, and the University of Colorado booted his rear out. Now Warren's claims are under scrutiny, and if they are found false, she will face public shame. If she is still teaching at Harvard, she will be booted out too.

In both cases, this is as it should be! Minority status is for true minorities. Tribal recognition is for true tribal descendants.

Coulter goes on to opine that even if their claims were true but their blood was only l/32nd Native for instance, this is not enough to qualify them for anything. Most thinking people would have to agree. She also points out that "family lore is not proof." Photographs of ancestors showing "high cheek bones" is not proof. "Proof,." she says, "is contemporary documentation, produced under penalty of perjury, such as a census record." Need I say more? Read her column.

Third, I refer to David Van Duesen's letter to the Editor (Abenaki Call For Tribal Forest ...5/14/12) encouraging creation of tribal forests in Vermont so these four "Abenaki Tribes" could generate revenue for themselves through sustainable forestry employment and sugaring. The letter echoes a lot of "poor me" rhetoric we have been hearing throughout the recognition fiasco...and since.

If these "tribes" had been created "under penalty of perjury" by each and every person involved, Vermont citizens would probably support the idea of Abenaki Forests.. But they weren't. If each "member" had to face jail time over the truth and proof of their "Native claims", as Churchill and Warren experienced, they would not submit to it. There would be a lot of "Abenaki Indians" fleeing to Canada again. Second migration!

I applaud the Caledonian Record for allowing all voices to be heard. I ask each reader to always search for the truth. Be critical in what you accept and reject.


Phyllis Donovan

Wheelock, Vt.


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