Abenaki call for tribal forests
To the Editor:
Yesterday I was pleased to march with Vermonters at the May 1 Put People and the Planet First rally in Montpelier. This event, organized largely by the Vermont Workers Center sought to build a united movement of movements in the Green Mountains. Despite a hard morning rain, cold, and a grey sky, the event made history by being the largest weekday rally in the long history of our state capitol. All told, 2000 Vermonters attended in order to demand that Montpelier put people's needs and our environment ahead of corporate greed!
Speakers, representing diverse constituencies, encouraged support for many issues including the right of all Vermonters to healthcare, the right of day care providers to unionize, the right of migrant farm workers to live without fear, and the right of the people to live in a society which places value on the health of our environment.
Also speaking at the rally, for the Nulhegan Abenaki Tribe and the Vermont Sierra Club, was Luke Willard, a lifelong resident of the Northeast Kingdom. It addition to stating support for the creation of new conservation oriented town forests, Mr. Willard called on the State of Vermont to work with the Abenaki Tribes in order to establish new Abenaki Forests. Luke pointed out that by creating such forests Vermont could further our goal of building wildlife migration corridors, while at the same time creating the means by which the Abenaki can provide for their tribal members.
The creation of tribal forests will allow the Abenaki people, who are demographically the most impoverished in the state, to generate tribal revenue and jobs through sustainable forestry and sugaring. Tribal forests will give the Abenaki lands to provide food for their families through hunting, fishing, and gathering. Creating tribal forests will be a firm step in righting the wrong of history, whereby our Native American people faced hundreds of years of oppression, genocide, state sponsored eugenics programs.
Therefore, I applaud Mr. Willard for bringing this proposal to the public, and am happy to confirm that the Vermont Sierra Club agrees with the Abenaki, and look forward to working with them and our Governor to see this through.
David Van Deusen
Conservation Organizer, Vermont Sierra Club