Editor’s note: ‘Recognized,’ a special series from Brave Little State
The three-part series examines contested claims of the legitimacy of Vermont’s four state-recognized tribes: the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi, the Elnu Abenaki Tribe, the Koasek Traditional Band of the Koas Abenaki Nation and the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuck Abenaki Nation.
On October 19, 2023, Vermont Public published a three-part series, “Recognized,”within our podcast Brave Little State. Across three episodes, the series traces pre- and post-colonial Abenaki history in this region, and documents the emergence of a community of self-proclaimed Vermont Abenaki who were eventually denounced by Odanak First Nation and Wôlinak First Nation, two Western Abenaki tribes recognized by the Canadian federal government and headquartered in Quebec.
Vermont is part of Odanak and Wôlinak's ancestral homelands, though these Nations were largely excluded from the Vermont legislative process that led to the state recognition of four groups in 2011 and 2012. We also left these Nations out of a 2016 Brave Little State episode about Abenaki peoples in Vermont, just as Vermont Public's newsroom overlooked them in its coverage before 2022.
While Vermont Public has covered this dispute in previous news stories, our hope is that an in-depth, longform treatment provides adequate room for the history and nuance that this statewide story deserves, and provides a useful context for listeners who are members of Vermont’s state-recognized tribes, citizens of Odanak or Wôlinak First Nations, or neither.
“Recognized” is the result of over two years of reporting, and many dozens of conversations, on-the-record interviews and attendance at public meetings with members and leaders of Vermont’s state-recognized tribes, citizens and leaders of Odanak First Nation (and to a smaller extent, Wôlinak First Nation), legal experts, historians, scholars of Indigenous studies and settler identity, genealogists, current and former state and federal officials, and other journalists.
New Hampshire Public Radio reporter Julia Furukawa, who has been covering a similar story in that state, contributed reporting, as did David Savoie of Radio-Canada.
We also enlisted an expanded cohort of both internal and external editors for this story, including Tristan Ahtone, a member of the Kiowa Tribe and former president of the Indigenous Journalists Association (IJA). We performed rigorous fact-checking as well, including by following guidance from the IJA that all media outlets carefully consider which sources they present as Indigenous experts.
Vermont Public’s newsroom will continue to bring wider context to our coverage of Indigenous issues in our state, and will continue to examine our editorial process for how we cover this topic.